Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So That's What They Look Like: Behind the Scenes of WAMU's Metro Connection (NetSquared DC Meetup)

Yesterday, I popped into DC for NetSquared DC's monthly meetup, the subject of which was Behind the Scenes: Metro Connection.

Getting there, traffic on 17th St. by CFPB was just awful, and U Street is all torn up for repaving, so parking was tricky and I arrived about a half hour late. (I ended up over by the 9:30 Club, which I knew but didn't know was really close. I should go to U Street more often.)

About Metro Connection

For those who don't know, Metro Connection is a weekly radio newsmagazine focused on the DC region, broadcast live at 1pm on Fridays on WAMU. They do themed shows, along with recurring features like "Door to Door," which goes to two area neighborhoods each week, and a current series on dive bars, which is apparently very popular.

Terrible pic of Rebecca Sheir & Tara Boyle.
Rebecca Sheir and producer Tara Boyle -- the entire full-time staff of the show (the other staffers have other WAMU duties). 

Because the show's times are 1pm Friday (and 7am Saturday), only your full-time public radio listeners are likely to listen to the show live. I'm one of them, since I've been working from home. 

Reaching Beyond the On-Air Audience

To reach the rest of their audience, they also have a podcast, and the audio and stories are chunked up for the Web site. Producer Boyle said there had been an initial reluctance to post the text of the stories to the web site, because by reading the text instead of listening, you lose all the audio design.

They seem to have gotten over that reluctance, but while I understand the perspective and pride in creation, speaking for my own media consumption habits, I'll always choose the text over the audio... unless I'm already doing something else where I'm not reading -- washing dishes, making lunch, etc.

Radio is still great for multitasking -- unlike reading or video, you can be engaged with other tasks as you consume audio. (If you "watch" video without paying attention to the video, well, you're just consuming the audio, which if the video creators are using the medium to it's full extent, you're missing a lot.)

Other Nuggets

* It takes an ungodly amount of work to do a 3-4 minute segment. (I think it's 17 hours, though I could be wrong because apparently I had a conflicting modification in Evernote, which is how I was taking notes.)
Show host Rebecca Sheir

* Web producers are integrated into the newsroom, so they'll alert the news director to stories that pop up on social media, but most of their work is still translating content to the Web.

* NPR has recognized the importance of multimedia, and has shifted its branding to be simply "NPR", and not an abbreviation of National Public Radio (similar to what KFC did); they had considered changing to National Public Media, but people are still tied to the NPR name.

* Producer Boyle thinks that there's still a relatively safe audience of car commuters to listen to the live over-the-air broadcast, though didn't really speculate more about the future of radio.

* Field reporters get useable (though not ideal) audio from iPhones and their built-in mics.

* Other topics covered included the WAMU Public Insight Network (an in-house crowdsourcing/experts database); interactions with the audience on Twitter and Facebook; and suggestions for using mailing lists and means to let the audience know what's going on.

* The value of going into the field to interview guests; even if there's no distinctive audio from the site, guests are more at ease.
* A sneak peek to next week's show, the theme of which is "Secrets." While there will be obligatory look at PostSecret, their focus will be on submitters, and not the site's curator Frank Warren.

It was a very informative, though sparsely-attended event.

No comments: