Academic Division: Lynn University
Media Division: Revision3
Nonprofit Division: Homeless Nation
COMMENDATION OF EXCELLENCE:
Media Division: National Film Board of Canada for CitizenShift
COMMENDATIONS OF MERIT:
Canadian Centre for Architecture
Intercultural Development Research Association
Category: Media Creation
Institution: Lynn University
It is extremely difficult, whatever your industry, to communicate persuasively with young people (14-18 year-olds) that are inherently skeptical of polished messages, distrustful of sales “spin,” predisposed to embracing only well-known brands (even when shopping for universities), and highly capable social networkers, bloggers and online researchers. Compounding the problem for Lynn University (http://www.lynn.edu/), a nonprofit institution in Boca Raton, Florida, is its age (46-years-old) and lack of name recognition. If we want to attract a better caliber student – and more students in general – we need to stand apart in a crowded field of more than 3,000 institutions offering four-year college degrees.
Whether in the higher ed or retail business, a major challenge is communicating with the 14-18 year-old demographic. For Lynn University, that challenge is compounded by the fact that most students have never even heard of the institution. As a result, our goal was to build a communication program that was unique in its dedication to speaking to that group candidly and clearly, and often, without an institutional filter. We sought to enhance our image by building an institutional presence on the web that was notable for the lack of the “institution.” We wanted potential students to know us as a place that strives to be the most “innovative, international, and individualized small universities in the country.”
Yet we didn’t want to actually say that, just show it. And allow our students, very often, to be the messengers. By letting potential students see us, warts and all (potentially), we were hoping to stand out as a real college possessed of real possibilities.
Target audience: Young people between the ages of 15-19 that are interested in a private, liberal arts education at a four-year university.
Goal: Differentiate Lynn University from competitors by consistently providing smart, stylish and authentic:
1. multimedia web content (lynn.edu, on Facebook and via the university’s YouTube channel)
2. student stories (via blogs)
3. online student content (videos)
4. social media exchanges
Universities and colleges are increasingly front-and-center in the struggle to create meaningful content to attract attention and differentiate offerings among a group of 14 to 18-year-old college bound students. These consumers want content that is delivered quickly and unobtrusively where they live – online. And most importantly, in the You Tube age, they want that information to be authentic.
As an institution with little brand or name recognition, we decided that to reach these students, we needed to marshal our existing student forces and turn them into brand champions. They, after all, speak the language, are themselves allergic to institutional spin, and know best what potential students are looking for, where they’re looking, and why.
With a very small budget behind us, our office set out to recruit six student bloggers during the summer of 2007; build a blogging platform (using WordPress); create a student video competition (to entice students to provide content); start mapping out and building a network of Facebook pages; and finally, create a graduate assistant position within our office so that a student would be largely in charge of, and driving, our new communications initiatives.
To begin, we set out to recruit a handful of university students to become our first-ever online bloggers. Offering only to build the blog platform (http://blogs.lynn.edu) and cheer them on from the sidelines, we managed to recruit six students as bloggers over the summer of 2007. The students were asked only to watch their language and adhere to the university’s existing policies regarding personal conduct and communication. After a quiet launch and only a dozen or so early readers for each blog, the audience and usefulness has steadily grown. Today, each blog averages more than a 1,000 unique visitors. And our student bloggers have effectively become tour guides – answering questions from parents and students alike about everything from the cafeteria food to the institution’s academic reputation.
Around the same time our office launched its own student video competition. Built on the marketing department’s existing “I’m Lynn” theme, the competition offered a $500 top prize for a student shot video. In the end, the office received a half dozen usable video content – shot for and by students – for use on the university’s Web site, Facebook pages and You Tube channel (which was set up formally in the summer of 2008 and houses student work and university-produced content).
Even while we were building this competition, we were shooting our own video for use on the university’s main Web site (www.lynn.edu). On the first of October, our team re-launched the main landing page to include five stories in a so-called “fishtank” window. These stories, which each contain photos and either audio or video content, feature student stories, document on campus news, highlight alumni successes and celebrate the university’s best features in living color. The stories have been so popular that local media visit the site to uncover interesting news stories during quiet cycles.
In the fall of last year the university also set up its network of six university Facebook pages. The main page and profile (Lynn University) has more than 500 members. And other pages have been created for the admissions office, international student admissions, alumni, student involvement and study abroad. The pages have been invaluable as the office has worked with admissions and others to answer questions, post videos, stay in touch with alumni and have authentic conversations with those young people considering enrolling.
The main obstacle faced in this endeavor was convincing ourselves and our peers on campus that while risky, and oftentimes less polished, this new approach was worthwhile.
Additionally, our media relations team had enough to do before taking on this new role, as did our Web and marketing employees. We had to convince – and be convinced – that the substantial effort and minimal monies were going to be worth it. Shortly after seeing our blogs and bloggers begin to blossom, however, most members of the office were convinced. Our editorial content on the web almost tripled almost as we posted the blogs and began writing stories, and posting videos, exclusively for our most visible marketing tools – our Web site and our Facebook pages.
Tools: We used the free applications on WordPress to build the blogs. Our accounts on You Tube and Facebook are all free.
Jason Hughes, Director of Media Relations
Anthony Bosio, Web Designer
Laura Vann, Media Relations Specialist
Ashlea Evans, Graduate Assistant (Jan. 2008-present) and Blogger
Jena Zakany, Graduate Assistant (June 2007-Jan. 2008)
Our bloggers: Morgan Anderson, Joey McNamara, Gene Proulitzer, Jana Fuson, Ashlea Evans, and Allan Jogiel.
This new expansion of our communication activities immediately opened up new lines of communications for the marketing and communication office at Lynn (and, by extension, the whole university). These social media activities, video competitions, increased editorial output – all served to raise this office’s profile on campus and greatly enhance the university’s ability to tell its own story online.
Most striking was the way in which these tools – our insistence on using these tools as ways to communicate candidly – opened up conversations between past, present and potential students. Even now there are discussion threads on our main Facebook page where two mothers are discussing the institution’s value. At the same time, an incoming student used the site to ask a question many other students had with regards to whether our IT department supported a certain computer software. These are conversations no one was having except by phone. Now they’re occurring publicly – and, by virtue of that fact, Lynn is showcasing one of its main selling points: the individualized nature of our institution and education.
Another measure of success could well be the university’s media placements. Since scaling back on our media relations output in favor of more online writing and social media activities, our impressions have actually increased. Our opinion is that this is largely a result of the enhanced stories we’re telling. The media can be forgiven for thinking of Lynn as a quiet campus. We have 2,500 students while our counterpart across the street, Florida Atlantic University, has 28,000. But our Web site and other activities show something different – we are a place that is exciting and vibrant. And, to boot, honest about our challenges and our opportunities.
We have successfully differentiated our institution from competitors by pulling student stories forward, and letting our students talk about their experiences themselves. Our team members consistently return from conferences with a shared message: we’re ahead of the curve. Others want to create the dialogue we’ve created, mind their student experiences like we have, and show the broader world that life exists on their campus. Only by letting go of the reigns in some areas have we achieved this.
Category: Media creation
While mainstream television programs speak to the masses, the need to appeal to vast audiences and conform to industry standards homogenizes content and leads many consumers turned off and disinterested. The Internet, which requires far fewer resources to create viable, interesting and top-tier content, offers an alternative. Programming can be targeted to reach niche audiences. As computers become a central component of an entertainment system, more TV viewers are turning to the Internet for content. However, this is not without its challenges and unique circumstances. With Internet TV still young, there are many questions to be answered: How is original content created? How would viewers access and consume it? How would networks attract and retain an audience? How would networks monetize their product? Make money? Create the best content for the largest audience?
When technology visionaries Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson and David Prager realized the challenge of the broadcast industry – including that they couldn’t find anything they wanted to watch on traditional television – they set out to form Revision3 (http://revision3.com/) in 2005, now led by Internet TV pioneer Jim Louderback.
The founders knew this would be the new wave – and that Internet television would allow viewers to choose the show they want to watch from a library of shows and have instant access to live programs from anywhere in the world.
Their mission was clear: to be the first media company that would actually “get it” and, unlike aggregators, mash-ups, and user-generated video sites, Revision3 set out to become an actual TV network for the web, creating and producing its own original, broadcast quality shows that would change the face of “television” as we know it.
