Monday, March 2, 2009

Schiller On the Media and News

Vivian Schiller started her new job as CEO of NPR last month, and she's hitting the circuit. 

Her National Press Club speech today (March 2) emphasized the need to maintain the localism of affiliate websites and acknowledged that the "system" doesn't work well together. So true. 

Schiller has an interesting set of challenges as NPR attempts to connect with digital natives, as well as diverse communities. To some degree public broadcasting, while not a slave to advertising, is a slave to listener donors, especially major ones who tend to veer into their last career as retirees. On one hand their sense of ownership of public media programming is charming; but it can also be a choke hold on adapting programming to increase listenership. By that same token, station leadership can also serve as a choke hold on innovation, and this was an issue I think Ms. Schiller addressed in her speech: to create a network, and that means centralization. Not all station managers are equal; some stations are innovating, some are not. That hurts NPR - they're relying on the affiliates to bring in the $$$. 

The web oddly should be able to do just that. It can target niche audiences, and go after new ones with programming that can be distributed across mobile platforms. I subscribe to my nerdy public radio shows; there could no doubt be podcast only programs to serve specific audiences. I suppose this is the long tail theory approach to developing programming. 

Schiller comes from a commercial media background (CNN, NYTimes). It'll be interesting to see how she brings those experiences into her work in public media. 

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