What's Your Digital Strategy: Illinois Public Media Pt.2
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With the aim of expanding stations' working knowledge of other stations' digital strategy, we continue our series with part two of What's Your Digital Strategy: Illinois Public Media. In part one, we asked Jack Brighton, Director of Director of New Media and Innovation at Illinois Public Media (WILL), to share his station's digital strategy tips and philosophies.

As a recap, he discussed how maintaining a solid foundation, keeping the public trust, providing an excellent experience for all users, and building and leveraging audiences across all platforms are essential parts of Illinois Public Media's digital strategy. Jack rounds out the discussion by continuing to reflect on those strategic philosophies his station has adopted.

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Do New Stuff
Here’s a question that seems relevant: “How awesome can we make this?” We need new models of digital storytelling, journalism, and engagement. We also need to remember that different media has different strengths and impacts on human consciousness and understanding. The phrase “digital multimedia” hides important distinctions in the power of images, sound, text, and moving images. Doing new stuff includes doing old stuff in new ways. Also, not all new stuff will work out so well, and that’s OK.

Support digital content creation
We used to edit tape with razor blades, and now we have a website, Twitter, YouTube, and COVE. Digital producers need tools that allow them to focus on creating and publishing great content. We provide a highly functional Content Management System (CMS) and work to integrate our CMS with other broadcasting and IT systems. We provide training and support for all staff involved in creating and managing content across these platforms. Resistance is futile.

Solve digital storage and metadata 

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We’ve got film from 100 years ago and the technology to play it back. If the digital content we produce today is important, we need to account for how it could possibly be played back in another 100 years. We’re participating in the American Archive project and pursuing other solutions for the long-term curation of everything we produce. We intend to model how a local station with a rich history can preserve it.

Support web services 
It is a strategic necessity for us to support standard methods for exchanging data with other systems and platforms. We want to connect with and leverage other digital content platforms from PBSNPR, the Public Media Platform (PMP), and other vendors and partners. We aim to be an excellent user and provider of web services based on common standards.

Partner and collaborate with innovative people 
Years ago, we worked with Indiana public television stations to broadcast grade school programs from an airplane flying figure-eights over the midwest. We’re willing to try some crazy things, and we’re always looking for partnerships and opportunities to collaborate. In a time of such rapid change, we need to explore new ideas, methods, designs, and partnerships. And public media at all levels should work together to strategize and solve common challenges.

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Keep learning 
Change in technology, practices, business models, and audience behavior continues to accelerate. As media professionals, that’s too bad for us, and we have to keep learning as part of our daily routine. As a public media company, we support a range of formal and informal learning activities to build on our capacity in the digital age.

Embrace our role in education 
It’s our great fortune to have an opportunity to serve the University of Illinois in the areas of our expertise. We will involve and engage students and faculty wherever we can, and work to expand our historical role with education at all levels. As digital media becomes ever more central to new models and modes of education, we hope to set new standards for excellence in educational media. We’re good at exploring and explaining the world and telling stories, after all.

Digital media is providing powerful new ways to reach, serve, and engage our communities more effectively than ever. What’s pretty cool about this job is, we have a front-row seat as the story unfolds. But it’s not always a comfortable seat. We have to survive the upheavals in technology base and business models, at a time when both areas are rapidly shifting. The upside is we get to ask the question, “How awesome can we make this?” Our digital strategy should help find the answer.

If you would like to learn more about Illinois Public Media's digital strategy as presented in the voice of a guitar player turned web geek, view Jack's presentation which he gave at the PBS Station Digital Advisory Council Summit 2013.
In the next installment of What's Your Digital StrategyPat Yack, Chief Content Officer at Alaska Public Media, will reflect on his station's unique approach to digital strategy and implementation.

Share your station's digital strategy by contacting your SPI Rep or pbsi_spi@pbs.org for more information.

By Jack Brighton | Director of New Media and Innovation | Illinois Public Media

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Jack manages web development, digital media, and information technology for WILL-AM-FM-TV-Online. He also teaches digital media preservation and metadata at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library & Information Science, and online journalism at the College of Media. Jack is interested in media work that supports education, arts, culture, and democracy.