The content on Revision3 is designed for a new target audience: passionate, committed fans who want to watch shows that entertain, educate and help expand their overall life experiences. The audience expects professionally produced programming but wants it to be unexpected, edgy, smart and real. In addition, the audience expects to watch shows whenever they want, wherever they are, and on whatever device they choose, including everything from a 70-inch HDTV to an iPod or cell phone. Anticipating the ability to watch shows on all topics, Revision3’s audience wants to see technology, comedy, modern culture, music and much more.
Revision3’s audience includes technology enthusiasts, avid gamers, movie enthusiasts, and more. Specifically, the elusive audience includes the following demographics:
– 93.9% of the audience is male;
– 53.9% of the audience is in the 12-24 age range;
– 75.6% of the audience is in the 18-34 age range;
– 71.7% of the audience is 21 years of age and above;
– 73.58% of the audience has some college or higher education;
– 87.31% of the audience spends more time with Internet/Digital content than TV content.
• Create an actual TV network for the web while also producing original, broadcast quality shows that offer an alternative to traditional television;
• Attract a wide range of fans and followers who tune in to Revision3’s shows on a daily and weekly basis;
• Generate interest in the online community by bringing in new shows and hosts to add to Revision3’s weekly lineup of programs;
• Partner with multiple distribution platforms to extend the reach of Revision3 shows as well as its advertisers. Revision3 is born from the Internet, on-demand generation. As an actual TV network for the web, Revision3 creates and produces its own original, broadcast quality shows, including hits “Diggnation,” “Scam School,” “Tekzilla,” “popSiren” and more.
CONTENT: Revision3 covers technology, comedy, modern culture, music and more. Revision3 hosts don’t come from Hollywood. Instead, they come from the same passionate fan base as the audience. They are engaging, personal, smart and connected – experts with the insight and acceptance that naturally puts them at the center of the community. The content is designed for passionate committed fans who want to watch shows that entertain, educate and help expand their life experiences. The audience expects professionally produced programming but wants it to be unexpected, edgy, smart and real. They also want to watch shows whenever they want, wherever they are, and on whatever device they choose, including everything from a 70” HDTV to an iPod or Cell phone.
DISTRIBUTION: Revision3’s shows can be found on Revision3.com and additional platforms, including iTunes, YouTube, TIVO, and more. Revision3 will work with almost any distribution platform, using every video encoding format available, including flash, H.264 and others. The company wants content accessible to the greatest possible audience, on as many devices and networks as possible.
Revision3 has attracted a wide-range of top advertisers including Sony, Netflix, Dolby, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Southern Comfort, Virgin America, Verizon and FX Networks. Advertisers enjoy a unique bond with the audience via customized message integration and host mentions that deliver phenomenal results. The clutter-free environment is perfect for everything from direct response to branding.
Revision3 partners with a wide range of traditional and new media platforms to deliver each of their Internet TV programs. In addition, Revision3 enabled their network to work with almost any distribution platform, using every video encoding format available, including flash, H.264 and WMV. Revision3 works to make content accessible to the greatest possible audience, on as many devices and networks as possible. It was very important for Revision3 to allow their shows to reach the audience and deliver meaningful messages and engagement. As a result, Revision3 uses Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to expand their presence and increase audience numbers. Revision3’s shows can be found everywhere from Revision3.com to a wide range of traditional and new media platforms. Revision3 has distribution deals with Blinkx, Zvue, Vuze, Break, Revver, DaveTV, Joost, Hulu, TiVo, Miro, Blip and Transpera. This has multiplied the reach of Revision3 content exponentially.
Advertisers include Anheuser-Busch, Dolby, Bank of America, Dr. Pepper and the National Highway Safety Association.
The Revision3 team combines the best and brightest in the world of television and the Internet. The management side includes: Internet TV pioneer Jim Louderback; Damon Berger, who runs the company’s distribution and promotion strategies as Director of Programming & Business Development; Sarah Lane, Director of Production; Brad Murphy, who leads advertising efforts as Vice President of Sales; David Prager, co-founder and Vice President of Special Projects; Ron Richards, Director or Marketing & Product Management.
Each member of the management team takes a critical role in developing, maintaining and promoting the Revision3 lineup of shows. In 2007, Revision3 delivered a total of 11 million shows and over 46 million clips in the fourth-quarter reflecting a 440% percent increase from the first-quarter of the year. For the full year Revision3 delivered a total of more than 25 million shows, and over 103 million clips. The popular show Diggnation has more than 160 episodes available online, garners 200,000 viewers per episode (more than Fox Business News, which spent millions of dollars to launch their operation), and consistently ranks among the top Internet videos available from the Apple iTunes Store.
In June 2008, Revision3 was honored with two Webby Awards in the People’s Voice category for the hit shows “Diggnation” and “The Totally Rad Show.” The People’s Voice category allowed Web enthusiasts to vote for their favorite nominees. “Diggnation” and “The Totally Rad Show” won People’s Voice awards for Technology and Variety in the Online Film and Video Genre. Revision3 was also named an Official Honoree in the technology category for “Tekzilla.” In addition, Revision3.com has been named a winner of the Interactive Media Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment and the company has been named to CNET’s 2007 Webware 100 Award in the Entertainment category. Revision3 also was named to the AlwaysOn Global 250 List in 2008 and Red Herring 100 in Spring 2007. Most recently, Revision3 was selected by TVWeek readers in a poll to be the web-video studio poised to launch the next Internet mega-hit.
With the combination of a strategic internal team, focus on the company goal at hand and ability to attract and retain hit Internet superstars, Revision3 has propelled each of its programs to be a success.
Revision3 continues to add new programming regularly, such as Hak5, a home-grown hit series fusing underground culture and mainstream IT which launches on Revision3.com on September 8th, and they have a hot new music program on the horizon. These efforts bring in new fans and followers – from a hardcore hacking audience to more – and continue to build Revision3’s strong presence in Internet TV.
Finally, as advertisers recognize the reach of Revision3’s programs, top companies continue to partner and support the Revision3 platform in an effort to boost the network even further.
Category: Media Creation
Organiztion: Homeless Nation
New media technologies have been developed to enhance people’s lives by facilitating open and direct communication, easy access to information and resources, and the creation and dissemination of art and self-expression. The benefits of new media remain out of reach for many Canadians who neither have the necessary equipment or requisite skills to access the technologies.
WWW.HOMELESSNATION.ORG was originally conceived as a forum of expression for individuals who otherwise have no voice and no influence in mainstream society.
Canada’s homeless have a right to be heard, a right to community, and a right to be acknowledged. Too often, the street community is ignored or looked down upon by everyday citizens. Homeless Nation was developed to help change that. We want to provide the crucial tools and the digital skills to a population eager to be heard.
Our lives are becoming more and more dependent on technologies. The Internet, with all the information that it stores and transports, is the lynchpin of our digital age. If you need to know something, if you need to contact someone, if you need to find something – the Internet is the first place that we look. This powerful tool, however, is not restricted to acting as a simple instrument; it is also a forum for culture, expression, and creativity. Through social networking sites we maintain and form friendships, through blogs people articulate their fears and frustrations, their hopes and desires; through news sites people stay current with both local and global events.
The people who need many of these services the most do not have adequate access. The homeless, for the most part, have been silenced in our cultural discussion – they do not have the knowledge or the requisite technologies and resources to properly participate. There is a disconnect – a digital divide – that is emerging between the haves and have-nots.
Homeless Nation aims to provide individuals on the street with the tools that they need to express and educate themselves. Self-expression is an important first step towards gaining control over one’s life and exerting positive influence on future decisions. The communication that happens through the website is central to the creation of community and a feeling of social acceptance.
Homeless Nation (HN) is an online community open to anyone. By facilitating an online discussion, we hope to bring about understanding and acceptance. For members, HN currently has thousands of homeless individuals, dozens of community groups, and many ordinary citizens who want to learn more and who want to help. First and foremost, however, www.homelessnation.org is created by – and for – Canadians who are homeless.
Homeless Nation directs the majority of its efforts at those who are still living on the streets. Everyone has a story to tell and we hope that they share it. HN outreach teams visit shelters, missions, drop-in centers, squats, and alleys in order to reach as many people as possible. Outreach is adaptable to every interest and skill level: we conduct interviews with those who are willing to speak, we teach others how to blog, while others graduate onto video-blogging where they go through workshops ranging from the most elementary editing skills to advanced mini-courses on film production.
Along with providing a means for self-expression, Homeless Nation is also used to organize events, distribute petitions, find housing and employment, breakdown negative stereotypes, display art, share stories, find missing persons and develop meaningful friendships.
