Post From the Comments – Alex Howard on Public Radio

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Alex HowardThe following is a post from Alex Howard, brilliant tech writer, passionate local human, and someone I’m glad I know.

I I share Chris’s enthusiasm for public radio and for WBUR in particular. "Local Social- How WBUR Gets the Public in Public Radio" was a great post. And @EricGuerin, it was great to meet you in person.

I grew up listening to WHYY in Philadelphia and then to WMEW in Maine. WHYY was part of the rhythms of my family’s daily life during commutes, cooking meals or on weekend errands. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston, however, that NPR became much more closely woven into the fabric of my daily life. For the past decade, WBUR has consistently demonstrated over and over again just how good public radio can be at reporting on a community and telling deep, compelling stories about the what’s happening on the streets, in the cafes and around the boardroom table. (The station has won some well-deserved awards along the way.) I’m hesitant to call WBUR the best public radio station in the country but I’m certain there isn’t a better one.

Clearly, I’m a fan. As you say, Chris, they get it. Robin Lubbock and Ken George are quietly setting a new standard for social engagement through social media outreach. Just follow WBUR on Twitter to see what I mean. Keith Hopper is similarly blazing a new media trail for the Public Interactive group at NPR.

They’re all using the same social software and platforms that businesses and other organizations are leveraging on the Web now to interact with their listeners and audience. I heard Andy Carvin on Morning Edition today; his conversation with Scott Simon demonstrated exactly how well much NPR’s social media strategist ‘gets it.’

What’s exciting to me as both a long-time listener of public radio and citizen is how perfect the fit is between NPR and social technologies like blogs, podcasts, microblogging and virtual worlds. NPR has been at the forefront of podcasting, a natural evolution given their rich, deep catalog of syndicated shows. The challenge as they move more into this space is how to support the considerable expense of supporting the news coverage around the clock.

I hope that the technology for fundraising and direct electronic donations will catch up to the lightning-quick pace that advances in communication platforms have seen in recent years. Chipin widgets for blogs and microgiving campaigns using Twitter using services like Tipjoy hold some immediate promise in 2009. For instance, Web listeners streaming WBUR or other NPR news stations could immediately give a micropayment at the point of contact, replying to a tweet containing a story or clicking on a button below the “listen here” link on WBUR.org.

I’ve heard similar cases made for micropayments used for readers of the NYT, WSJ or Economist on a Kindle. It’s not a stretch to imagine an NPR application for the iPhone or G1 that has a similar “click to give” function during fundaisers. I dream about the day when I can donate and then be able to listen to programming free of the earnest pleas of the pledge drive — except, perhaps, for Ira Glass. His requests for money are always hilarious.

The WBUR tweetup on Thursday was an experience that will stick with me for some time. The conversation you led was, as you described it “all over the place.” When we talked about “business models for displaced journalists,” it was in the context of Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub, one of the best hyperlocal blogs around, who joined their ranks this past week. (My only regret from the night is that I missed Keith Hopper’s discussion. Fortunately, we can all listen to an Open Conversation on Hyperlocal News at KeithHopper.com). Questions about how newspapers, magazines and radio stations will make the transition through the massive disruption to their business models aren’t a matter of speculative fiction. As William Gibson has said,”The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”

He’s right; it’s happening right now, here in Boston. Time to go do some dishes while I stream Morning Edition through my iPhone.

You can read more from Alex Howard at Digiphile.

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  • http://terryheath.com Terry Heath

    Not to take anything away from your excellent post, but it’s interesting me that the more we succeed in cocooning ourselves, making ourselves personally inaccessible through scanning our phone calls, spamming our emails, and generally putting distance between ourselves and others, the more we latch onto “social” technologies like blogging, chat, and other types of online “community”.

    It’s sort of like living life through a condom.

    Sure, we get to choose our friends and the people we come in contact with. And we can erase them from our lives as easily as hitting the right button on a website or email reader. But I wonder what would happen if we started reaching out more to that old low-tech community of people who live around us?

  • http://terryheath.com Terry Heath

    Not to take anything away from your excellent post, but it’s interesting me that the more we succeed in cocooning ourselves, making ourselves personally inaccessible through scanning our phone calls, spamming our emails, and generally putting distance between ourselves and others, the more we latch onto “social” technologies like blogging, chat, and other types of online “community”.

    It’s sort of like living life through a condom.

