Greater Public, the organization providing fundraising resources and support to public media stations, has opted not to renew the contract of Jeannie Ericson, executive director of its digital division.
Ericson formerly worked directly with stations as executive director of the Integrated Media Association, which merged with Greater Public in August 2013. Under a yearlong contract that expired Aug. 29, she helped Greater Public evaluate how to integrate iMA’s digital services for stations into its existing portfolio of development-focused activities.
Ericson had not expected that Greater Public would decline to renew her contract, she said. “I’m disappointed that I’m not part of what they’re doing,” she said. But “I learned a great deal from them about fundraising and revenue generation, and they learned a lot about digital operations and that perspective in the business,” she said.
Earlier this year, Greater Public considered offering stations a set of separately priced digital services, a plan that was similar to iMA’s previous membership package, said Doug Eichten, president. “The assumption all along was that to improve the business model, iMA had to make some significant changes to the membership package,” Eichten said.
But after consulting with station leaders, Greater Public found that most were unwilling to pay more for the additional services. “There was a very lukewarm reception,” Eichten said. “Even though the price wasn’t all that high, it was going to take too long to build.”
Instead, station execs urged the organization to focus on advising stations on digital fundraising, providing that expertise as an enhancement of its own membership package, and to avoid duplicating services now offered by the digital divisions of NPR and PBS. Some of iMA’s previous services fell into that category, according to Eichten.
Stations also asked for help with increasing revenue from digital platforms, boosting engagement with donors and improving their social media outreach, Eichten said. Based on that feedback, Greater Public will begin rolling out expanded services in coming months, he said.
In another change, the organization will drop the Digital Day it held at the start of its annual conference in Denver this year. It will instead incorporate panels on digital topics into the agenda of next year’s conference.
Meanwhile, Ericson is working on contract with the NPR One Digital Engagement Council, a group of stations and NPR representatives studying how to use data being collected by NPR’s new mobile app.
This is very sad. Jeannie Ericson has been an extremely effective, energetic, and gracious leader in trying to bring public media into the digital age. iMA has served as one of the only focal points for collaboration at all levels on digital strategy and realistic, sharable solutions. With Digital Day adjacent to the PMDMC, as a digital professional I was able to attend both and to take part in many inter-disciplinary conversations with fundraising and marketing professionals from across the public media spectrum. This seemed like a giant step forward, and I heard many other people voice the need for more of this cross-pollination. It’s fine to say we’ll incorporate digital topics into the PMDMC, but without Digital Day there won’t be the same mix of people.
A retrenchment at this time is not wise, to say the least, and it speaks to our continued deficit of leadership and vision about the landscape we now inhabit. The tag line at the Greater Public Digital website (formerly the iMA website) reads “Accelerating Public Media’s Brightest Future.” Seems like somebody just hit the brakes.