It is a website aimed at those who have nothing – and need nothing – except the chance to be heard.
If nothing else, Homeless Nation wants to be an archive for all of the thousands of voices that otherwise would not be heard. By giving the homeless population a chance to speak, we hope, however, that Homeless Nation will be much more than that.
We want to give the homeless a chance to develop community and through that instilled social acceptance, strive to better their lives and the lives of others. We want to provide the knowledge that helps a person survive for another night on the street, so that the next day they can wake up to fight for their future.
Homeless Nation hopes to spread to cities all across Canada, all the while developing a self-sustaining network of outreach workers. While focused on the needs and rights of those still on the streets, we also want to educate the average Canadian who needs to know more about the issues, the causes, and the lives of the homeless. Until voters break-free from the negative stereotypes that persistently define the homeless, policy will remain in a quagmire of ineffectiveness. Changing perceptions will change lives.
Through a user-driven approach, Homeless Nation is trying to change individual attitudes, public perceptions, and the process of making government policy. Human rights and social equity are often taken for granted in the developed world, but many members of our society have to battle injustice everyday. Poverty and homelessness are dire issues affecting millions of people in our increasingly urbanized world. Homeless Nation is trying to provide new tools to assist in the empowerment of homeless individuals so that they themselves can become agents of change.
The current website users, the individuals who are taking part in outreach programs, the ones still sleeping on the streets – those are our outreach workers of tomorrow, our future means to fight against injustice and promote social and economic equality. The future lies with them.
We want to continue to develop our website, adapt it to the needs and wants of those who use – and rely on it – most. The site needs to be more interactive, more informative, and more user-friendly. We must always push the existing technologies to see how much we can get back from them.
There is also a pressing need to expand outreach into a larger number of cities and to increase the visibility of the project in the greater community. Homeless Nation can be used to educate ordinary citizens and policy makers about homeless individuals and the issues that affect them.
By adding to our already 30+ community partners, we hope to create a National Shelter Network that will be able to better serve homeless Canadians. Comprehensive and updated information on our site may mean the difference between being able to sleep in a warm bed for the night or having to make due in a doorway.
We must continue empowering individuals through learning how to use the Internet to look for survival-based information, such as available shelter, food, health care and other social services.
We want be able to continue to use digital communication to create dialogue in Canada about this social justice issue, and to create hope and opportunities in our society for those who are most vulnerable and marginalized.
In supporting and providing these essential tools and skills, we will ultimately enable homeless Canadians to change the conditions of their lives and to build stronger, healthier communities across Canada.
Homeless Nation uses pre-existing structures to effectively distribute its services. Outreach workers use contacts in shelters, drop-in centers, re-hab clinics, Native friendship centers, and other community organizations in order to meet a wide group of homeless individuals. By doing this, we cut down on administrative costs and direct more money to equipment and training for the homeless.
We provide interested partners with computers and other equipment (like video cameras) and hold workshops that introduce the basics of the site. As time goes on, the workshops become more technical and the attendees exert more control over the content. Often, groups will choose to meet outside of HN activities in order to continue working on projects or sometimes hold their own workshops: recently a group in Vancouver held a workshop on conflict resolution.
The hub for all of our services is our website – www.homelessnation.org There are always challenges when working with a highly marginalized, and very desperate, population. Often people show more priority to finding food and shelter than in sitting and writing a blog or filming a video. The homeless are grateful to have the opportunity to be heard, but hunger can be overwhelming.
Many homeless individuals are also highly transient and after having some initial success with them, they may suddenly disappear. With an extended network, we would be able to reach new people and keep existing members participating.
Homeless Nation also has difficulties meeting expectations from mainstream society. Finding sources of funding or deploying in new communities can be challenging because many people don’t understand that homeless people need to be able to speak their minds and feel a basic level of social acceptance. Many people think that giving a blanket or a can of food is enough.
We say it isn’t, and the homeless say it isn’t.
Everyone needs friends, community and personal acknowledgment. Having faith in others – and in yourself – is crucial to living a safe, healthy, and productive life.
www.homelessnation.org runs on Drupal open-source software – a content management system. We use donated computers and cameras, use free space from community organizations, and are motivated by fierce sense of social justice.
In participating communities, we have outreach workers who spend their days on the streets and their nights editing footage in front of a computer screen. Each city also has volunteers who help promote the site or lend a hand during filming.
HN has minimal administrative personnel who also double as tech support for web site problems and answer user’s FAQ.
Homeless Nation has a proven outreach program that uses the success of the past to ensure a bright and sustainable future. The vast majority of our staff have experienced homelessness firsthand and, at some point, were on the other side of HN outreach programs. Eager to learn and to help, these inspiring individuals have shown great courage and determination in their fight to promote civil liberties, social justice, basic human rights, and are determined to give back to the street community.
We want to help improve individual lives as well as the homeless community in its entirety. We gave individuals access to a camera and a computer and from that they began to take control of their lives and give back to their communities.
Their stories are online for the entire world to see and to learn from.
Our online membership grows everyday. We are doing what we set out to do – we just want to do more of it.
Category: Media Creation
Company: National Film Board of Canada for CitizenShift
CitizenShift (http://citizen.nfb.ca/) and our French language sister site, Parole citoyenne (http://citoyen.onf.ca/), are National Film Board of Canada Web sites dedicated to citizen engagement and social change.
These two sites combine the power of images and words to bring together active citizens, independent filmmakers and multimedia artists around the key social issues of our times. Our ever-growing networks engage people from all backgrounds to explore and debate contemporary issues, to contribute their own material – and to use media to make a difference.
CitizenShift and Parole citoyenne are seamlessly merged production and distribution platforms with a huge and ever-growing bank of content including videos, photos, articles, podcasts and blogs….but we’re so much more than the sum of our parts. The power of these social media platforms is how they contextualizes the media and frame the issues.
The challenge for us over the past year has been to migrate our site from a static, magazine-type format to a more dynamic, user generated platform. During our four years of existence, we have always been guided by our users, and the notion of community has been our underlying force. However, in the age of YouTube and other video sharing platforms, we knew that we needed to open things up and reach new standards in order to stay fresh and current. Also, as the two sites were gaining popularity, we simply couldn’t keep up with content submissions manually anymore, which was a great problem to have.
So, about a year ago this fall, we embarked on our revamp project. Moving through the revamp was a major challenge as we had to keep the old site up to date, as well as put an enormous amount of time and energy into building the new site, a daunting load for our small teams! However, the online world is unforgiving; if users don’t like your site within the first ten seconds of visiting, they’re gone and it’s difficult to get them to return. How to keep your audience on board during the change over and then to stick with you through the Beta period of the new site?
Of course, an ongoing goal for us is to get more people active on the sites. With this comes the challenge of outreach and social marketing, which is also linked to our continued existence! Sustainability is indeed a question for community driven Web projects and we are not the only social network facing the question: How does a citizen media project continue to thrive at a time when ‘the next new thing’ is king and long-term financial support for grass-roots projects is elusive?
CitizenShift and Parole citoyenne were clearly ahead of their time when we first went live in the fall of 2004. Our initial goals were to pick-up on the mandate of the Challenge for Change program of the 1960’s: to democratize the filmmaking process and create a vehicle for citizen voices.
It is fascinating to note that the spirit of the Challenge for Change program of over 30 years ago is now the rallying cry of the tidal wave of Web sites and ICT initiatives designed to give voice to the ordinary Citizen. In fact the now hyper trendy Web 2.0 notions of Citizen Media, User Generated Content, Participatory Media, Human Collective Intelligence (Crowd Sourcing), Social Networking and so on, were the founding concepts underlying our project. CitizenShift and Parole citoyenne came before YouTube, before MySpace and Facebook and were amongst the earliest pioneering Websites that aggregate independent social issue media.
However, true community does not simply appear just because one builds a Web site to house it. Over the past four years we have been working hard to connect with people through a wide variety of networks created around the issues that we feature on the site. Real engagement and community building takes work, dedication, demonstrated integrity and commitment to the causes. We have spent a considerable amount of time and energy connecting with people, listening to their stories and supporting their efforts to portray social issues through media.
While at the time of our launch in 2004 we were on the pioneering leading edge of the citizen media trend, after over three years in the same skin it was absolutely essential to freshen up the site and make it more interactive. Now, with our revamped site we are striving to maintain our lead within the growing pack of participatory media sites invading the Web. Fortunately, we have an important advantage: our strong existing community and well known and applauded National Film Board branding. Both of these crucial elements have helped us to leverage our new technical platform in order to boost the project to a new level. But we must not rest on our laurels and keeping ourselves up there requires constant effort and innovation.
