New standard proposed for mapping impactful public media: Zing!

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How do you define success for a media project that reaches beyond broadcast and tries to engage audiences Web 2.0-style? In an evaluation of its Makers Quest 2.0 initiative, the Association for Independents in Radio, Inc., and American University’s Center for Social Media assert the time has come to break from the ratings-based methodologies developed for public radio by researcher David Giovannoni in the influential CPB-backed study Audience 88. “Looking forward, we must recognize as a point of departure that the current system puts highest value on media that attract and hold the greatest number of individuals in one place for the longest amount of time,” write co-authors of “Spreading the Zing: Reimagining Public Media through Makers Quest 2.0,” a report released early this month. “In the new public media world, and as we seek new ways to understand and define effective public media 2.0, this emphasis on the core listening audience becomes obsolete; we now must consider the core audience as just one element in a larger ecology.”

AIR’s Sue Schardt and CSM’s Jessica Clark adapted assessment tools from the center’s 2009 white paper Public Media 2.0, and developed five standards for evaluating Makers Quest projects. Their “elements of impact” are reach, inclusion, innovation, engagement and “zing,” a quality melding the extent to which media craftsmanship inspires people to act or participate. Most MQ2 projects achieved success on at least one of the proposed criteria; one, Mapping Main Street, came the closest to meeting all of CSM’s standards for high-impact public media. Details on how and why this project succeeded begin on page 12 of “Spreading the Zing” (PDF link above); a 5-minute video presentation, produced for the FCC’s recent Future of Public Media Summit, includes insights from producer Kara Oehler and Schardt.

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