Merlin Glossary



Admin Tool

The Admin Tool is the front-end interface that allows stations and producers to create, access, manage, and edit content that may appear on or within other products powered by the Merlin API. The Admin Tool is accessible at  Admin tool access is only available to stations and producers that have been fully on-boarded to Merlin.


An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a way for different pieces of software to ‘talk’ to each other. The Merlin API provides an easy way for applications to interact with the Metadata Layer (MDL), effectively making the power of Merlin available to mobile apps, social widgets, station sites, etc. Public and private Merlin APIs are currently in development.

Content Channel

A Content Channel is defined as a group of objects bound by an organizing editorial concept. It can be the name of your show (Check Please!) or a category in which your show belongs (Documentaries).  On and elsewhere, Merlin can use these channels to help leverage initiatives and sub-brands by displaying branding and links and enabling channel-based filtering via the Merlin API.

Content Object

Content objects are the primary units of metadata used within Merlin. Each individual content object refers to a unique cluster of metadata that defines a particular piece of content on the web. Content objects should be thought of as promotional pointers to individual videos, articles, blog posts, promotional pages, etc. Web and video objects are the two primary types of content objects.


Destination refers to any application accessing the MDL through the Merlin API. Destinations are usually front-end experiences like mobile apps or


(see: UUA) – DIS stands for Digital Identity Services. The UUA accounts used to access the Merlin Admin Tool are a key component of the DIS platform.

Dynamic Lead (DL)

The Dynamic Lead, or DL, is the horizontal-scrolling list of images that appears immediately below the global header and What’s On banner on the homepage. Currently, the DL is intended to be an area to feature upcoming programs and promotional campaigns.


Flags indicate the current state of content in the Merlin Admin Tool.  Flags are used by PBS editors to indicate the quality of content objects.

  • Green flag: Signifies that a content object has no problems and is published.
  • Yellow flag: Indicates minor problems, but that the object is still published and should be revised.
  • Red flag: Indicates major problems. If a content object is given a red flag, that object will be temporarily removed from the front-end of Merlin until the problem is resolved.

Global Footer
(see: Media Bar)

The global footer is currently in development. Once launched, it will be displayed at the bottom of all PBS and producer webpages on (except within the Video Portal site which already uses its own footer conventions). The global footer will be nearly identical to the media bar currently visible on the homepage. This navigational tool will provide a simple way for users to easily navigate and access the breadth of PBS content available no matter where they are on

Global Header
(see: Navigation Bar)

The global header displays at the top of all PBS and producer webpages on It includes localization options and easy access to the PBS search tool. The goal of the global header is to make it easy for users to quickly navigate and access the breadth of PBS content available on the web.


Every PBS station will exist as a group within the Merlin Admin Tool. When station staff members are added to their respective station groups, they may manage Programs and objects owned by that station. Group members may also create lists and use the programming grid to assign content to various front-end destinations.


Ingest refers to the process of adding content to the Merlin database. If content has been ‘ingested’ by Merlin, that means it has been successfully added to the MDL and will properly surface in Merlin-powered applications.


Lists are ordered collections of web and video objects that are curated by your station. Once you have built a list, it may be assigned to feed a particular Merlin destination. Currently, the only destination that can be programmed with lists is the homepage DL on However, as Merlin continues to grow, lists will be used to program and promote local content in several destinations across a variety of platforms.


Localization refers to the process by which Merlin determines the geographical location of users. Localization is a key feature of Merlin because it allows applications like to share with relevant audiences links to local station content.


The MDL, or Meta Data Layer, is a database composed of indexed links to content. This data is stored as a series of metadata which can be easily searched and sorted by Merlin-supported applications. The core of Merlin is composed of the MDL and the Admin Tool.

Media Bar
(see: Global Footer) 

The Media Bar is a footer that appears at the bottom of the homepage. It is designed to highlight links to a variety of featured content. The media bar also provides links to several new media sources, including blogs, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


Merlin is a cutting-edge initiative to bring PBS and its member stations into the next generation of online content distribution. At its core, Merlin is composed of the MDL and the Admin Tool. It serves as a database of information that allows PBS, local stations, and national producers to add and manage content for promotion across several PBS interactive products, including



Metadata is loosely defined as data about data. The metadata stored in the MDL is not actual content data, but instead data about content. This includes titles, URLs, descriptions, topics, etc. Modules that surface in Merlin are essentially clusters of metadata about specific content objects – and when a module is clicked on, users will be directed to the content URL stored in the metadata of that object.


On, modules are one of the most common ways for content objects to be presented to users. Modules appear in the featured content area of the homepage, as well as on each of the topic pages. They include the object’s title, image, Program, description, and date of publication. Local modules also include station branding. When users click on modules, they are directed to the URL of the content object.

Navigation Bar
(see: Global Header)

The navigation bar is a unifying module that appears at the top of the homepage. It provides a simple way for users to easily navigate the breadth of content available in Merlin. It also features a dropdown menu that allows users to easily localize themselves. Once a user is localized to a station, that station’s logo will be featured on the top of this menu. In addition, localized users who click on TV schedules, Support PBS, and PBS Programs in the navigation bar will be directed accordingly to station sites. Eventually, this navigation bar will be visible on webpages across all of

Partner Player Code

The Partner Player Code is found under the Core Data tab of a COVE Asset and places embed code on a video.  Embed code allows users to grab the html code from a COVE video to embed on their website.

