Alaska: The Last *digital* Frontier

Last Updated by Makenzie Demmert on

The Digital Immersion Project, developed by PBS Digital with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is a unique opportunity that mixes in-depth training, hands-on workshops, and collaborative mentorship to improve overall expertise in digital strategies and tactics. The professional development program also focuses on strategic and organizational tactics, with the selected participants being able to draw on the project’s learnings and a national network of public media contacts to further digital success at the local level. 

2017 was the first year for the project, bringing together 25 public television professionals from all around the country. The participants first gathered at TechCon in Las Vegas this past April, and have been working individually, in topical cohorts, and with mentors ever since. The first iteration of the project was completed at the end of October 2017.

All year long, each participant has been working on a Digital Strategy exercise that takes the project’s learnings and maps them to the station’s goals, complete with tactics and deliverables. We are featuring just a few of these success stories for their system peers to learn from and gain a little inspiration. 

KUAC's Makenzie Demmert sent us the below to share her story of her project experience. 

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In Alaska, time is less apparent. Especially in the northern interior, where the sun and the moon play by their own rules. This is the land of KUAC, 89.9 FM, with 7 different translator stations serving the communities of: Fairbanks, Fort Wainwright, North Pole, Moose Creek, Chatanika, Salcha, Anderson, Clear, Eielson AFB, Two Rivers, Fox, Denali National Park, Fort Greely, Minto, Nome, Tok, Eagle, Healy, Nenana, Delta Junction and Bettles. How could it be that a station serving the small villages and communities that constitute Alaska’s interior, could garner enough support to sponsor a full license at PBS?

The word you’re looking for is, “love.”

At KUAC, we are proud to provide NPR and PBS services to the people of Alaska who are truly some of the toughest, most self-reliant people on earth. Meaning also, they live lives least dependent on digital technology. Which is how we like it. However, at KUAC we recognize that digital technology can be used as a tool to further keep Alaskan’s connected to quality news content and educational resources. We want to continue to be the source Alaskan’s trust to give them these things, on all platforms.  Participation in the Digital Immersion Project was a step in the right direction. 

With the services from PBS Digital and NPR Digital will potentially enable KUAC to expand its reach and community engagement even further and will have the capacity to build upon an already successful, community-supported network. What we at KUAC want to do is create a community space that is intelligent, respectful and well-informed. We want to provide the best services that we can for the communities we serve, which is the main focus of our efforts at KUAC. By working with the Digital Immersion Project, KUAC now has an understanding of the tools available to help them accomplish these goals. We can continue working towards creating an online presence that:

·       Gives the community access to the local stories and events closest to them.

·       Gives the community access to a cultivated, relevant, quality, content.

·       Further helps to tell the stories that would otherwise go untold.

·       Is a source of enrichment that offers users a variety of user-driven depths of experience.

·       Offers a place of connection and community-centered identity.

·       Gathers important community information in one place.

For the project itself, my goal was to transition our current WordPress and Core Publisher websites to Bento, using Public Media Platform, Composer 2 and the many other interfaces available from both NPR and PBS. Integrating our two websites together seemed to be the impossible task, but I now feel like we can do so successfully given all the standalone, pluggable units that NPR provides. This will be great news for our listeners who want to be able to quickly access our radio content, without having to navigate to a separate website to do so. It will also make our radio and TV elements more unified.

             Should we elect to launch Bento, it will give us the ability to manage our content on a different platform. KUAC relies on external sources to model our internet presence. Bento now opens the door to additional options that may make it easier to maintain our own. We can now use our available resources to focus on PBS and NPR social media metrics, DIP served as a guide into the digital world, stripping away the need for extensive trial and error, and provided the information needed to get started in the redesign and maximization of our digital landscape in a meaningful way, quickly. The digital support teams from both PBS and NPR have been invaluable for us in navigating the digital landscape fairly painlessly.

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