Digital team narrows search for developer of universal pubmedia sign-in

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LONG BEACH, Calif. — Members of a CPB-backed team are interviewing four finalists in a search for a vendor to create a universal sign-in system for public media, KQED’s chief digital officer told attendees at the Public Media Business Association conference Wednesday.

CPB’s Digital Infrastructure Group is working toward shared digital infrastructure across all public media platforms, with initial efforts focused on a universal sign-in to centralize sharing of user data.

Public media organizations must “build and strengthen the digital foundation needed to meet the rapidly changing expectations” of audiences, said DIG member Tim Olson, delivering the conference’s opening keynote.

“In the distribution and user experiences, we need common practices,” Olson said.

The DIG envisions that a universal sign-in would allow shared access to data from popular platforms such as the NPR One app and Passport, PBS’s video-on-demand service for members. Because both are “homegrown” systems developed separately, Olson said, valuable user data can’t be shared between the two. A third-party tool would allow that.

DIG doesn’t have a firm timeline yet, he said, but PBS and NPR could start migrating to single user sign-ons by next year.

An interoperable digital infrastructure would enable shared uses of the platforms, Olson said, such as a Passport concept applied to public radio. That could include “giving members early access to a Tiny Desk Concert or a webinar with [Fresh Air host] Terry Gross,” Olson said.

Or when a station hosts a major-donor event with an appearance by a public media personality, “we could do that in the digital space and make it available to the system online,” he said.

The Passport business model “has already been figured out, and now we can expand on that,” Olson said.

Olson compared the public broadcasting system to Major League Baseball — a federation of individually owned teams.

Over a decade ago, Olson said, MLB realized that each team having a local ticketing system and streaming service didn’t make economic sense. It saw the potential to create efficiencies by consolidating those services into a new unit, MLB Advanced Media. “Now that’s a multibillion-dollar business,” Olson said. “The local franchises keep their own brands, with a centralized back end.”

The annual PMBA conference continues through Friday. Sessions include an update on the Station Sourcing Group, a new cooperative purchasing joint venture from WGBH and the Public Media Co.; a State of the System financial overview from CPB; and a panel discussion about preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

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