Listening Post: Pivoting toward 2013

The long, long election season is finally behind us, shell ice is forming each night on standing water, and the opening salvos of the holiday advertising season are everywhere–it’s time to think about what’s next, what we hope to get done before we run through 2013 like grease through a goose. To borrow one election catch-phrase I omitted from last week’s post, it’s time to “pivot” away from the day-to-day details of feeding the beast, and to look for that sweet spot where our online capabilities match our mission, and match the wants and needs of our audience.

“Maestro” Bugs, an experiment in blending arts and entertainment

Oddly enough, this leads me to think not of news, the perennial mainstay of NCPR’s web operation, but of arts and entertainment. This year, I think NCPR finally made the leap to a broadly-based news operation online, where the stories available from our own sources, and those available from our network partner NPR, finally achieved the kind of parity they enjoy on the broadcast side. This has given us a huge bump in attention by visitors.

But the same cannot be said for our presentation of arts and entertainment, and the short shrift given those features on the site reflects that, too. We have some successes, like our crowd-sourced Photo of the Day feature, and we are diligent in presenting local gallery exhibits, previewing performances, keeping up with the local arts scene, and so forth. And we are beginning to get better use of NPR arts features, like Tiny Desk Concerts, the Picture Show blog, First Listen, and live festival coverage. But it all seems a little disjointed, hard to parse out from the rest of the news. So my feeling is that we are super-serving the news audience, and under-serving the arts and entertainment audience, particularly when compared to broadcast.

We have talked this issue out a lot, in-house, over the last few years, and are arriving at consensus around the idea of portals, giving different types of audience a more customized slice of all that we have on offer. One “home” for news junkies, and a different landing zone for folks looking to follow their passions for things other than current events–one rich in art, and music, food, life and humor. Not totally separate silos, but ones that put the emphasis more in line with whatever experience you are looking for.

This may be a terrible idea, and if so, we are interested to hear why you think so. But we also want to hear from people who don’t necessarily come to public radio for the news magazines and the first half of The Eight O’clock Hour and the news talk–rather for the music, the storytelling, the book talk, cooking and gardening. In particular, we want specific recommendations about your favorite programs and other features, both local and national, so we can begin to map out a better strategy to serve your interests, and bring to the “top” of the site whatever you most want to see, hear and talk about. Please add your own take in a comment below.


10 Comments on “Listening Post: Pivoting toward 2013”

  1. tootightmike says:

    I hate the idea of a custom made webpage that supposedly suits my desires. I HATE being marketed to, and can’t stand those clever devices that track my needs for me. I don’t mind being able to build my own iGoogle page, but by contrast, my youtube page has become worthless, having narrowed my choices down to a dozen or so ever-present choices.
    It is true, that I spend more time looking at the news parts of than I do at the arts parts, but I wouldn’t want you to leave those parts out of my view… Perhaps some arty type would like to start up an arts forum…

  2. connie says:

    I agree with tootightmike. It’s a solution that would separate people rather than bring them together. I most often look at the news , but then something catches my eye and I swerve to it. The present construction, similar to Yahoo news, gives me a broad range of choice. I vastly prefer this, rather than being boxed in by my supposed preferences.

  3. Laurie says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with tootightmike on his talking points.

    It’s all kind of moot for me. I access the Internet via Hughesnet (Broadband Unbound! — NOT) I skim through the NCPR site because my daily usage allotment gets chewed up quickly if I linger too long. Bummer.

    But tootight is right, IMHO.

  4. I am one of those folks who goes right for the Exhibits section..and then to the local news and audio essays, etc. I have found it difficult to find the Artwork of the Day via the Daily Newsletter….have to go to the home page for NCPR in order to access it….and then it still seems rather hidden. I really do appreciate the opportunity the website gives to arts organizations and artists to present their art exhibits via the slideshow feature. If creating two or more different interest pages would help me access the arts easier, I might opt for that and then search for the other things of interest. Building one’s own NCPR page as one can do with My Yahoo is certainly an ambitious idea but one that I would use.

  5. Dale says:

    tootight and friends–

    Whether we set up a customized arts and entertainment slice of or not, it is clear that we are not delivering successfully to that audience online. Which still leaves the question, what do you want to see more of online? And how do we make it more accessible?

