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AIR Challenges Public Media to “Go Outside”

What's Outside?A recent report published by the Association for Independents in Radio (AIR) found that the public media system “is ready, willing, and able to take bold moves” to utilize new media technologies, reach across platforms, and touch more audiences.

The report, titled “What’s Outside?” in keeping with AIR’s focus on thinking outside the box, is an evaluative summary of key takeaways from AIR’s Localore initiative. It is also a call to action for public media.

The report highlights the potential for public media stations to become “community hubs” by marrying the creative potential of digital technology with good old on-the-streets engagement. It examines the challenges presented by such a transformation, such as high R&D costs and a lack of infrastructure, but also suggests collaborative solutions to these challenges. Above all, it calls on producers, reporters, and media makers to “overcome hesitation and move into unexplored territory.”

Localore, which began in 2011 and wrapped up last year, was launched to encourage creative new methods of reaching the American people through public media. AIR producers were sent to ten public media stations across the US to start up innovate cross-platform projects that would boost public engagement around local topics.

AIR Executive Director and Executive Producer of Localore Sue Schardt describes Localore’s mission:

Everyone’s assignment was the same: “Go Outside!” Their job was to push the station to think and operate outside the box. ... [W]e asked them to design a production from the get-go across three platforms — digital, broadcast, and street. We call it “full spectrum” public media. And we wanted these teams to physically go outside to the farthest corners of the community to lay new paths to citizens who knew nothing about public media.

Localore projects included Austin Music Map, a playlist-generating digital map of local musicians and performance spaces, and Planet Takeout, an interactive documentary that uses Chinese takeout counters as a lens for viewing community culture.

“What’s Ouside?” presents stories from Localore projects and insights for producers, stations, and the public media system in general. It paints “a unique and contemporary picture of a production that was conceived, designed and, ultimately, executed across nearly 60 discreet distribution channels,” with the goal of “providing useful benchmarks for examining multiplatform production from the standpoint of cost and engagement.”

“We’ve begun a movement toward a public media that serves all Americans,” Schardt writes in the report. “It is my hope and intention that the accomplishments of our team in these 10 communities serves as an encouraging model for others across the system to follow our lead and ‘go outside.’”

Read the full report on AIR’s website