Also, there are still issues with the new site, which has been online for over six months now, and in listening to our users, we have found that we have to go back to the design table and re-tweak a few important elements in order to improve usability. The decision to change certain things on the new site have brought other, internal challenges as we have had to find new money and support for continued Web development. We have needed a strong communication strategy in order to educate our executive producers and studio administrators on the necessity of approaching Web development as an ongoing process inherent in every Web-based project, and in convincing them to put forth the funds to support this approach.
As a social-issue, multiple-media based site, our target audience is clear: anyone who is moved by the current state of our world and who wants to put forth specific problems, critiques as well as celebrations of the issues that we face. Therefore, we aim to reach filmmakers, writers, photographers, activists, teachers, learners, researchers and ordinary citizens. Since we operate out of the National Film Board of Canada, our target is primarily Canadian, but certainly not exclusively and we have collaborators and materials coming from the US, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and other parts of the world. We also network with other like-minded Web initiatives and form part of a global network of social-media aggregators.
In Canada, we have team members in 4 cities across the country and an important audience to reach is a local one, and we do this both via our Web presence and through local screenings and events. It is part of our core mandate to privilege people whose stories might not otherwise be heard; to give voice to the voiceless and to offer an opened host and a contextualized setting in order to highlight the issues.
Our strength in this Web 2.0 world is the force of collectivity and true community building. In stark contrast to the sweeping cult of the individual—the MYspace, MYfriends, MYvideos and YOUTube—CitizenShift and Parole citoyenne prefer to offer the notion of WE, together, exploring the issues that touch us all. The media found on our sites serve as catalysts for discussion, networking and collective action so that we can make a difference in our world. And the works aggregated on these two platforms fully embrace that spirit.
Our first and foremost objective is to stay alive. In spite of the fact that the sites are flourishing, stats are up and the community is growing, we still have to prove the necessity of our existence internally within the National Film Board of Canada in order to reinstate our mandate and our funding.
We also need to grow the community and get more people and content flowing through the site. This is also an ongoing objective, but this year we have given ourselves the lofty objective of trying to double our current stats.
Again, as mentioned, we still need to improve the site for usability and to make the content ‘jump to the top’ as users have mentioned that they find it difficult to locate all of the content currently within a dossier.
Finally, we need to find some viable supplementary funding sources. Although the National Film Board is currently supporting our project at 100% of our budgeting needs, it is now essential for us to find additional funding to offset our costs. We currently operate on a fairly modest budget and with a small team; this makes it difficult to attain all of our goals as we tend to spread ourselves out a bit thin! External funding would certainly help us reach our goals and sustain these worthy initiatives.
In terms of our continued existence, we are currently undergoing an internal information campaign. This includes meetings and presentations to high level management and decision makers, as well as to host screenings and events for rank and file employees. It is essential that our colleagues are familiar with our work and consider this project as absolutely necessary and in harmony with the NFB’s new strategic plan.
As for growing our community, users and content on the site, we are just getting underway with a new communications and marketing campaign for the two sites. This includes presentations at a wide variety of conferences, educational institutions, community groups and festivals. We are also in the final planning stages of an online contest and outreach campaign, encouraging people to submit content. Finally, we continue with our ongoing social networking strategies including our Facebook and flickr accounts. We’re also investigating the possibilities of developing a Widget for the ipone, as well as collaborating with other Widget sites to improve the viral aspects of the site.
One new initiative aimed for early 2009 and currently in development is our educational modules. This will be a sub section of the site aimed specifically at educational institutions (middle school through to college) with the goal of getting both students and teachers to participate directly on the CitizenShift site in order to create a networked community of learners. We hope that this project will develop a new audience for CitizenShift, thus expanding and increasing our user base.
We have just recently entered into an agreement with a new Web-development company for the site improvements, which we hope will take care of the minor annoyances. Hopefully this will be completed by November and we can then focus on upgrades and new features.
And as for monetizing, we are in meetings with some experts in the field of ‘The Double Bottom Line’ (the notion of looking at value in terms of financial as well as social capital) and investigating how to leverage our wealth of content and vibrant community in order to attract a few targeted sponsors. We hope this strategy will pay off for us in the way of some additional financial support for the projects.
As one can see, there is a lot going on! Part of the process of running these sites is in the balancing and managing of priorities. A key priority is always what’s happening on the sites themselves, because in the Web world, you are only as good as your front page! But we are also advancing on all of the areas previously mentioned.
If we look at the initial revamp project, which ran from late summer 2007 until our beta launch in January 2008, we can say that the deployment of the new sites went ahead as planned, that is, more or less on schedule and on budget. However, there were a few obstacles and challenges to overcome, some of which we were successful at immediately, others which took some time to figure out.
As far as the original revamp project, we can now say in retrospect that the deployment process, although ultimately successful, could certainly have been smoother.
In keeping with our grass-roots and indy media leanings, we decided to use open-source tools for our new site. We chose the Drupal platform for its large and active user community, but with that choice came other challenges. Although we firmly embrace the open-source spirit, we also need a ‘professional’ Web presence, with an efficient and attractive interface that will bring people in. Finding the ‘right’ developers and designers has been an ongoing challenge.
As it happened, we were booked to launch the new sites at the Festival de nouveau cinema in Montreal (a major international film and new media festival), and therefore had to make numerous compromises in order to get the site up and running for this highly publicized launch event.
We did finally pull it off, culminating in a wonderful evening where we were surrounded by our local collaborators and supporters in the hall, as well as numerous others who joined us in a live feed online. However in retrospect, we should never have committed ourselves to such a major event so close to the soft launch date. The pressure and amount of compromise we endured were significant and took its toll on the team, the developers and the results online. In the future, we will give the development process the time it needs in order to produce the results we all want to see and not try to force it before being ready. This is why we are now finding it necessary to ‘clean up’ certain design choices made under intense time pressure of the initial site revamp project.
As previously mentioned, we are proud users of the Drupal open source Web platform. Our developers for the revamp project were media (http://www.meidia.ca/?l=en), a Montreal based Web Team. We are also working with Koumbit (http://koumbit.org/en), a community based Web development group and have just began to work with another company Whisky Echo Bravo (http://www.whiskeyechobravo.com/). We have been thrilled to work with all of these companies and, as part of our mandate, seek to grow the knowledge of Drupal development. The source code for our site is available through the Drupal project site and we welcome continued improvements and upgrades by the entire Drupal community.
In this SNCR application we have listed ourselves in the ‘Media’ category. However, this might be a bit misleading. In fact, CitizenShift and Parole citoyenne are produced and funded by The National Film Board of Canada, a government agency and Canada’s public film and new media producer and distributer. However, I did not want to list us in the Government category, as this might seem somewhat inappropriate, even though it is true that are a Govt funded initiative. I was also tempted to put us in the not-for-profit category, as this probably best describes the organic personality of our project, but we are not officially an independent not-for-profit organization. So, in consulting with the SNCR, we decided to apply under the category of media. However, even though we are essentially an independent media project, we certainly do not see ourselves on the same playing field as Time Warner and MSNBC!
All this to say, CitizenShift and Parole citoyenne defy categorization! Both a blessing and a curse in a world that loves fresh innovators who break out of the box, while at the same time constantly looking for labels and pre-determined definitions in order to make sense of the bombardment of new stuff we have thrown at us every day!
Our team is comprised of fantastic individuals, and is our secret weapon and our lifeblood as we all work together to move the projects forward.
On the English side:
Ravida Din, Executive Producer
Reisa Levine, Producer
Colleen Ayoup, Project Coordinator
Denise Hastings, Outreach Officer, Toronto
Lisa G. Nielsen, Outreach Officer, Vancouver
Katie McKay, Outreach Officer, Halifax
Rob Maguire, Technology Coordinator
Dave Ron, Podcast Coordinator
On the French side:
Yves Bisaillon, Executive Producer
Patricia Bergeron, Producer
Frédéric Dubois, Project Leader
Caroline Fournier, Production Coordinator
Daniel Roy, Outreach Officer
Ky-Vy Le Duc, Outreach Officer
These two Web sites are the French and English faces for one project. Although we have two sites and two teams, each reflecting distinct Anglo and Franco communities, we share one site backend and database. As typical within the Canadian multi-cultural landscape, we celebrate our differences but combine forces in order to gain strength and recognition.
