Long time, no see

It’s been a hell of an early fall. Just not so much on this blog.

First off, we had the reorganization that came through in mid-August, reshuffling the departments at APTI / KSKA / KAKM / APRN (there’s no end of acronyms, I assure you) in Anchorage. I ended up in charge of all public radio, public TV and all our web efforts — essentially all the “retail” aspects of our public media services.

That alone has taken significant time just to settle in. I’ve been picking up skills in TV traffic operations (if you don’t know, “traffic” is the process by which things like shows and commercials and other elements are scheduled to actually be broadcast to the public). I’ve also been learning about the various services we use from NPR, PBS, APM, PRI, NETA and so many more in both TV and radio. The web has, largely, lain fallow during this period, only getting updates when absolutely necessary.

In addition to just learning my job, we’ve been feeling out the other changes in the organization, covering up holes that our organizational plan left open. This takes time and attention.

Oh yeah, and that whole Sarah Palin thing. Sheesh. She’s running for something or other and it forces us to work harder on news coverage than normal as the campaign gyrates back and forth almost as much as the financial crisis. And the election in general just screws up our staff-bare operations constantly. Thankfully our FM PD knows what she’s doing.

Aside from all that I also agreed to help plan the one day of technical sessions at the Integrated Media Association (IMA) conference in Atlanta in February. I probably shouldn’t have done that.

Then in September I learned my father had colon cancer and would undergo surgery in early October. I flew south for a week to be with the family before, during and after the surgery. The surgery actually went fine, the recovery has been a little rocky, but all is looking up over the long haul. Unfortunately, being in the hospital for a week with no sleep and eating bad food, I ended up picking up a wicked head cold — just before flying home. (If you’ve ever flown in the midst of a head cold, you know the hell that follows.)

But there’s no time for head colds.

I’m now back in Alaska and working through the weekend and into next week with my fellow managers and, delightfully, Robert Paterson, a man I consider to be the most brilliant strategic consultant working in the public media sphere today (amongst other spheres). We’ve actually got Paterson in our offices, working with us every day for 5 days. It’s re-energizing our conversations about strategy and organization and so many things. The questions we’ve, honestly, been avoiding, are now getting onto the table.

We always knew our staffing reorganization was only a first step — it wasn’t a solution to all our problems, it wasn’t going to make our organization “whole” again. It fixed a few problems tactically and internally, but strategically it was too timid, too reactionary and didn’t deal with the problems we’ve got in operating the Alaska Public Radio Network in a semi-cooperative, semi-competitive way with more than 20 other public radio entitites in Alaska

So we’re now hard at work digging through our brains, building a new way forward, one that’s likely sustainable no matter what happens in the economy and one that establishes a new model for cooperation between the stations — and even entities beyond public radio. We’re on a tight deadline, with a first draft being constructed Monday and Tuesday and a sharing of the initial plan Wednesday and Thursday.

I have no idea how our Board, our staff or our legacy APRN partners will react.  This is partially because we’re not done yet, but it’s also because there are underpinnings to our thinking that are very current in economic thinking.

In any case, I should run — time to get to bed and prep for the slog to continue on Sunday.

In the mean time, let me share a collection of quotes by economist Umair Haque. It’s dense stuff. But it’s informing our notions deeply. The most relevant quotes right now include (boldface mine):

  • Trust is at the heart of value creation in the edgeconomy.”
  • “One of the tremendously cool things cheap interaction does is free us from the costs and risk of yesterday’s industrial assets. / Lightweight business models are possible because interaction is cheap — and in most markets, they utterly and totally dominate heavyweight business models.”
  • Open beats closed, Look – this isn’t about subscriptions, really. It’s about tremendous economic pressures for atomization and unbundling — and the fact that context is king.”
  • “Like I keep telling you, markets, networks, and communities… / Like I keep telling you, changing the world — for the better.”
  • “So if you wanna think radically — here’s a (really) easy way. Take the dominant business model/strategy in your market space, and use a market, network, or community to invert it… like Wikipedia, Google, Myspace, Facebook, etc. / This doesn’t mean do something superficial, like a social net for hairdryers. Rather, it means using markets, networks, and communities to shift resources and capabilities from core to edge.”
  • “Connected consumers want firms to be citizens of their microcultures.”
  • “How do we begin reorganizing the industrial economy? By using markets, networks, and communities to alter the way resources are managed: to weave a fabric of incentives for sustainable growth and authentic value creation into the economy — a new economic fabric thatʼs meaningful to people.”
  • “Google is investing in a shared resource [the ‘Chrome’ web browser] because it has the potential to expand the pie dramatically for all, and so Google stands to benefit more than by hoarding it.”
  • “What shared resource have you invested in — or should you invest in — to expand the pie sustainably for everyone over the long-run? / If the answer’s ‘none,’ it’s likely that you’re living on borrowed time.”
  • “…next-generation businesses are built on new DNA, or new ways to organize and manage economic activities.”
  • “We need no less than better corporate governance, a working shareholder democracy, a recognition of what capital really is (and isn’t), radically more enduring incentivesaligned with outcomes that actually matter to people — the capacity to trust and be trusted, more accurate and timely reporting, strategy that creates authentic value instead of just shifts numbers around, and business models that can yield sustainable growth.”
  • “…it is human outcomes that make work meaningful.”

More later, as we expand our thoughts and share and refine it with a larger audience.

2 thoughts on “Long time, no see

  1. It only works when the old guard is removed. Until then, Pub radio stations go no nowhere new until they are taken out of the picture. This means most of public radio are not going to take the next step. Some serious re-working of the employees across the nation will take palce but will it be soon enough? I hope so.

  2. John — Sorry, but I have to agree with you. 😉 Really, I *am* sorry!

    I think you’re sadly on the money. Public radio — and public TV even more so — is helmed by the generation that created it in the wake of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act. They did a great job. But the business models and public service models that we’ve used for the past 40 years are now falling apart.

    Based on the work we’ve been doing in Alaska over the last several days, I’m more convinced than ever that only the richest stations in the largest markets *might* survive, just based on their ability to raise tons of cash to innovate while maintaining the old model, too. Mid-level and low-level stations are likely doomed.

    But what can rise in place of the old model stations is a new way of engaging audiences across multiple platforms and even in person. I’m not saying it correctly here, though. There’s more to be said, more to be explored. We’re just wrapping up the opening phases of our thinking right now.

    But I’m beginning to see a new future now, one that offers great opportunity. For those that can change.

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