Friday, October 31, 2008

KFAI Podcasts!

KFAI, my former employer in Minneapolis, will be podcasting its locally produced news program. Full disclosure: I was the News Director at KFAI (2001-2006).

The local news program (6pm-6:30, Mon-Thurs) was always considered the natural laboratory for podcasting at KFAI. The journey of podcasting at a community station I think provides important lessons for anyone working in independent public radio.

Lesson 1: Starting with news avoids -for the moment- the murky copyright laws governing streaming and archiving music online. KFAI archives its locally produced shows for up to 2 weeks. The local programming is mostly music, but there are locally produced public affairs programs like Catalyst and Northern Sun News that could be podcasted. And that's exactly what KFAI is doing.

Lesson 2: The move to podcasting developed over a long period of time. The station, which is a non profit, conducted a strategic plan in 2005, which I was a part of. At that point, podcasting was identified in a democratic process as a necessary move for the station. This was key for KFAI, which has community contributors since the station went on the air in 1978. There was an information gap, and strategic planning provided a venue to inform stakeholders about new technology and distribution platforms.

Lesson 3: Creating success to make the case for more podcasting! The idea is to show stakeholders that KFAI can increase its listenership through podcasting - and the all around consensus is that it will. And with that comes the potential for generating more revenue for the station. NPR has been working on the idea for the last few years.


Public broadcasting is somewhat insulated (though not by much) from the pressures of the market. The United States has a tradition of philanthropy, and luckily, we've got some rich folks out there who appear to love public broadcasting (like Joan Kroc of McDonald's money fame.) But there's no doubt that public broadcasters will have to look at moving more resources to distributing across mobile platforms (like iPods, like cell phones) rather than completely investing in their websites. And I will write more about how one ginormous station is banking on that later.

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