It is important to note that although the two teams appear rather large, most people only work part-time. For example, on the English team, we are only two full time staff members (besides for our Exec. Producer, who is our link to the rest of the institution).
The biggest measure of success is to see our new site live online. This is a huge marker for us and we are proud of the results. We are also thrilled to see the amount of user generated content that comes marching in, on a daily basis, completely unsolicited. People obviously appreciate the fact that they can use our sites to find like-minded people and have their works contextualized around the issues, as opposed to a site like YouTube for example, where content is buried and it’s up to each individual to promote their own work.
In the approximately eight months since the new sites have been online, we have over 650 active collaborators (both English and French combined), that is, people who have signed up and are using the site to host their works. We also have over 6,000 members who signed up to receive our regular newsletters.
Site traffic is significantly higher since the new sites have gone online, with an increase of 75% more traffic since the beginning of this year and an average of 2,647 unique visitors per day. So far, since January 2008, we have had 481,092 unique visitors to our two sites with an overall total of 1,006,937 visits.
But perhaps more significant than the metrics, at least as far as the project teams are concerned, are the personal stories of how our sites have helped people and communities. One of many such stories is our experience with the Picture This piece. Picture This was created by the Healthy Generations Family Support Program in Sioux Lookout, a small, somewhat isolated community in northern Ontario. This moving project—originally intended as part of a Photovoice exhibit—addresses the life experiences of parents of children with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). What is particularly special about this piece is the way it came together. The women from Sioux Lookout contacted CitizenShift to see if we could help them complete their work. They had all the pieces, but lacked the technical wherewithal to produce a video. We hooked them up with an editor in Montreal and worked together through e-mail and phone correspondence to create the final product, an 18 minute video which is now hosted on CitizenShift. Since then they have had over 6,800 views and umpteen comments on the site, and have been invited to present their video in conferences and schools in Canada, the USA and the UK.
This space does not permit us to list more stories, but we have many. Clearly these sites are deeply appreciated by the people who use them and serve an important role in the community media landscape.
As far as our initial revamp project goes, we can say that it was mainly a great success. Sure, there is still some ongoing work to do, but it is minor and mostly in terms of layout and some usability design improvements. The new site is taking us in directions we had never dreamed of when the project started almost four years ago.
As for the educational modules, we are well underway with the development process for these and are very excited about the work accomplished so far. We are certain that these will boost audience and use of the site and move us more formally into the educational domain.
In terms of monetizing the site, or more accurately, in looking for complementary financial support, we are now well armed with everything we need in order to seek out investors. The next several months will be crucial for us in our search for longer-term sustainability.
CitizenShift and Parole citoyenne are important projects and we all feel strongly that the sites have to continue to grow and thrive. This is why we are constantly jigging our roles, strategies and continue to define ourselves as a creative lab for community media and an incubator for social change.
Category: Media Creation
Organization: Canadian Centre for Architecture
The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) (http://www.cca.qc.ca/) was founded in 1979 as a new form of cultural institution to build public awareness of the role of architecture in society, promote scholarly research in the field, and stimulate innovation in design practice. Based on its extensive collections, the CCA is a leading voice in advancing knowledge, promoting public understanding, and widening thought and debate on the art of architecture, its history, theory, practice, and role in society today.
The CCA offers a range of lectures and events alongside its exhibitions and research activities that address issues in architecture, design, and the built environment. While situated in Montreal, Canada, the CCA has an international collection, program, and audience. A primary institutional challenge is to make both recent and archival audio and video recordings of programs featuring international architects, curators, researchers, and others accessible to existing and new audiences beyond the region.
In order to fulfill the CCA mandate of making architecture a public concern and to serve as a resource for individuals engaged with contemporary urban and architectural issues, communication tools need to be developed to reach the largest possible target audience. Developing a strong online footprint was established as a strategic priority in 2007-2008. In addition to launching a series of Podcasts on iTunes, key initial aspects of this initiative include the development of dedicated websites for special CCA exhibitions hosted on independent URL domains (see the Webby Award-nominated www.sorryoutofgas.org and www.someideasonliving.org), the establishing of profile pages on social networking and sharing sites such as Facebook and YouTube, and the development of a new, content-rich, interactive website scheduled for launch in December 2008.
Initiating a series of Podcasts was a way to place CCA materials in an independent context – outside of its main website and easily accessible to users initially unfamiliar with the institution and its programming. Among familiar and new users, the specific podcasts serve to strengthen the image of the CCA as an institution engaged with contemporary issues in the field of architecture and urban planning, and to define its brand through a continued association with the specific lecturers and the issues they presented.
The lectures and symposia held at the CCA have a limited audience of 200 physical attendees in its theatre. While many programs are filled to this capacity, others are of such specialization that a smaller audience is present. The Podcasts allow the same content to be seen by an exponentially larger audience over time. By releasing the content in advance of the redeveloped website, the Podcasts also provide a clearly demonstrable measure of the potential online interest in past and current program content, and can indicate areas of particular resonance.
The CCA is both a research centre and a museum, serving a specialized international public of students, academics, and professionals in architecture and its related fields alongside the general museum-visiting public.
One way of accomplishing the institutional goal of supporting and encouraging research is to make resources available online and free of charge to its dispersed audiences. For the CCA’s online activities, the three primary audience groups were identified as target and desired users. The General Cultural Audience includes tourists, arts enthusiasts, families, and general interest students. These are mainly served online in ways that inform of the CCA’s activities and instigate and help prepare an actual visit to museum. The Professional Audience includes architects, designers, artists, university students and faculty, while the Scholarly Audience consists of researchers, post-graduate students and curators, among others. While the physical visit and consultation (of library material and collection objects) is central to their work, these audiences need to be better served online through improved collection search tools and media-rich resources presenting program archives, curatorial content, and research documentation.
CCA visitor surveys and targeted interviews regarding online behavior have shown the Professional and Scholarly Audiences to be web-savvy and particularly interested in accessing materials through a range of online resources both on the main website and through outside platforms such as iTunes. An institutional initiative focuses on increasing access to digital materials in order to better serve this primary audience group. Podcasts and the iTunes platform are popular resources used by CCA target audiences.
CCA programs are offered in both French and English, reflecting the regional and national audience in Quebec and Canada and reaching more diverse international audiences.
To increase the CCA presence online in order to improve access to its research, collection, exhibitions, and educational activities while increasing awareness of the CCA’s role locally and internationally. In its mix of online activities, the CCA developed Podcasts specifically as a key method to increasing its audience and strengthen the CCA’s relevance among them through rich, varied, and frequently updated online content.
The plan has been to create a series of Podcasts based on the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s diverse program of exhibitions, lectures, and conferences. This has allowed us to render accessible a mix of recent and archival content that finds new relevance today for an international audience.
A curatorial process involved the selection of past events to highlight the diversity of the program history and creating a vibrant mix with current programming. The selection strengthens the public image of the institution by featuring the most strategic programs. Staff positions were redefined to include responsibilities related to the creation and production of Podcasts including the review and editing of content, digitization where necessary, and preparation of web-ready files that meet the institutional standards for sound and video quality. A system to quickly process files internally was established to post timely material shortly after its original presentation.
In addition to a balanced curatorial selection of current and relevant archival material, a stable and sustainable rhythm of production and dissemination of podcasts was prepared, allowing for an average of two podcasts per month. A tracking system was established to record the download patterns and create analysis (see attached figures).
Promotion for the podcasts was initially modest, through links from the current CCA website and other online venues such as excerpts posted on YouTube as well as selected references in print. External online links and blog references, supported the word-of-mouth promotion, and high listings, recommendations, and links from related content providers in the iTunes store have led to high user numbers and downloads.
CCA Podcasts debuted with a launch of eight audio podcasts drawn from “Sustainable?,” an international colloquium held in 2007 that brought together architects, engineers, and scholars to explore questions of sustainability in relation to architecture. The choice of content was thus seen as topical and of particular relevance to target audiences.
Following these initial episodes, a selection of past and current programs have been made available as audio and video podcasts. Selections have included recent lecture series, conversations between artists and curators, and architects’ discussions of their work as presented in CCA exhibitions.
Technical difficulties were experienced with the profile creation and initial submission of CCA Podcasts to iTunes, which offers no technical support and limited feedback. The CCA’s Podcast team is extremely small and had no prior experience of creating and disseminating Podcasts, but was able to learn through experimentation and peer support.
