A recent analysis of web metrics for NPR member stations’ websites showed continued growth in visits from mobile users along with declines in cumulative audiences and the amount of time web users spent with content. Though web metrics for public radio stations have grown dramatically since 2012, analytics from this spring were especially volatile, said Steve Mulder, director of user experience and analytics at NPR Digital Services, during a May 29 public radio metrics webinar with station representatives. Mulder drew analytics data from 204 stations that operate 415 web streams; together, their online platforms drew 14 million unique visitors and a cumulative audience of 3.3 million listeners from April 2013-14. In a comparison of the year-to-year data, the cumulative audience for pubradio streams dropped 9 percent, Mulder said. And while visitors were listening to a wider variety of content, the total amount of listening time per streaming session remained flat, at about an hour.
Public television stations are hoping that special access to a rich library of PBS programs will convince viewers to become members and entice members to keep contributing. The multiplatform subscription program, with the working title MVOD (Membership Video on Demand), will be built atop COVE, PBS’s local-national video site. PBS is backing the initiative with $1.5 million in its fiscal 2015 budget. MVOD will feature past seasons of signature PBS general-audience series and provide stations with the ability to add locally produced series, said Ira Rubenstein, head of PBS Digital. “I think of it as Amazon Prime or Netflix, but only for station members,” he said.
Women and Girls Lead, a public media–based outreach and empowerment program, has evolved into a broader international effort, seeking to drive positive societal change in Kenya, India, Bangladesh, Jordan and Peru. The public-private initiative grew out of the national documentary-based campaign created in 2011 by the Independent Television Service with funding from CPB. It is designed to build engagement around issues such as women’s leadership, violence prevention and economic empowerment. Films presented through the initiative include the five-part Women, War & Peace; The Interrupters, about a Chicago woman working to defuse gang violence in her community; and Strong!, profiling a champion woman weightlifter. More than 50 films have been distributed through the initiative so far, according to ITVS, and they have attracted an audience of more than 42 million through broadcast and online distribution.
Public radio executives who have long bemoaned the field’s collective inability to pursue innovation have a new opportunity to alter that dynamic as they evaluate a new digital-service strategy crafted and advanced by NPR. The plan, centered on mobile digital service, was described in detail by NPR content chief Kinsey Wilson during last month’s Public Media Summit in Washington, D.C. In an hourlong session, he described the overarching strategy and briefly discussed an audio application developed to advance it. The mobile app, introduced by Wilson as the “Infinite Player,” expands on a desktop-based app that NPR released under the same name in 2011. The mobile version is slated for full release this spring. This strategy and the app that supports it will be major topics of discussion during regional station consultations that NPR began convening this week.
NPR is preparing member stations to provide local news for the network’s new mobile app, slated for release by summer. NPR content chief Kinsey Wilson discussed and previewed the app Feb. 24 for station execs attending the Public Media Summit in Washington, D.C. It builds on the Infinite Player, an NPR platform released for bigger-screened devices in 2011, moving it to a mobile interface and adding local station content to NPR’s own programming. Summit attendees heard an NPR newscast item about the Winter Olympics segue into a segment from San Francisco’s KQED about a labor dispute. The audio included a plea for donations to KQED.
Ira Rubenstein, a digital media executive with experience at Marvel and 20th Century Fox, is the new general manager of PBS Digital. He replaces Jason Seiken, who left PBS last October to accept a position with Telegraph Media in London. “The rapid growth and prevalence of digital technology offers PBS and local member stations a great opportunity to further connect with our audience,” PBS President Paula Kerger said in today’s announcement. She noted that Rubenstein’s track record and expertise will be “invaluable.” “How, when and where media is consumed continues to evolve at a breakneck pace,” Rubenstein said, “and it’s clear that PBS and local member stations have been committed to being leaders in the children’s digital space, original video development and using digital distribution methods to ensure that local and national content is available everywhere viewers want it.”
After letting their BBQ grillmaster marinate on YouTube, Austin’s KLRU is taking him to TV. The station will produce the 10-episode series BBQ With Franklin for national pubTV distribution in early 2015, based on a popular series of YouTube videos featuring Austin BBQ legend Aaron Franklin. The YouTube series, launched in 2012 with support in part from crowdfunding and PBS Digital Studios, has racked up more than one million viewers. While the YouTube series is mostly instructional in nature, the TV show will follow Franklin as he travels around central Texas learning about BBQ history and culture. KLRU will continue to produce new web-exclusive episodes concurrently with the broadcast series.
PBS Kids announced today a new live-action math series, Odd Squad, for children 5 to 8 years old. The latest addition to the schedule was revealed at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. Available on-air and as interactive online games, the program features youngsters Olive and Otto as part of the Odd Squad, an agency that saves its town from bothersome math-related problems. The show was created by Tim McKeon and Adam Peltzman, who both worked on The Electric Company, and is produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment and the Fred Rogers Company. It’s funded by CPB and a Ready to Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Also at the Press Tour, PBS said it will again work with AOL on six more one-hour documentaries as part of its Makers: Women Who Make America initiative.
Having faced the disruptive threats posed by cassette tapes, CDs, satellite radio and even the iPod, public radio strategists are increasingly looking for a beachhead into the emerging “connected car” and its Internet-powered suite of entertainment options. Gains in auto technology were a highlight of last week’s 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: Carmakers, including General Motors, Jaguar, Tesla and Audi, unveiled new or beefed-up versions of dashboards that use broadband Internet to power apps offering news, music, weather and other services to motorists. Both NPR and American Public Media announced new partnerships that will get their content into these “connected cars.”
“This is huge, and it’s essential for radio broadcasters to be players in this space,” said Fred Jacobs, longtime radio researcher and analyst who’s now in the business of developing apps for the digital dashboard. He has followed the development of connected car technologies and documented its growth through his research projects, including the Public Radio Technology Survey. For decades, radio operators could throw up a tower and launch a broadcast service confident that listeners would be tuning in from their cars.