In order to do that, it needs not only to learn how to think differently about the assignment, it also needs to become comfortable with those who do think bigger.
As I was reading this story by Jennifer Dorroh on the Transformation of NPR, I could not help but draw parallels between what NPR is facing and what every organizations is trying to keep at bay - change in the way customers use your products (who, how, where, when, and why). Information is a product - what you sell and what you get as a result of the relationship.
Who is Listening?
Becomes who is watching online. The story wants to pop out of audio into visuals, narrated slides, images that are connected with the sentiments of the community where the story came to life. NPR piloted its "Tell me More" show online in 2006 before offering it to member stations and today the organization is experimenting with communities.
Radio listeners are not a public in the strict sense of the word, they are single people, each listening alone. I am reprising a conversation we had here two years ago almost to the day. Because of the intimacy that can be achieved in the individual nature of single listeners, radio has the potential to function as aggregator of those voices, and to talk with listeners and build a sense of relationship.
If you take that out of the radio metaphor and think about your business, who is listening is the first question you are asking yourself. Who is your audience and who is listening from your organization?
How Are You Engaging in the Conversation?
Then it's about how you are building those relationships. In many organizations this requires a culture shift - from leading and producing to collaborating. NPR is putting its money where its mouth is. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation earmarked 1.5M to train the editorial staff in digital storytelling skills.
If you're familiar with Car Talk, you will know that those guys are very competent and a lot of fun - on the air and online. Radio already has all the ingredients it needs to move into new media successfully - the community being the most notable.
You're probably not running a radio station. Chances are you could be borrowing many of the formats that were invented with radio for your own digital storytelling. Part of that is how people can find the information they seek on your site.
Are You Where Your Customers Are?
"What we really want to do first is to build a culture that is respectful of the modern news consumer, knowing that the modern news consumer wants news on demand, wants it to be timely, wants it to be authentic and wants it to be noncommercial from us," says Dick Meyer, NPR Digital Media's editorial director.
Are you putting this same kind of thinking into where you are available for customers?
Is When 24/7/365?
The expectation that a business would support and participate in the conversation non stop is very high. However, customers will engage with you whenever it is convenient to them. The difficulty is that this means something different for each individual.
This fragmentation impacts who your customers are, where they choose to engage with you, as well as when they decide to do so. However, you do not need to be in all conversations - that's why it's useful to provide a place where your customers can talk with each other at any time.
And why having a robust online presence makes sense for a radio network - it can take the conversation well beyond the fixed programming.
Why would people create yet another profile for the community on your site? I understand the reasoning behind providing the option for engaged listeners and fans to create a personal profile on your multimedia site. That action alone may make the site stickier. Many may be joining an online community for the first time.
The why of a new media strategy for NPR means learning to think differently about their product - how people consume it, who is engaged, where do they find it easier to connect, and when. It also means figuring out new ways of telling stories and going from broadcasting to creating bidirectional multimedia touch points.
On the radio, it is still possible to find words offered to the listener with tact. The addition of a multimedia experience creates a community from individuals - the radio is literally the host, the rest can be a collaboration with the publics. Listening then comes full circle back to the very creators of the first experience.
"We're going to get our stories and our storytelling and our journalism out to people wherever they are and in whatever form they want to experience it." [Ellen Weiss, VP for News, NPR]
What's your take? Is this a sustainable model? Do you listen to NPR? I confess that my media consumption is mostly online, so I'm thrilled that they are working on making their Web site more user friendly.