After being part of Rocky Mountain PBS for less than a year, I was honored that the PBS Digital Media Advisory Council (DMAC) invited me to serve. Last week, I boarded a plane to Washington D.C. for my first committee meeting and met the other wonderful, dedicated team members. Here are four things I learned in the two days we spent together:
4. A lot of us don’t watch TV on TV anymore – And we know that today’s kids and their parents don’t either. They watch on their phones and their tablets and their social media newsfeeds in short bursts. They watch on their XBoxes and Apple TVs. Maybe they also watch on their Rokus and Chromecasts and Amazon Prime and Netflix accounts. BUT – we also know that their grandparents do still watch on linear television, and those grandparents are still a very significant portion of our national PBS primetime audience. So despite every industry expert in the business telling us that the present (not the future) is streaming – we can’t discount the fact that it’s not entirely the ‘PBS present.’
3. No one has totally cracked the mobile donation thing… yet… Going in to this meeting, I had a long list of ways my staff and I had tried – and largely failed – to get our social media friends to give us their hard-earned dollars via mobile donations. I get it. It’s a lot to type in on a small keyboard. You don’t want to stop whatever you were doing in Facebook to do it… especially if you have to leave Facebook entirely. My own station’s mobile donation form leaves a lot to be desired even if someone does arrive there, but building a better UI is expensive and using a third-party’s UI is potentially more expensive if they take a cut of each donation. It made me feel a lot better sharing these woes with others on the DMAC and learning that we’re all struggling with the same things. Odds are one of us will come up with a solution someday!
2. We all see many (MANY!) instances where the likes/shares/comments outnumber the actual clicks to content on social media. And we’re learning to be okay with it. This has long been one of my biggest pet peeves. It drives me absolutely crazy when social media analytics (particularly those on Facebook) tell me that people are liking, sharing and commenting on an article they clearly have not read. But, once again, I found that my station is far from the only one experiencing this phenomenon, and other wise souls on the DMAC convinced me that it’s okay. Engagement is good. Even if people are not reading the article on our website (GRRRRR!), the mere act of sharing, liking or commenting helps build our station’s social media standing – both in that person’s newsfeed and in others.
1. We all want PBS to be techier – and we’re getting there. Everyone on the DMAC – and in the PBS national offices – knows that PBS is not the most leading-edge media brand out there. We probably won’t ever be. But we are all trying in earnest. And a lot of strides have been made in the last few years alone. (Look at all the devices on which you can stream PBS content!) Keeping up with the pace of technology is a heavy lift for any legacy media company, but moreover for this one because we must get the buy in – and the implementation – of more than 160 member stations around the country with incredibly different budgets, staff sizes and in-house technical skillsets. That’s part of the reason I believe Passport has been so long in the making, but also why it’s so amazing that it’s here and about to launch.
I love the saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to far, go together.” And I know, unequivocally, that PBS could never be the most trusted public institution in America for 12 years running if we did not ‘go together.’