PBS Account

PBS Account provides a way for users to establish a singular identity across all PBS ecosystems. For stations, PBS Account may be used to access PBS products like COVE and Merlin. A PBS Account is required to access the Merlin Admin Tool.

Program (COVE)

In COVE, Program refers to an overarching brand or series that publishes episodes or video clips (for example: NOVA, Masterpiece, or a local series). 

Programming Grid

The programming grid allows you to assign and schedule lists of content to go live at specified dates and times. The programming grid is organized by front-end destination, so you can easily schedule content across several different platforms and applications – all from the Merlin admin tool. To meet your workflow needs, this grid makes it easy to schedule content days, weeks, or months in advance.  The programming grid is accessible by clicking the destinations link on the Merlin dashboard.  

Programs/Tonight Module

The Programs/Tonight module is a homepage module that highlights primetime programming on PBS stations. The ‘Programs’ tab of this module offers users an easy way to access direct links to some of the most popular programs on PBS. Once users have localized to a station, this module also displays a ‘Tonight’ tab, which features local primetime TV schedule information.

Regionalization(see: Localization)

Before users select their station-level localization preferences, Merlin may auto-localize them to a specific region based on the location of their IP address. When localized to a region, users see content objects and TV scheduling information for all nearby stations. This information is ranked and sorted by Nielsen ratings. Currently, automatic localization is the only way users may be localized at the region level. However, automatic localization is not available for all IP addresses.

Right Rail

The right rail refers to the right sidebar area of the homepage. This portion of the site can include several unique modules such as a social widget and two modules designed to highlight local content: the Programs/Tonight module and the Support module.


Roles determine the permissions that are given to users. For example, a contributor has permissions to add or edit their own content objects, but may not modify objects that do not belong to them. Editors possess additional permissions that give them the ability to modify or flag objects that they did not originally create. Administrators possess the highest level of permissions and can assign roles to other users. This system of roles is designed to preserve quality standards and protect content ownership within Merlin.

RSS Feed

An RSS feed is a family of web feeds that allow content and metadata to automatically be fed into many different types of programs after their initial publication. PBS is utilizing a customized RSS 2.0 specification that allows RSS feeds to easily publish new content objects within Merlin.


The state of an object corresponds to its availability by date. The state, availability and expiration dates of an object must be set within the Admin Tool. Objects will only be visible on the front-end of Merlin if the current date and time fall between the set available and expiration dates.


Sub-topics are more precise topic categories that fall under specific top-level topics under topic taxonomy (Labeled "Topics" on the Merlin admin tool). For example: ‘Music’ is a sub-topic of ‘Arts & Entertainment’ and ‘Space’ is a sub-topic of ‘Technology.’


Tags function as keywords that are related to the topic of content objects. Tagging is an essential step if stations want content objects to be easily discovered, recommended to potential viewers, or found through web searches.


Taxonomy refers to the labeling of specific content categories so that users are able to easily browse, sort, and find any content that falls under specific topics or sub-topics. For example: ‘Arts & Entertainment’ or ‘News & Public Affairs.’


Topics are the top-level categories for sorting and browsing Merlin content objects. All content added to Merlin must be assigned to at least one topic. Examples of topics include ‘Health’ and ‘History.’

Topic Pages

Topic pages are pages on that allow users to easily browse recent content objects that fall into specific topic categories. On these pages, relevant local and national content will be pulled from the Merlin database and displayed to users in order of recency. Each topic page will also feature specific locations where content can be pinned for promotional purposes.


A user is an online visitor who is viewing content from a Merlin-powered application. Online PBS audiences are made up of users. (Note: In some contexts, user may also refer to PBS or station staff members who are using the Merlin Admin Tool to manage content objects)

UUA (Universal User Authentication)

UUA has been replaced by PBS Account.

Video Object

Video objects are content objects that promote video-based experiences, such as episodes stored in COVE. Each individual video object refers to a unique cluster of metadata that defines a particular piece of video content on the web. Video objects are different from web objects because they should only link to video experiences. In most cases, video objects will feature design elements that distinguish them from standard web objects, such as play buttons.


Visibility refers to whether or not a content object can be seen on the front-end of applications powered by the Merlin API. An object will not be visible on the front-end if it has expired or been given a red flag. However, hidden objects can still be seen and modified on Merlin’s back-end via the Admin Tool.

 Web Object 

Web objects are standard content objects that promote specific web experiences, such as websites, blog posts, promotional pages, interactive games, etc. Each individual web object refers to a unique cluster of metadata that defines a particular piece of content on the web. Web objects are different from video objects because they should not link to purely video experiences. Instead, links promoted by web objects should highlight the diversity of PBS content available on the web.

What’s On Banner (aka TV Ticker)

The ‘What’s On’ banner is an expandable module located immediately below the navigation bar on the homepage. Once users have localized, the banner will automatically scroll through the scheduled primetime programming in their location. If users are localized to a zip code or region, the banner will automatically scroll through each station in that area. If users are localized to a single station, the banner will only show information for that station.  Expand the bar by clicking the More + link on the right side of the bar.