Leaked plan in Chicago takes frank look at Vocalo

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A new strategic plan worked up at Chicago Public Radio unexpectedly went public earlier this week when it was leaked to the Chicago Reader. The three-year plan (PDF) assesses the broadcaster’s strengths and weaknesses and puts forth general goals such as “Create modular, highly useful, adaptive and relevant content” and “Build a relationship engine” — i.e., help listeners customize which content they get from the station and on what platforms.

Some of the plan’s blunter language addresses the progress, or lack thereof, of Vocalo, the ambitious web/radio hybrid that the station debuted in 2007. “As a website Vocalo must be seen as unsuccessful so far,” the report says. “Great websites exhibit a much steeper growth pattern than we have experienced — something our staff and General Manager are urgently working to address. This must be fixed urgently” (italics are the report’s).

Among reactions: In a commentary on the Reader’s site, media critic Michael Miner says the document “has caused consternation” among unnamed Chicago Public Radio staffers, who see it as weak on its commitment to journalism. And in a brief note on WBEZ’s blog, the station’s v.p. of strategic communications says, “We’re still working on the practical translation of what we’re actually going to do over the next three years.”

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