The increasing popularity of the Podcasts has created a need to re-evaluate our existing methods for file hosting. We are evaluating alternative solutions that are both cost-effective and appropriate for a museum.
CCA Podcasts are available free of charge through iTunes. A page on the current website was created as a link (http://www.cca.qc.ca/pages/Niveau2.asp?page=podcast&lang=eng)
Selected short video excerpts are created and posted on the CCA’s dedicated page on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/CCAchannel) as “teasers”.
The Director of Communications and the Web Editor identify recent and past programs as potential content for proposal to the Director. After original material of approved content is transferred to appropriate digital formats where necessary, the Web Editor reviews and assesses the content. The Production Manager then prepares the audio and video files, ensuring optimal broadcast quality. The Podcasts are then reviewed and assessed a second time by the Web Editor before submission to iTunes. Final postings are reviewed online by the Director of Communications.
The number of hits and downloads has steadily increased since the launch of CCA Podcasts. Individual podcasts typically average 1,000 listeners at launch with a steady rate of subsequent downloads. Even the earliest posted files are still active at a rate of 50-100 downloads per month. The presence on iTunes has led to over 28,000 individual downloads of CCA lectures in the first eight months of 2008. On iTunes Canada, the CCA Podcasts icon appears as a “featured” podcast, as well being listed among the “top podcasts” in the Design section, a sub-category of the Arts page. More significantly, since our recent introduction of video episodes, CCA Podcasts are currently featured in the top video podcasts among the larger and more diverse selection of Arts podcasts and often ranks in the top 5-10.
Measurable statistics indicate not only the hits on the CCA iTunes page, but allow for a comparison between those hits and actual downloads – indicating the level of interest. CCA Podcasts are downloaded by more than one of six visitors to the page, a very high rate.
Visible on the CCA’s iTunes page are the other Podcasts to which CCA listeners subscribe. These include some of the most highly regarded publications, radio programs, and organizations in the field (such as KCRW radio, the American Institute of Architects, and Dwell magazine). All of these links indicate listeners aligned with the CCA’s target audience.
In addition to the quantitative statistics and popularity on iTunes, a truly rewarding measure of success has been the unsolicited emails from fans around the world who have taken the time to send us a note to convey their appreciation. They include architecture professors in Spain, museum members in Japan, and others who stay in touch with CCA’s activities.
Through its Podcast initiative CCA has been able demonstrate a viable and large audience for its programs. Individual events attended by 100–200 persons in-house subsequently reach upwards of 1,500 listeners and viewers on iTunes. The continued and increasing popularity indicates a growing audience as more files are posted. This supports the primary objective – both institutional and specific to this project – of increasing access to its resources and developing its international audience specialized in architecture and its related fields. The large number of Podcast subscribers alongside the feedback of individual listeners indicate that the CCA is able to use this content platform to increase awareness of its role and activities in making architecture a public concern.
Category: Media Creation
Organization: Intercultural Development Research Association
The Intercultural Development Research Association (http://www.idra.org/) is an independent, non-profit organization that advocates the right of every child to a quality education. For more than three decades, IDRA has worked for excellence and equity in education. Across the country, school populations have grown more diverse at dramatic rates. Many teachers realize that they have not been prepared to teach diverse students or those who do not yet speak English. Educators are looking for tools and skills to better serve their students.
IDRA works primarily in the United States to provide professional development, research and evaluation, policy and leadership development, and community and public engagement in education. We provide on-site training and technical assistance to more than 75,000 teachers, students and community-based organizations nationwide each year. The target populations served by these schools and groups are primarily low-income, minority and non-English speaking children. Our assistance covers education topics, such as bilingual education and English as a second language (ESL), desegregation, early childhood education and reading, math and science education, student engagement, equity, school funding, and many more areas.
We have struggled to find ways to supplement these on-site visits as well as to expand our reach beyond the locations our staff are able to travel to. With these issues in mind, IDRA decided to launch a podcast series for public school teachers and administrators. Based on our early research, we knew that, through podcasting, IDRA would be able to provide information quickly to targeted audiences, provide information directly to targeted audiences, make information more understandable and compelling through a verbal means, provide timely information to audience members who do not have time to read our newsletter, expand on information contained the IDRA Newsletter and other communications, build a network of engaged audience members, and promote services.
Thus, we set a goal to produce a podcast series targeted to school teachers and administrators nationally. Each episode would focus on a topic specific to improving public education in the United States. Topics would provide information and perspective on serving diverse students in order to provide them an excellent and equitable education through to graduation.
While podcasts are accessible to individuals of any profession, etc., across the globe, our target audience is teachers and administrators in U.S. public schools.
Primary Target Audiences
• U.S. public school teachers who serve low-income, minority and non-English speaking children.
• U.S. public school and school district administrators who serve low-income, minority and non-English speaking children.
First-level Focus Audience
• Teachers and administrators who participate in IDRA events or training. The podcast episodes will be used in conjunction with training provided by IDRA.
• Teachers and administrators in schools and schools systems served by IDRA. The podcast will help expand the impact of training provided by reaching colleagues of those who participate in training sessions.
Second-level Focus Audience
• Networks of education technical assistance service providers. Several organizations across the country have federal funding, as IDRA does, to provide assistance to schools in certain geographic areas on better serving diverse populations. These providers can disseminate news of the Classnotes podcast through their networks and use the podcast to supplement their work as well.
Third-level Focus Audience
• Teachers and administrators who participate in online networks and blogging. Since many teachers are not yet engaged in social media (some we work with rarely even use e-mail), we are targeting those who are using social media to help us gain footing and promote the podcast, as they often find themselves in the role of encouraging peers to use online collaboration and conversation to enhance their work.
• School and school district technology directors. This group was not a key audience initially, but since they are in a position to train teachers to use technology and integrate it into their instruction, they can also inform teachers about Classnotes and show them how to listen.
• School district public relations staff. District-level public relations officers often produce newsletters for teachers and administrators, which can promote the Classnotes podcast.
Goal: Build leadership among public school teachers and administrators, particularly those who serve low-income and minority students.
Strategy: Deliver professional development services in ways that are accessible to teachers and administrators.
• Initiate or supplement IDRA training to teachers and administrators nationally
• Provide information quickly and communicate IDRA’s valuing philosophy (“All children are valuable; none is expendable”)
• Promote IDRA expertise and services (Not a hard sell by any means. Many IDRA services are free to schools.)
Tactic: Produce a podcast series targeted to school teachers and administrators nationally.
Our detailed plan included the following components:
Frequency – Post one podcast episode twice each month
Planned topics and schedule – First three: Racial and Sexual Harassment – A School’s Legal Obligations (early Sept), Using the New High School Allotment in Texas (late Sept), and School holding power (early Oct).
Staff roles – Two staff persons would alternate serving as moderator/interviewers (AMM, BS); Persons to be interviewed include MRM, AV, AMM, BS, AC as well as other experts outside of IDRA; HB would provide technical support; SA would provide web site support; and CG would provide promotional support and supporting web site content.
Equipment needs – Recording equipment, software, feedback mechanisms, web site (details are below)
Sponsoring projects – Expenses would be covered by two federally-funded projects for which we had included podcasting as a deliverable.
Initial out-of-pocket costs – To launch the podcast, costs would include: Feedburner account ($0); Music ($19.95); Digital recorder ($150.00); Consultant contract (for set up work and production of first five episodes) ($2,800.00) = Total ($2,969.95).
Preparation timeline – July: Launch redesigned IDRA web site (mid-July); August: Finalize schedule of topics and interviewers/interviewees (by mid-August), Test recording equipment (by mid-August), Create intro segment with music (by August 25), Begin offline promotion during IDRA trainings and events and mailouts (mid-August), Begin online promotion (late-August), Record and produce first podcast (by last week of August), Post first podcast (September 1); Sept-Nov: Post following podcasts on the first and 15th of each month until the middle of December.
Name of the series – Classnotes (named after an earlier IDRA print publication)
Style – Conversational and informative, one person interviewing one to three others
Program length – Average 20 minutes
Program format – 20 sec: Identification with music background, professionally recorded (“You are listening to…” with one brief excerpt of the interviewee); 30 sec: Opening remarks (What this podcast is about, how to comment, IDRA news…); 60 sec: Introductions (identify the topic and interviewee); Tbd: Conduct interview with prepared and spontaneous questions (est 12 minutes); 45 sec: Closing and outro (professionally recorded)
Production process – IDRA staff to record interview, write tags, send to consultant; Consultant to edit audio; IDRA staff to write web site text and post online
Early promotion – Include promotions in existing IDRA publications and produce postcards
Measurement – Feedburner, web site usage data, monitor feedback (details are below)
First, we learned about podcasting through listening to major communications- and public relations-related podcasts, taking webinars and reading related blogs.
