Digital Public Media: From Broadcasting to Leading a Tribe

Thanks to @garyinalaska, I was invited to speak at the Alaskan Apple Users Group (AAUG) on March 4 in Anchorage, on a topic more or less of my choosing, but dealing with “digital media survival.”

I took that notion, applied it to public media, and tried to bring forth my current thinking about how we in the public media space — at least where I am these days — must change in order to better serve our original mission and do it in a sustainable and meaningful way. Broadly, I suggested we must move from being a purely broadcasting-focused firm to leading a “tribe,” as Seth Godin would put it.

Frankly, my presentation needs work. A lot of work. But the core ideas are there. We’re only just getting started on this in my firm, so I should be able to revise this in the future once we’ve got more experience. For now, however, here’s the presentation files as well as lots of links that are the foundational pieces of the notions presented. I’d love to hear your comments or suggestions, and if you take these ideas and expand upon them, drop me a link.

  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin (
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin (free at
    Godin’s book on the tribes notion isn’t perfect (there are complaints out there about generalities that aren’t backed up with examples), but it’s quite good and I suspect it will form the backbone of our strategy going forward. It is not a prescriptive book; it has no “instructions” — it’s more faith than religion, if you know what I mean. In any case, as I noted in the presentation at AAUG, if all we in the current public media are doing is talking at people instead of communicating with and connecting people with shared interests and values, we’re not likely to survive. Content is free. Distribution is free. Contact, context, connection and community are priceless.
  • Seth Godin’s blog
    Godin covers the tribes notion periodically and relates tons of next-generation marketing and communications concepts; highly recommended reading for just about anyone.
  • Seth Godin Talking About Leading a Tribe (YouTube, 6 min)
    Audio quality is a little weak, but crank it up and you’ll hear everything you need to hear. Godin succinctly hits the notion that companies are focused on interrupting you enough to trick you into buying their products or services, but they don’t care about you.
  • Seth Godin: Sliced bread and other marketing delights (TED / YouTube, 19 min)
    TED Talks are legendary and Godin does his typically masterful job talking about marketing. This one is not about tribes, but the notions covered are integral to understanding how our historic mass media model is failing. It’s 19 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it — he’s a wizard of fast presentations that are smart, funny and revealing.
  • “No One Cares About You” (YouTube, 2 min)
    Short and to-the-point advice to companies that think they need to get into social media to tell the world about what they are doing. Surprise: people don’t care about your company.
  • Kevin Kelly / The Technium: Better than free
    This piece set off a ton of blogosphere and public media commentary last year because Kelly sets forth not only the notion that you can’t stop things (media) from being free, but that there are still ways for companies and individuals to create value and gather revenue. Brilliant stuff.
  • Kevin Kelly / The Technium: 1,000 true fans
    Godin refers to this piece in Tribes, and rightly so. It’s a seminal work in the new media world, as it proposes that an artist can surivive if only he or she can find 1,000 true fans/supporters. Godin suggests, rightly, that the number might be 1,000, but it also might be 100 or 10,000 or 1,000,000 — depending upon your situation. But there is a number, and you need those true fans.
  • The Cluetrain Manifesto
    Now 10 years old, the Cluetrain is still being studied as companies of all kinds try to understand how to behave in the new media, interactive world. The 95 Theses are priceless.
  • Clay Shirky: “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus”
    Shirky addresses the rise of television in concert with the industrial revolution and how it acted as a “cognitive heat sink,” yet now people are participating in media creation rather than simply passively consuming it. Critical to understand because it signals and explains how and why people are, more and more, rejecting
  • Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody (the web site)
  • Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody (
    Subtitled, “The Power of Organizing Without Organizations,” this is a critical idea that public media companies must understand. There are aspects of running a public media service that require the power of a formal organization. But engaging with and leading a tribe cannot be achieved by a pure firm (or corporate) approach because it cannot scale. But if we can “organize without an organization,” we can get there. Of special note are his brief references to “cost of coordination” and how and when a firm (a formal organization) is useful and when it stands in the way of progress.
  • Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration Strategy Lab
  • Umair Haque / Harvard Business Publishing
    His writing is perhaps the most dense of any of the links here — it’s probably a half- or full-generation ahead of contemporary economic thinking, so it can be hard to follow. But if you’ve got an imagination to see a world that doesn’t quite look like ours and a world that operates on different economic principles, expectations and practices, you should be following Haque. Those in traditional mass media — especially commercial media — will ignore Haque at their peril. By the way, his PowerPoint slides on co-creation of content (at Bubblegeneration) are equally dense, but there’s a kernel of public media’s future in there: a collaborative approach to media capture, editing and distribution that we could never have considered in the past.

Thanks again to @garyinalaska for the invite. The crowd was great!