    Sure, we get to choose our friends and the people we come in contact with. And we can erase them from our lives as easily as hitting the right button on a website or email reader. But I wonder what would happen if we started reaching out more to that old low-tech community of people who live around us?

  • http://terryheath.com Terry Heath

    Not to take anything away from your excellent post, but it’s interesting me that the more we succeed in cocooning ourselves, making ourselves personally inaccessible through scanning our phone calls, spamming our emails, and generally putting distance between ourselves and others, the more we latch onto “social” technologies like blogging, chat, and other types of online “community”.

    It’s sort of like living life through a condom.

    Sure, we get to choose our friends and the people we come in contact with. And we can erase them from our lives as easily as hitting the right button on a website or email reader. But I wonder what would happen if we started reaching out more to that old low-tech community of people who live around us?

  • Anonymous

    Terry, one of the fascinating parts of this tweetup was seeing how technology had brought all of these people together. I hope one of the stories of 2009 will be how the new platforms for electronic communication are used for electronic philanthropy. I’m reminded of the comments of Alexa Scordato at the most recent meeting of Boston Media Maker, when she noted an interest in putting Web-savvy millennials to work showing the older generations how to use social software for work, play, news and communication. I think there’s huge potential for each cohort to learn from one another.

    To your last point, I see your point. Simply reaching out to one’s neighbors around your a block is powerful and important. Many of us move through life from one social bubble to another all day long, whether it’s home, school, work, gym, book clubs, alumni events or commuting in the car between them all. Even on the T here in Boston, many of us are plugged into iPods and smartphones, not the conversations of our neighbors.

    To extend your metaphor, that electronic engagement can act as a kind of digital condom. It can also allow, however, enable us to connect with a natural community of like-minded folk, including fellow geeks, cooks, dog-lovers and readers. (Or at least that’s been my experience). I’m enjoying exploring Brightkite; Google Latitude holds similar potential to allow us to discover each other as we move through the annotated world, though the privacy & safety concerns inherent in such location-aware engagement might give many of us some pause.

    I think navigating to the right balance between accessibility and privacy as we engage with our local communities online and off is going to be a central challenge for all of us this year.

  • Anonymous

    Terry, one of the fascinating parts of this tweetup was seeing how technology had brought all of these people together. I hope one of the stories of 2009 will be how the new platforms for electronic communication are used for electronic philanthropy. I’m reminded of the comments of Alexa Scordato at the most recent meeting of Boston Media Maker, when she noted an interest in putting Web-savvy millennials to work showing the older generations how to use social software for work, play, news and communication. I think there’s huge potential for each cohort to learn from one another.

    To your last point, I see your point. Simply reaching out to one’s neighbors around your a block is powerful and important. Many of us move through life from one social bubble to another all day long, whether it’s home, school, work, gym, book clubs, alumni events or commuting in the car between them all. Even on the T here in Boston, many of us are plugged into iPods and smartphones, not the conversations of our neighbors.

    To extend your metaphor, that electronic engagement can act as a kind of digital condom. It can also allow, however, enable us to connect with a natural community of like-minded folk, including fellow geeks, cooks, dog-lovers and readers. (Or at least that’s been my experience). I’m enjoying exploring Brightkite; Google Latitude holds similar potential to allow us to discover each other as we move through the annotated world, though the privacy & safety concerns inherent in such location-aware engagement might give many of us some pause.

    I think navigating to the right balance between accessibility and privacy as we engage with our local communities online and off is going to be a central challenge for all of us this year.

  • http://digiphile.wordpress.com Alex Howard

    Terry, one of the fascinating parts of this tweetup was seeing how technology had brought all of these people together. I hope one of the stories of 2009 will be how the new platforms for electronic communication are used for electronic philanthropy. I’m reminded of the comments of Alexa Scordato at the most recent meeting of Boston Media Maker, when she noted an interest in putting Web-savvy millennials to work showing the older generations how to use social software for work, play, news and communication. I think there’s huge potential for each cohort to learn from one another.

    To your last point, I see your point. Simply reaching out to one’s neighbors around your a block is powerful and important. Many of us move through life from one social bubble to another all day long, whether it’s home, school, work, gym, book clubs, alumni events or commuting in the car between them all. Even on the T here in Boston, many of us are plugged into iPods and smartphones, not the conversations of our neighbors.