Second, we investigated the landscape of existing podcasts related to education and targeting teachers. We found very few that serve our niche.
Third, we conducted a T-chart of the hindering and facilitating forces related to our hosting a podcast series (attached).
IDRA contracted with an expert podcasting consultant to: assist with data collection methods, select and integrate music, set up our iTunes account, establish our series in other directories, edit the audio for each episode and compile show notes.
This enabled IDRA to focus on the content by determining topics and persons to be interviewed, outlining key points to cover, recording the podcasts, compiling resources, writing web site text and promoting the series.
The first episode was launched on September 20, 2006. The initial episodes were monthly. In 2007, the series gained footing and episodes were posted every two weeks as planned. Primarily, we have used staff members as interviewers of other staff who are experts in certain areas of focus. Occasionally, interviews are conducted of people outside the organization, or speeches are used for the podcast.
The series was integrated into the IDRA web site (http://www.idra.org) so that audiences who already are familiar with IDRA would be able to find it easily. Each episode is announced on the IDRA home page and relevant topical pages as well as through IDRA’s main RSS feed. In addition, each episode is loaded into iTunes and is made available through our podcast RSS feed. There is an accompanying web page for each episode that includes show notes and links to resources.
In July of 2007, we set up an automated e-mail alert through Feedburner to notify listeners when a new episode is available. This would be valuable since many listeners do not use iTunes or other RSS services.
Release forms are signed and collected from all non-IDRA staff who are interviewed or whose speech is recorded for the podcast.
It took some trial and error for us to figure out how to work with ID3 tags and how to tweak text for iTunes compared to our web site RSS feed (which we learn doesn’t accept dashes or colons in titles). In late 2006, there weren’t many resources with this kind of information.
Our target audience is made up primarily of late-adopters. Thus, our promotions include a description of what a podcast is and how to listen.
Also, teachers are not sitting at their computers during the day, which is noteworthy since more than half of podcast listeners listen to podcasts from their computers rather than through mp3 players and iPods. However, we also knew that if the content is deemed by first-time listeners to be useful, practical and relevant to them, they are likely to find a way to continue listening. So we have focused our planning of topics on these priorities.
Recording Equipment: Until very recently, the Classnotes podcast has been recorded on an Olympus digital audio recorder. We had not used external microphones or other equipment. But as of August 2008, we began using a mixer, microphones and the ZoomH2 for recording.
Software: We use Audacity (open source) software.
Web Site: The IDRA web site includes a description of each podcast topic, show notes, and links. Standard online elements include: contact information, copyright information, subscription links (and buttons), streaming audio player, list of recent shows, archives, and RSS feed. We set up a unique web site address (within the IDRA web site) for the podcast descriptions and downloads. The web site includes a form for listener feedback. We also set up a separate e-mail address for feedback. Our web site uses the Joomla CMS along with CSS.
Consultant: IDRA contracted with Bryan Person to produce the initial five podcasts, to establish our series on iTunes and other directories, and to assist us with data collection methods. He also recorded a brief introduction and closing. The closing includes details on how listeners can leave feedback. Bryan has continued to do audio editing for each episode.
Music: Music (“The Open Road”) was obtained from Shockwave for use in the opening of each podcast. There is a nominal one-time fee ($20) for the music and license.
iTunes: Bryan set up our iTunes account so that people can search for our series and subscribe through iTunes. We added a button to our web site so that people can subscribe through iTunes with one easy click. Our iTunes page includes our logo and descriptive text.
Data Collection: We set up a feed through Feedburner: http://feeds.feedburner.com/idra. This gives us some subscriber statistics, including source of subscription. In addition, Feedburner provides us with the name and e-mail address of people who have subscribed to the e-mail alert. We do not use these e-mail addresses for any other purpose, but we can tell from the addresses that most are school and school-district generated addresses.
We are also using our own web server data to measure how many people our viewing our podcast-related pages, including the actual podcast audio files. The launch of our new IDRA web site in the summer of 2006 required us to change our method of collecting and reporting web site usage statistics. But in the process, some data has been lost. So the download data provided below is quite conservative.
Episode checklist: We have developed and follow a checklist for planning podcast episodes that includes the show title, key messages to cover and related resources to provide online.
The process we have followed for production, once the topic is determined and the interview is scheduled, is as follows:
• Prepare for interview. Determine key points to be conveyed, using a one-page tool. – CG (30 min)
• Set up equipment – CG (15 min)
• Record interview(s) on the topic. – CG plus interviewer and interviewee(s) (1 hour)
• Post the recording for sending to consultant (The audio files are too large for emailing). – SA (15 min)
• Edit the recording. This includes leveling the sound, recording the intro, adding the quote excerpts, adding the music, and adding the closing. It also includes adjusting sound quality and removing long pauses and ums, etc. Create detailed show notes. – Consultant (5 hours)
• Create web site text: ID3 tags (electronic labels), text for IDRA home page and podcast page, and create resource list. – CG (1 hour)
• Post text online – SA (30 min)
• Post podcast online and add to RSS newsfeed – SA (30 min)
Thus, each episode takes about 10 hours to produce over the course of two weeks (not including the interviewee’s preparation time).
To date, we have used traditional means and online means to promote our new podcast series:
• Using iTunes to enable subscriptions
• Promotions in the IDRA Newsletter
• Notices on the IDRA web site
• Postcards for staff to take to training sessions and meetings and for distribution at community and school-related events
• Promotions and links in our e-mail newsletter, GradforAll, to education advocates
• Registering the podcast on online directories (Podcast Alley, etc.)
• Inclusion in staff e-mail signatures
• Search engine optimization
• Distributing news release to education trade publications
• Distributing news release to education networks
• Monitoring and commenting on related blogs and in response to specific posts
Our goal was to establish our own podcast series. That goal has been met. To date, IDRA has released 39 episodes of the Classnotes Podcast series. With each new episode, our staff members became more accustomed to the informal, conversational nature of podcasting. Since our staff members are experts in their fields and are professional trainers, they are comfortable speaking into a microphone with little coaching for our podcast. We also became better at keeping each episode close to our target length of 20 minutes. Podcasters typically do not see significant audience sizes immediately. We knew this would be particularly the case since our audience is made up of mostly late-adopters. Still, to date, the series has averaged a 138 percent growth in podcast downloads per month.
IDRA is measuring podcast use in the following ways:
Podcast Downloads – There has been a combined total of more than 20,884 downloads of our episodes directly from our web site (and another 1,158 through other sites), with an average of 1,576 per month during the last quarter.
Podcast Subscriptions – IDRA is using the standard online service, Feedburner, that tracks subscriptions to our podcast through web sites other than our own. Feedburner reports look at averages. Our current average is 91 off-site subscriptions.
E-mail Subscriptions – 93 listeners have subscribed to our e-mail alert that lets them know when a new episode is available (established in July 2007). Data about the subscribers indicate they primarily are teachers and other education professionals.
Listener Feedback – We have received numerous positive responses by phone, e-mail and face-to-face contact, including from a former governor who now heads an education organization. Following are examples:
• “Your podcasts and other resources have also proven an excellent way to bring Board members and employees up to speed on the needs of our students.” (e-mail)
• “I have to point you to the recent Classnotes Podcast with Aurelio Montemayor from the Intercultural Development Research Association in San Antonio, Texas… I know that I subscribe to his podcast on iTunes.” (blog post)
• “I am so pleased with your web site. It has tons of information for me and my colleagues. I will disseminate within our 100 plus members. I just heard your podcast on Effective [Parent] Outreach and I will recommend it.” (e-mail)
• “It was a proud few moments to have just listened to the podcast, “A Model for Successful Reading Instruction”… It is a privilege to have such a wonderful partnership with IDRA!” (e-mail)
• “The interview with principal, Sandy Doland, was great! Sandy is a genuine person whose care and concern for students and faculty alike is sincere.” (e-mail)
Page Views – Our podcast web pages have seen a total of 19,099 page views, in addition to 6,461 page views of the RSS page.
Listener Behaviors – Some podcast listeners listen to each episode as it is released once they first discover Classnotes. Often, they will go back and listen to certain past episodes. In other cases, we have listeners who listen to one or two past episodes of direct interest to them or in relation to work we are doing with them. By monitoring the past episodes that are getting attention, we know to expand on those topics in future episodes.