    One barrier that now exists is that most of our arts and entertainment programming does not come through NPR, and so is not nicely segmented into individual story chunks. That leaves most of that content buried back in our individual program pages. So we need some idea of what are the most-wanted elements to bring up to the surface of the site. For example, should we pull the latest item from the Afropop Worldwide podcast and feature it on the arts and Music topic page? If not Afropop, which is the best music program to feature?

    Or, we have a chronic hard time feeding our Artwork of the Day feature? Is that because it is really less desirable, or is it because it appears way “below the fold” compared to Photo of the Day. Should we put them both in the same feature “above the fold” and have it toggle back and forth?

    Or. instead of a separate home page style presentation for arts and for news, should we just make the existing home page elements moveable, so people can arrange it the way they please?

    Lot’s of possibilities, but they all start with a selection of the best stuff to to give prominence to.

    Dale HObson, NCPR

  6. Claudia says:

    I enjoy seeing photo of the day…a little spotlight on local places I may or may not recognize.
    Justice is not done by using visuals of art as a pix cannot begin to capture the quality of a work of art.
    One thing I wish you would incorporate into the intro line is when listing upcoming activities, if you could put the location on the initial listing. I often see some event that I get excited about only to find it is too far away for me to just pop over to on a whim. (I hate disappointment.)
    I believe it is good to question one’s efforts but it is impossible to please/interest everyone. NCPR may want to be careful to not dilute it’s excellent program efforts in order to cover a broader spectrum of interests.

  7. adkpainter says:

    I think the feeding of the Artwork of the Day is not that there is not interest—-we have heard from folks who have seen work there and it has peeked their interest enough to seek out the gallery and an exhibit and a specific work they have seen …but it is difficult to find on the site since it is within the drop down menu from the main category and further within Exhibits. Yes it does appear to the right as a thumbnail on the Exhibit page. Making it more visible, perhaps as you suggest, alongside the Photo of the Day, which I always look forward to viewing, would be a great idea, IMHO. Yes, many artists are slow to toot their own horns by submitting work to the website…or may feel they do not have the technical expertise to post it or even have a good jpeg of the original on hand. You have been great about encouraging folks to submit their work. Thank you for that.

  8. Mayflower says:

    Some in your audience are (just?) “news junkies” while others “follow their passions” into a world “rich” in (goodness!) life itself? Junkies v. Passionate Lovers of Life?

    That sounds (a tad) judgmental.

  9. lenore says:

    There are a lot of wonderful information resources and access points on the page; perhaps the idea of a portal can be enhanced in the following ways, making the same information accessible more easily.

    First of all, IMHO, the Home Page is too crowded. There are too many pics/thumbnails resulting in lots of wasted digital real estate. The top section, for example, has a large picture with the same “thumbnail” on the side, plus the large picture is blinking away in 5 seconds. How about, just a list of the articles (with the “thumbnail”) that is clickable to the article.

    Move the 4 NCPR “how-to boxes” up just below the banner; maybe add another row of “boxes” with a smaller font for things like “arts and entertainment” or “today’s artwork” or “music and arts” – striving toward the portal idea section of the page. This row would be kept for daily evolving features.

    Reduce the size of the NPR News, NCPR Regional News, etc. sections – smaller secondary articles, smaller or no pics, just clickable links to descriptive titles (rather than . . .) Bold the font of the sections.

    Right hand column contains lots of gray space – reduce width of column, include weather in it.

    It’s all there, it’s all good – just needs a little reorganization. Thanks for the “space.”


  10. Dale Hobson says:


    More self-deprecating than judgmental, since I count myself among the addicted, or should I say, passionate about keeping up with the latest in current events and news analysis. My interest here is not to do more in the arts, and less in news, but to serve the arts audience as well as we serve the news audience.

    I think we can do much better at that, without diluting our news effort, or even putting a lot more labor and resouces into arts and entertainment coverage. I think the real weakness is in presentation, organization and emphasis. Having great stuff that is hard to find, and nobody knows we have is indistinguishable from not having it all, in practical terms.


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