    To extend your metaphor, that electronic engagement can act as a kind of digital condom. It can also allow, however, enable us to connect with a natural community of like-minded folk, including fellow geeks, cooks, dog-lovers and readers. (Or at least that’s been my experience). I’m enjoying exploring Brightkite; Google Latitude holds similar potential to allow us to discover each other as we move through the annotated world, though the privacy & safety concerns inherent in such location-aware engagement might give many of us some pause.

    I think navigating to the right balance between accessibility and privacy as we engage with our local communities online and off is going to be a central challenge for all of us this year.

  • http://www.wendy93639.com Wendy

    Terry,
    Social Networking doesn’t replace human interaction. It’s a catalyst. It only becomes a replacement if you don’t leave your basement and venture out to meet the people you find interesting enough to give your time to online. While you are out there, you will meet the low-tech folks too.

    I’ll take my chances..sans condom.

  • http://www.wendy93639.com Wendy

    Terry,
    Social Networking doesn’t replace human interaction. It’s a catalyst. It only becomes a replacement if you don’t leave your basement and venture out to meet the people you find interesting enough to give your time to online. While you are out there, you will meet the low-tech folks too.

    I’ll take my chances..sans condom.

  • http://www.wendy93639.com Wendy

    Terry,
    Social Networking doesn’t replace human interaction. It’s a catalyst. It only becomes a replacement if you don’t leave your basement and venture out to meet the people you find interesting enough to give your time to online. While you are out there, you will meet the low-tech folks too.

    I’ll take my chances..sans condom.

  • http://nathandavis.Vox.com Nathan Davis

    I’d say tthat we all live through re condom. Everyone has a filter even in our physically present relationships. I think the key is to break down what relationships consist of and then determin what tech can accomplish relationally and what it cannot. Then we have an appreciation for what we get from social media and a clear view of what we do not. We can then pursue what is not outside of the tech to live balanced lives.

  • http://nathandavis.Vox.com Nathan Davis

    I’d say tthat we all live through re condom. Everyone has a filter even in our physically present relationships. I think the key is to break down what relationships consist of and then determin what tech can accomplish relationally and what it cannot. Then we have an appreciation for what we get from social media and a clear view of what we do not. We can then pursue what is not outside of the tech to live balanced lives.

  • http://nathandavis.Vox.com Nathan Davis

    I’d say tthat we all live through re condom. Everyone has a filter even in our physically present relationships. I think the key is to break down what relationships consist of and then determin what tech can accomplish relationally and what it cannot. Then we have an appreciation for what we get from social media and a clear view of what we do not. We can then pursue what is not outside of the tech to live balanced lives.

  • Pingback: On WBUR, social media and tweetups « digiphile

  • http://jeffcutler.com Jeff Cutler

    I was at the talk Thursday night and had a great time hearing from the predominantly marketing-focused crowd. As Nathan points out, all the messaging we provide to the world is in some way filtered. You’re never going to talk the same way to every audience.

    As a 20-year journalist who has some ad-copwriting experience and enough consumer exposure to know how to interpret campaigns, I think every person we meet gets a sales pitch about us based on how we connect, what we share, how invested we are in their return message and what steps we take to cement or discard the relationship.

    As a human, I think your best results in every relationship – be it as a writer, a marketer, a salesperson or whatever – will come when you let your perceptions and experience guide your actions.

    Not enough credit can be given to people who are genuine, intelligent and kind. That’s the type of person I strive to be and it’s the type of person I like to interact with. No condoms necessary.

  • http://jeffcutler.com Jeff Cutler

    I was at the talk Thursday night and had a great time hearing from the predominantly marketing-focused crowd. As Nathan points out, all the messaging we provide to the world is in some way filtered. You’re never going to talk the same way to every audience.

    As a 20-year journalist who has some ad-copwriting experience and enough consumer exposure to know how to interpret campaigns, I think every person we meet gets a sales pitch about us based on how we connect, what we share, how invested we are in their return message and what steps we take to cement or discard the relationship.

    As a human, I think your best results in every relationship – be it as a writer, a marketer, a salesperson or whatever – will come when you let your perceptions and experience guide your actions.

    Not enough credit can be given to people who are genuine, intelligent and kind. That’s the type of person I strive to be and it’s the type of person I like to interact with. No condoms necessary.