Cost Benefit – If we were to lead a session with the content of one podcast as a keynote in a face-to-face setting in a single location, the cost would be about $5,000. But, the cost for producing each podcast is only $500, and it reaches a wider geographic audience.
Awards – The Classnotes Podcast has received the El Bronce Award (first place) from the Public Relations Society of America, San Antonio Chapter; the Lean Communicator Award from Ragan Communications; and Best of Texas Silver Award (first place) statewide competition by the Texas Public Relations Association.
As our T-chart predicted, podcasting has become a valuable tool in extending the reach for IDRA’s key messages. Because we are dealing with innovation and changes in attitudes, many of these messages are communicated more effectively verbally than they are in print.
Prior to and during specific training sessions, our staff use related episodes as illustration or have participants listen beforehand to prepare for the session. In 2008, we set up a new section of our web site for newsletter readers called, Newsletter Plus. The content provides links to additional information, resources, research, video clips, etc., that are directly related to articles in the newsletter. We have been producing podcast episodes on topics also related to those articles and releasing them at the time the newsletter is mailed as a resource to our readers and others.
Interestingly, a blogger posted a recommendation for her readers to listen to our podcast and particularly an episode on effective parent engagement. The staff member who was interviewed left a thank-you comment on her blog. They have since begun a dialog that has introduced him to her network of readers. As a result, he has begun to use Twitter, started his own blog and built a network in LinkedIn of more than 200 school parent advocates that includes state- and national-level PTA leaders. This is a new development but will undoubtedly expand our use of social media to engage our audiences to work together to create schools that work for all children.
Category: Media Creation
The Public Radio Exchange (PRX) (http://www.prx.org/), is an online marketplace for distribution, review, and licensing of public radio programming. PRX is also a growing social network and community of listeners, producers, and stations collaborating to reshape public radio. The Generation PRX project was started in 2004 to support, connect and distribute youth-produced radio. One of the major challenges facing youth radio is the absence of a national and centralized marketplace where produced work can be reviewed, contextualized and made available for distribution.
Since its creation, Generation PRX has become the hub for youth-produced radio. Not only as a place to share, review and broadcast audio, but also as the source to solicit youth radio work for programs, collaborate on projects or share information, news and events. The site is the youth radio movement’s most powerful tool.
We work with youth radio producers, age 16-25, to create audio pieces for a growing public radio audience of 28 million listeners. Led by youth voices and youth leaders, Generation PRX is dedicated to youth radio distribution. We support youth producers and teachers to help listeners discover the next generation of sound. The goal is to get more youth produced radio licensed and aired by public radio stations.
We create an interactive network:
Working with an advisory board of seasoned broadcasters and experienced youth radio producers and leaders, we’ve created an online space for youth radio groups to share ideas, strategies and materials.
Develop peer feedback to help producers edit and improve work:
Through the online network, trained Youth Editorial Board members and Generation PRX members provide review and feedback to their peers.
Build a catalogue of youth-produced radio:
As young producers upload their pieces, they help build an online catalogue of youth radio, the first anywhere. This storehouse provides a shared and growing body of content accessible to stations, producers and listeners through PRX.
Generate new channels for youth radio distribution:
Generation PRX is advocating for greater broadcast of youth-produced radio and exploring new channels for distribution through PRX partnerships with iTunes, Audible, podcasting and internet streaming.
One of the objectives of the Generation PRX project is to offer mentoring and advice to aspiring radio producers. We moved to ning.org as a host so that we could rate and review radio pieces in their development – as opposed to rating a finished product. This has proved to be immensely valuable to youth groups around the country. It also has helped build a community of support and creativity.
Generation PRX recently moved to www.ning.org so that we could take advantage of the latest social networking collaborative tools. Producers use the main PRX site to create, identify, tag and encode their work for broadcast quality.
Generation PRX is coordinated by Johanna (Jones) Franzel, who holds a Masters in the Arts in Education program (with a focus on media and technology) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is supported by a Youth Editorial Board (YEB)which is a rotating group of three youth responsible for writing reviews of audio pieces produced by youth (YEB members write reviews of adult pieces too, but their priority is youth-produced audio). YEB members serve for three months, go through practice and training and receive a stipend for their reviews. In addition, Chantel Harley is our podcast host. Youthcast is a bi-weekly collection of youth produced radio works.
The highest measure of success is to have youth produced radio licensed by public radio stations. Other measures of success include increased activity on the site and subscribers to the podcast.
Over the last five years, there has been a proliferation of youth radio production. Dozens of projects across the country have taken root – at public radio stations, schools, community centers – working with teens to develop radio production skills and youth-focused content. This effort ensures that young people have access to media today and are empowered to create radio tomorrow.
Category: Media Creation
The non-governmental organization Terra-1530 (http://www.terra1530.md/), in operation since June 30, 1999 in Moldova, is an umbrella organization for 18 organizations. Their mission is to create and consolidate the sustainable development capacities of rural communities. One of their main activities is to publish the independent periodical ADEVARUL (Truth) (http://www.terra1530.md/publicatia.htm).
One of the most stringent problems of the Moldovan society at the moment, especially of the rural society, is the absence of access to information or limited access to the public information. While the price of subscriptions to periodicals is very high for the majority of the village people, and the Radio and TV are at the disposal of the power, the population from the rural regions remains uninformed about different fields of general interest. Because of this, rural people may be easily manipulated by those who have the monopoly on the informational market.
The right to information is fundamental, and limiting it, or even enclosing it, is an infraction of the human rights. Even if it is not declared by the official institutions, this is the situation of the absolute majority of the rural localities from Republic of Moldova. But in a society that is not informed, the public authorities can easily camouflage the inactivates or even the anti popular actions in the most cases.
Goal: Assurance, due to some well thought out efforts and having the necessary logistic means, of the multilateral information of all the social levels, inclusive of the vulnerable and marginalized groups. In fact, at the moment, the majority of the village people can be treated from this very perspective.
The information will be effectuated via the following directions/objectives:
– Informing on the actions decided by the Central Public Authorities;
– Informing on the actions decided by the Local Public Authorities;
– Initiating an interactive dialog between the decision factors and the simple citizen, according the priority to those who cannot get into the “Chiefs” offices;
– Informing on the actions that can be undertaken by each rural citizen – to be aware of the fact that to be informed means to be protected.
These groups are:
– The youngsters that are unsure, that are neglected in the labor sphere, and that do not have an immediate perspective;
– Old people that are hopeless who are ready to elect anyone that promises a symbolic rise to the symbolic pension;
– The village intellectuals (professors, engineers, agronomists, doctors, librarians, etc), that lost the respect they once had and now feel isolated and marginalized even by former students;
– Employees from different fields that usually do not know the essence of the decisions of the Superior Instances, even if they totally contradict the interests of this group.
Concrete measures will be undertaken in order to make the citizens of the villages feel their involvement in the actions that will lead to the awareness of the fact that the political, economical, social situation depends on the real participation of each village inhabitant at the respective locality matters.
It is obvious that the village population is not homogeneous, that is why social groups will be identified, target groups with common characters and interests, with similar behavior when it is treated with promises by the powerful leaders, identifying the groups with a certain way of thinking and appreciating the decisions taken by the authorities.
Editing some special supplements to the Adevărul (Truth) publication, the topics of which will be fundamental human rights and freedom. The ways of benefiting these rights will be highlighted; we will assure the public participation at the decision-making process; the third sector strengthening, rural women life, civic education, ethnic and political harmony – all these will be issues for the Adevărul.
The public survey will be undertaken within the community and will have the purpose of:
– Identifying the most important problem of the community members;
– Identifying the causes of these problems;
– finding out if there were attempts to solve the problem and what was the result;
– finding out if the person will be available to be involved in the problem’s solution.
We think that the results of the survey will help in finding out the top community problems, the motives that generated them and also the available percentage of the village people to be involved in the solution process.
Everything will count on actions with persuasive character via meetings in the territory with the members of the target groups or with representatives of these groups; via disseminating in every family the publication Adevărul.
The expected result is, in the first place, to make the people aware that everything is happening and why it is happening depends on most of each citizen of the respective locality.
Surveys will be undertaken and the actions foreseen within the project will be discussed at a round table with the participation of the representatives of the civil society and of the power. The results will be generalized and eventually proposed to be as an example for other communities.