I’ve only listened to the first half of the interview, but I was so blown away by the clarity of thought and forward thinking that I heard that I had to transcribe it as best I could, to be sure I got this into my head just right. Here are some selected highlights:
Haarsager: (Loosely quoted) I’m disciple of Clayton Christensen and believe the disruptive innovation is unavoidable. That we need to figure out ways to disrupt ourselves and move forward in innovative ways. The step we’re in right now is realizing that for our company (NPR) and our 280 licensees/members which represent about 800 stations, that the individual portal strategy that we’ve been following ever since the web was invented is not enough. We definitely need those portals but we need to be able to put our content in places that people aren’t expecting it; whether that be through widgets or the open api, or through mobile and other kinds of distribution opportunities. We basically need to be everywhere, rather than expecting people to come to us… that’s not the way a lot of people use the web. And we need to harness the power of search in that regard in a much more powerful way. I’ve been calling it kind of easter egg strategy where we “hide” content in plain sight all over the web and ask people to go out and gather it up.
Gillmor: Hide? Is that something you are about to do or is this something that you are doing?
Haarsager: (Loosely quoted) The Open API is a very important first step. But we’re also looking at creating what we’ve been talking about as “a second prong of digital” something that’s independent in many ways from npr.org but enables stations to collect content on their own and form partnerships with other non-profits in their communities, becoming more important to them, and curating bundles of content that they can place with these partners and also producing content for these partners. The more places that we can deposit the stuff that we do the better chance that somebody will find it either because they visited that site or page rank has been enhanced because we have all this cross-linking out there. We’re actively trying to get that started. This will be consistent with some of the things that I’ve been working on in the past. Trying to make distribution work, but this time starting from an economic perspective rather than from a technology perspective.
Haarsager: It’s kind of geared toward moving from the scarcity world of broadcasting to the abundance world of the web. You know, like any good beaurocracy, us in public broadcasting tend to make a virtue out of a necessity sometimes, and so the notion of having to curate at a very high level all content in a way that is consistent with a broadcast message means that there is very few opportunity for us to, say, help the local nature conservancy group with its particular messaging. But that isn’t to say that this isn’t consistent with our mission. So, if we have the ability through our technology and through our ability to drive traffic to the web to help that group share its message with others in the community and to bring in great ideas from a nature conservancy organization across the country to their own constituents locally. That seems to me a real win, all to the good. And if we can bring to their web site not only that, but npr stories that are consistent with their mission, that’s also really good. So the idea then is to create these little opportunities for service that really aren’t possible in the broadcast environment, but are consistent with what we’re doing. And if you can make yourself more valuable in the community, then often revenue follows from that, from grant opportunities and tax based sources and sometimes from contributors. What we’re trying to do ultimately is to help diversify the economy of public radio in a way that helps us all.
It’s more sophisticated than the Public service publisher portal model in terms of its distribution mode. There we were looking at a portal and a portal that would be expressed in a distributed way over public station web sites, but those are also portals. So here we’re trying to break beyond the bounds of the portal to give us distribution very deeply into a community. So a given station might have a hundred partners locally, ultimately if it was able to put that together, and have content there. And some of that content would also express itself across the country because what they’re doing locally is of importance to somebody in N.C. when their base night be in N.D.. And all that is done in a little bit more planful way than we were looking for on the psp initiative which was to enable stations to make pay per use or subscription plays or simply to distribute the stuff for free, but mostly within the traditional bounds of their local web site. I just think that that’s a dated view of where we ought to be exclusively, and we need to recognize that other non-profits are just as interested in using the web to distribute their content as we are and the barriers to entry are relatively low, so why not do this community level aggregation in order to help everybody.
Amazing! I am seeing the start of a major media network attempting to re-invent itself, in accordance with its mission, on the web. And I’m hopeful that if we approach this vision, we’ll be doing as much good on the web as we’ve been doing on the air for years.