  • http://jeffcutler.com Jeff Cutler

    I was at the talk Thursday night and had a great time hearing from the predominantly marketing-focused crowd. As Nathan points out, all the messaging we provide to the world is in some way filtered. You’re never going to talk the same way to every audience.

    As a 20-year journalist who has some ad-copwriting experience and enough consumer exposure to know how to interpret campaigns, I think every person we meet gets a sales pitch about us based on how we connect, what we share, how invested we are in their return message and what steps we take to cement or discard the relationship.

    As a human, I think your best results in every relationship – be it as a writer, a marketer, a salesperson or whatever – will come when you let your perceptions and experience guide your actions.

    Not enough credit can be given to people who are genuine, intelligent and kind. That’s the type of person I strive to be and it’s the type of person I like to interact with. No condoms necessary.

  • http://www.workhappynow.com Karl Staib – Work Happy Now

    I love NPR – KUT mixes in crazy good music and talk. I actually wish it was all talk like WHYY in Philadelphia, but I digress. I love that they encourage me to visit their website and listen to their podcasts, which I often do. When businesses learn to take advantage of these tools too, they will see a new level of interaction with their clients/customers.

    I feel like I know the personalities on KUT because of their social media outreach. That just makes me want to donate more.

  • http://www.workhappynow.com Karl Staib – Work Happy Now

    I love NPR – KUT mixes in crazy good music and talk. I actually wish it was all talk like WHYY in Philadelphia, but I digress. I love that they encourage me to visit their website and listen to their podcasts, which I often do. When businesses learn to take advantage of these tools too, they will see a new level of interaction with their clients/customers.

    I feel like I know the personalities on KUT because of their social media outreach. That just makes me want to donate more.

  • http://www.workhappynow.com Karl Staib – Work Happy Now

    I love NPR – KUT mixes in crazy good music and talk. I actually wish it was all talk like WHYY in Philadelphia, but I digress. I love that they encourage me to visit their website and listen to their podcasts, which I often do. When businesses learn to take advantage of these tools too, they will see a new level of interaction with their clients/customers.

    I feel like I know the personalities on KUT because of their social media outreach. That just makes me want to donate more.

  • http://terryheath.com Terry Heath

    When referring to comments, it is important to consider the entire context of the message. I made an observation based on the fact people are generally more cocooned today than ever before, how as cocooning increases so do devices and technology for electronic communities. These technologies can become a type of electronic condom, a filter though which we experience some of our relationships, activities, and a portion of our lives. They are also a safety switch for some, because we can pull the plug on these experiences at any time.

  • http://terryheath.com Terry Heath

    When referring to comments, it is important to consider the entire context of the message. I made an observation based on the fact people are generally more cocooned today than ever before, how as cocooning increases so do devices and technology for electronic communities. These technologies can become a type of electronic condom, a filter though which we experience some of our relationships, activities, and a portion of our lives. They are also a safety switch for some, because we can pull the plug on these experiences at any time.

  • http://terryheath.com Terry Heath

    When referring to comments, it is important to consider the entire context of the message. I made an observation based on the fact people are generally more cocooned today than ever before, how as cocooning increases so do devices and technology for electronic communities. These technologies can become a type of electronic condom, a filter though which we experience some of our relationships, activities, and a portion of our lives. They are also a safety switch for some, because we can pull the plug on these experiences at any time.

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  • Bob

    Has anyone else stumbled across the new format/programming that they have on 1680 AM in Grand Rapids? I was flipping through my radio and planned on reminiscing to a little Radio Disney, which has apparently been replaced. Anyway, it is now billing itself as Public Reality Radio. I only got a chance to listen for a little bit, but they announced a URL as http://www.publicrealityradio.org. I checked out their site, and there is some interesting programming that they have. If anyone else has listened to this, I would love to hear some opinions, and if you haven’t heard it yet, I would give it a listen. I was particularly fond of “The Infidel Guy”.

  • Bob

    Has anyone else stumbled across the new format/programming that they have on 1680 AM in Grand Rapids? I was flipping through my radio and planned on reminiscing to a little Radio Disney, which has apparently been replaced. Anyway, it is now billing itself as Public Reality Radio. I only got a chance to listen for a little bit, but they announced a URL as http://www.publicrealityradio.org. I checked out their site, and there is some interesting programming that they have. If anyone else has listened to this, I would love to hear some opinions, and if you haven’t heard it yet, I would give it a listen. I was particularly fond of “The Infidel Guy”.

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