“The last thing I’d do . . . is write off pubradio”

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Audience engagement is the buzz word for Web 2.0 media and Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America describes his approach to it in part three of his interview with Nieman Journalism Lab. For Max Fun Con, a June 12-14 retreat for TSOYA fans, Thorn invited his audience to meet and be entertained by his friends from the world of comedy (and a guy named “Dr. Cocktail”) at a retreat center in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. The event, which sold out when 155 people registered in less than two weeks, is “all my favorite things in this place,” Thorn says. “All these people who really love them and want to meet each other and hang out. And, you know, drink….” Apart from being a lot of fun and a way to make some money, the event also allows Thorn to cultivate the small but devoted audience that enthusiastically supports his program and website. It’s similar to the approach described by comedian and Max Fun Con performer John Hodgman in this Wired magazine interview.

Thorn also tells Nieman he was surprised by how many public radio listeners began supporting TSOYA during his pledge drive last year. “You realize real quick, when you’re doing something listener supported, why public radio stations have pledge drives. It’s because they really, really work.”

Thorn contacted Current about our April 16 blog post on the first two parts of his Nieman interview to clarify his remarks expressing ambivalence about public radio carriage of TSOYA. “The last thing I’d ever do is write off public radio stations,” he wrote. His goal for the interview was to “convince people that there are ways to be creative and to make media, even if they’re not starting with a million dollars a year–or even $50,000 a year….Part of that is focusing energy and resources on what you can control. In my case, that’s meant focusing my time on improving my show, rather than marketing it to stations. “

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