While you were out…

Robert Paterson continued the hit parade of great writing while I was away and there are two do-not-miss pieces that public media folks should have read. If you haven’t yet be sure to check these out…

WETA – Bringing the heart to Radio – Future of Public Radio
There’s a ton of great insight in this one piece. Given that many stations are in pledge at this time, I found one quote to be especially timely:

Look deep into the idea of Membership and you will find it is usually about if you do this we will do that. Or it may be if you don’t do this we will go off the air. The word Tawdry comes to my mind.

But he’s not really writing about membership or pledge or ratings, in the end. His piece talks about building relationships through shared experiences and values. It’s the essence of “social media” and what we do when we’re at our best today and what we must do to build a sustainable future that has shared meaning for a media outlet and a group of media consumers.

If you want to get a handle on how/why social media will trump mass media in time, this is where you start reading.

The Mystery of Attraction on the web – Luis Suarez
This piece is a little more personal and for public media folks requires a little more reading between the lines. While Paterson describes an experience of meeting a new person via social media tools online (which in itself is fascinating), the real meaning comes later as he discusses how online media is closing the loop on human social patterns that began before recorded history. Technology may in fact be recreating social models that have been broken (by technology) over the past 100 years or so.

I know — that sounds really big and really out there. But be sure to read the piece in full and all the comments. My own experience is beginning to parallel Paterson’s due to three changes in my life: first, I live in a smaller community than in the past; second, I work in public media (which is a tiny community); and third, through online tools like blogs, Twitter and more I’m finding others that are grappling with issues similar to mine and interacting with them. My “community” is deepening at a time when society as a whole is becoming much more shallow.

Some choice passages:

We most of all wish to live in a village – in a tribe – the web enables us to find the best village and tribe possible as it offers us the choice of the whole world to find the best matches rather than having to make the best of our blood and local pool.

It means that we have to rethink the whole idea of “local”. My village is made up of people who live all over the world. I have closer ties to them than to most that live 10 miles away from me.

It means that community as far as My Community cannot scale beyond a small town. Otherwise there is too much noise.

It means that those who wish to design for community would be advised to follow the rules of community in real life – In real life, we scale out from those that mean the most to us to the noise.

So if you worked for a TV or radio station and you accepted this realty – how would you approach connecting to your city?

For public media folks that wish to move from mass media to social media, these ideas are critical. The tribe — as described here and repeatedly by Seth Godin — is not just some marketing-speak. It’s about shared experience and shared values, and it’s a path to establishing a new and enduring meaning for public media. After all, haven’t we promoted the idea that public media are the beacons of quality in a world of crass quantity?  Well, now we have the chance to live up to the talk.

We won’t be everybody’s best friend, but we can aim to be in the smallest, tightest circle possible with those that share and value our public service ideals.