It's high time for real-time community engagement

Geeks out there probably know Leo Laporte, the long-time commercial radio and TV host, made especially well-known via the now-defunct TechTV cable channel. He continues to develop media, having built the TWiT podcast “network” over the past couple of years, including the flagship This Week in Tech podcast, drawing some 200,000 listeners a week.

In a blog post this weekend, Laporte describes several changes he’s bringing to the core show, centered on live video streaming. I’m recommending the post because he describes both some Media 1.0 troubles he’s had lately and then describes the changes he’s about to make in his Media 2.0 company.

Why should public media folks care?

Because Laporte is doing what many of us in public media are not, and his strategy is especially well-suited to the Media 2.0 economy:

  • he’s engaging with his community in a two-way and multi-way fashion that’s meaningful, open and authentic
  • he’s increasing his real-time contact hours across multiple digital platforms (he doesn’t limit himself to one platform)
  • he’s doing it all himself, on the cheap — there’s no network or corporation pushing him forward or holding him back

Laporte’s example is inspiring. Imagine what a public service media company with a true local engagement mission could do, using similar methods and the same low-cost, low-risk, rapidly-developing technologies. Engaging your community, communicating with your “true fans” is not a matter of holding public meetings or taking pledge calls. I’m hoping to steal some of this TWiT model for use in my shop (assuming we can get past our difficult strategic planning process).

But we’d better move fast.

Because in a world where Content is a commodity with a value approaching zero (or as Robert Paterson described content recently: noise), all we have left is Contact and Context. PBS and NPR can provide content on a national scale and with unrivaled quality. They can even distribute it and gather financial support for it directly. So we, the locals, must do what they cannot: provide authentic contact and develop a contextual service in tune with our local communities.

Take a look again at Laporte’s example. He’s building out in service of his “tribe,” his community. He’s co-creating value with volunteers in his “TWiT army.” He’s using two-way platforms authentically. He’s got real-time contact with his audience. He’s doing it without transmitters or other oppressively heavy engineering costs. We should be so lucky.

We can be so lucky.

3 thoughts on “It's high time for real-time community engagement

  1. John I love the addition of the word Context – I think that how most news is presented today makes us all more confused. Again because it is so easy to offer a headline – headlines become noise.

    Darfur and Kenya are linked but not in headlines. Understanding why so many states don’t work anymore is key but simply reporting that this outrage has happened and then that one – makes it all worse

    Clinton is up in the polls and now Obama makes us more confused – what is the values split that is widening in America that means that the two sides can’t even hear each other. Are we on track for the same kind of split as the last time that America polarized in the 1850’s? That is the context – that is what makes the choices more clear – we can all go on.

    Headline news is an arms race that pub radio/TV cannot win. But commercial radio/tv is not able to do context – they can’t do contact either

    The great TV on PBS is surely context? I saw the bio of Eleanor Roosevelt yesterday – add this to Obama and we see how race still is so divisive – then we might ask WHY rather than merely blame. That gives us a chance of converting Context to Contact. Again – we can do this and THEY can’t

  2. I’m thinking about the three C’s this way…

    Content = negligible value (sometimes positive, sometimes neutral, sometimes negative)

    Content + Context = Value
    * We share a content experience in a way that’s meaningful to us, to our community. It might be content that’s of interest to a community gathered around that topic, or it might be content that’s relevant to a geographical community, etc.

    Content + Contact = Value
    * We share a content experience in the same space (physical or virtual) and talk about it, react together, share.

    Content + Context + Contact = Extreme Value
    * This is where the True Fans phenomenon appears — we share content, we share contact, and we have a shared context of meaning and experience. This is what Seth Godin calls the “tribe.”

    To relate this to the presidential campaign, I think Clinton started out in a Content mode — I have these ideas, these policies, I have this track record. Obama started out with Context — I feel we’re on the wrong track, we’re not focusing on the deeper issues, we’re not talking to one another, we’re talking past one another, do you feel the same way?

    Perhaps this is why Obama’s message continues to resonate — he’s getting at something deeper than policy ideas.

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