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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What Open Air means for public broadcasting

When Andi McDaniel began the lead for Open Air, a new project at Twin Cities Public Television, the idea was to expand public media to younger audiences.

Since its launch over a month ago, McDaniel tells me reaction has been positive. "The response has been overwhelmingly positive," McDaniel said. "Locally, in particular, I think people are excited to see that an institution with a mission they care about, is making a point to reach out to young creative folks—and is willing to take some risks in the process."

McDaniel says it is different to an extent compared to other campaigns, and similar in other ways. "it's about smart and enjoyable content and events, nothing new in the public television world," McDaniel said. "But subtly, it is different, and I think that difference matters. The content is a little more playful, a little less produced, it feels digitally native, and so will our events. Open Air is about adapting the essence of public media content for a different era of storytelling."

There are questions within public media with the engagement of younger audiences and how it can best be obtained. McDaniel says TPT has a great base of supporters who are older, and though it is not essential short term, it is vital.

"[It] matters for 2 reasons: one is that as public media, we're about serving all audiences, and that means finding ways to meet the needs of an audience that thinks about content differently than older generations," McDaniel said. "The second reason they matter is that our support base won't be around forever—so for simple sustainability's sake, we need to remain relevant to them."

McDaniel wants public broadcasting to be on the minds philanthropy wise of younger audiences. McDaniel says also that in the long term, a young audience in public broadcasting can be engaged. "There's nothing about our mission, or even our content, that's exclusive to an older audience," McDaniel said. "Younger audiences actually already appreciate a lot of our content, in particular, our food programming, the incredible documentary work on Frontline and Nova, and our kids programming (Millennials, increasingly, are young parents). What we're trying to do with Open Air is build on that affinity, and expand it."

Noting examples from stations including Chicago's WBEZ, San Francisco's KQED and KLRU in Austin, Texas, McDaniel says she is watching to see what happens. "We'd love to learn about more."

What do you think about the role of Open Air? If you're a consumer, what do you want from your public broadcasting station? If you're working in public broadcasting, what do you want to bring to a younger audience?

Let me know in the comments section below, write on my Facebook page or tweet me.

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