NPR to consolidate digital teams in Washington

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NPR will relocate its Digital Services team to its headquarters in Washington, D.C., this fall, the network announced Monday.

The network has asked all 32 Digital Services staffers at their offices in Boston to move as part of an effort to unite digital teams at its headquarters. NPR’s Digital Media team is already based in Washington. The move will be made in September. Affected employees will be offered relocation assistance.  

The combined teams “will develop and evolve digital tools, systems and processes to support audience engagement across NPR and Member station platforms and reflect one vision for success,” NPR Chief Digital Officer Thomas Hjelm said in a statement. “In partnership with stations, the combined team will continue to innovate new products that deliver content and value to audiences in ways that address changing behaviors.”

The move was strategic and not made to save costs, Hjelm added. “… NPR’s first concern will be to see that the current Digital Services offering — upon which hundreds of stations continue to rely — receives support,” he said.

NPR is ramping up efforts to work more closely with stations on digital offerings. In February, the NPR board approved a compact with member stations that included a commitment to develop a stronger “local-national digital backbone,” Hjelm told Current at the time.

The “Digital Network” will eventually be “an integrated system of tools and services that will enable the creation of more coherent and scalable experiences for our audiences, reduce redundancies and support a more collaborative culture of innovation, where groundbreaking work from NPR and stations can be more easily shared,” Hjelm said in the statement Monday.

“…[A] great deal of technical work will be needed to build the tools and services that can better serve NPR and stations alike,” Hjelm said. “To accomplish this task, we must align our resources for maximum efficiency and impact.”

NPR’s Digital Services and Digital Media teams began working together more closely last year to develop the “building blocks” of the Digital Network, increase station presence on NPR One, add more localization to NPR.org, and “define the next generation of Core Publisher,” Hjelm said.

NPR Digital Services has been based in Boston since its days as Public Interactive, a Public Radio International subsidiary that developed websites and provided technical services for public broadcasting clients. NPR bought Public Interactive in 2008 and restructured it in 2011 as NPR Digital Services.

  • And ‘GBH?

  • Mark Pugnar

    This has to be one of the most backward, outdated decisions by management in recent years. Of all the departments that could benefit from outside the box thinking, shouldn’t a department focused on technology and the future be able to be spread out across the world? Are the not any great minds at “member” stations across the nation? Isn’t it possible for teams to collaborate remotely?

    I won’t even mention the progressive bubble that media elites live in on the coasts.

  • Brad Deltan

    This would be a good idea if and ONLY if it is a precursor to NPR using the same web platform as it offers to member stations. The “eat your own dog food” rule that any successful web hosting company adheres to but NPR has studiously ignored for the last ten years.

    Of course, it won’t be. Because the NPR platform is integrated directly into the entire internal content management for all material that goes out on the air. It cannot easily be ported out to member stations (although it should be regardless of whether or not it’s easy) so the stations will continue to languish with a substandard product.

    So they might as well just let those 32 staffers go, because there’s no chance in hell of them maintaining any sort of focus on the NPR:DS platform when they’re surrounded by the national NPR-only platform all day long in DC.