If you’re involved in public radio, this is required reading / listening.
Jesse Thorn, host of public radio’s The Sound of Young America (which is really a podcast that happens to be on a handful of 25+ public radio stations nationwide), speaks with Josuha Benton (Nieman Journalism Lab / Harvard) about his notions of creativity, business, media scale, public radio economics, audience interaction, passion, awesome content and more.
In particular, he nails the problems of the public radio industry today: the saturation of the older, educated white market and the industry’s pull back from attempts to stretch into new market segments with old formulas. He also keenly understands and explains the financial models in “the system.”
Because what Thorn proposes is that public media programs, hosts, writers, and others do is, well… make great content and directly interact with the audience that gels around the content and experience. He’s suggesting you build a Tribe.
Take a listen…
While listening, pay special attention to his observations about how he pays himself for his work, how he interacts with his audience, and how small-scale his show’s production model is. Also pay attention to how he thinks programs in the future will work — using mass media as “calling cards” or “advertising” for the interactive media experience the programs are creating.
From a Tribes perspective and a mass media model perspective, there’s only one other major national project I know of that’s doing the same thing: Planet Money, in a tiny, experimental pocket of NPR. And that could be said to be an outgrowth of the defunct Bryant Park Project.
There will remain a place for mass-produced and mass-appeal general news production. But for everything else, and especially for any local station that wants to survive, your future is in building a community around awesome content and services, a la Jesse Thorn.
Bonus Listening: If you haven’t heard the SxSW presentation by Merlin Mann and John Gruber on creating content online, that’s your immediate next destination. Indeed, here’s your reading list for surviving in the 21st century media world:
- The Cluetrain Manifesto
- Here Comes Everybody
- The Jesse Thorn interview (above)
- Merlin Mann and John Gruber at SxSW 2009
Double-Bonus Listening / UPDATE 2009-04-19: Thanks to the unstoppable Jesse Thorn for stopping by with a comment (below) and sharing the link from the discussion at the 2009 Integrated Media Association conference in Atlanta. Highly recommended, too. Thanks Jesse!