PRX selected for MacArthur Foundation Award

We are totally thrilled to share this news!

The MacArthur Foundation has selected PRX as one of its 2008 recipients of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

“Public Radio Exchange (PRX)/Station Resource Group – Cambridge, Massachusetts: By gathering and distributing new programming and using technological innovation to expand content choices, PRX is leading public radio to become more interactive, diverse, and participatory.

PRX is taking public radio in new and stimulating directions, giving a larger dimension to one of America’s most important intellectual resources.

PRX will use their $500,000 grant to establish a cash reserve fund, a content venture fund, and to develop new technologies.”


Read the full press release here.

MacArthur Announces 2008 Winners of Award for Creative and Effective Institutions

Chicago, IL (April 10, 2008) – Continuing its tradition of encouraging creativity and building effective institutions to help address some of the world’s most challenging problems, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today that eight organizations in six countries will receive the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

These nonprofit organizations have diverse missions – from helping public radio thrive in the digital age to defending human rights in Nigeria to seeking a more fair juvenile justice system in the United States. Still, they have much in common. All are highly creative and effective organizations that have made an extraordinary impact in their fields, while driving significant change on a modest budget. Each organization will receive up to $500,000, a large sum considering their annual budgets are under $2.5 million. The organizations will use their new funding for a range of purposes, including purchasing new office space, developing training and research facilities, upgrading technology, and undertaking new research.

“From its founding, the MacArthur Foundation has sought out people and organizations that have the creativity, energy and breadth of vision to change the world for the better,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. “These imaginative and influential small organizations have an impact altogether disproportionate to their size. They are addressing problems and injustices, finding fresh solutions, and proving themselves as leaders and innovators.

Make sure to read about the other remarkable recipients of this award here.

How is PRX planning to use the award?

3 areas over the next 2 years:

1) Strengthening the Technology: PRX Version 3.0. $150,000.

PRX’s core asset is the web application and related technology that are integral to its distribution, review and networking services. Early in its planning PRX made an important strategic decision to make software development a key internal capacity, demanding expertise throughout the organization and a commitment to ongoing technical innovation.

Few nonprofits have excelled at developing their own technology that can perform at scale as Internet applications. It requires an ability to attract and retain talented software developers and technical specialists in related roles. It also requires an ability to translate the dynamic nature of Internet-based technology to the programs, activities and economies of the nonprofit sector.

PRX has invested in two major cycles of development of the core technology platform, managing to stay abreast of relevant web trends and techniques, while focusing on the basic needs of our target users.

PRX is currently developing version 3.0 of its custom software, making a fundamental shift from Java — the well established language for large-scale web applications — to the web’s most promising open source technical platform for social network and media applications, a language and framework called Ruby on Rails. A vital feature of the Ruby platform is the ability for software engineers to more efficiently and creatively develop applications and new functionality, drawing on an emerging community of open source developers sharing leading uses of the technology.

In addition to these back-end improvements there are several important new features and functionality:

talent network: PRX is expanding the member directory to become a searchable skills database, helping connect content creators for freelance and production opportunities;
playlists: users will be able to create their own playlists of audio pieces on PRX, helping curate and organize collections of works for use online and for broadcast;
direct donation: PRX will create an individual donation system, streamlining support from the listening public directly to the producers of pieces on PRX. As an alternative to paid access and advertising, direct donation will be an opportunity to experiment with new revenue models for creative content.

2) Content Venture Fund. $100,000.
PRX pays royalties and other fees to hundreds of independent producers and other content creators — over $650,000 to date — through an online marketplace that brings broadcasters, producers, and online services together to buy, sell, share, license and recommend radio works directly from each other. As a result PRX is a very efficient means of supporting public media content creators.

In addition to fees generated by these licensing transactions PRX is uniquely positioned to provide seed funding for other kinds of content creation, such as “reversioning” archival works for digital distribution or providing royalty advances for completing new works. PRX has managed two successful reversioning rounds already, distributing over $100,000 to dozens of producers and stations and demonstrating a clear opportunity for this service.

Examples of recent reversioning projects include:

The Migration Project, a youth radio special combining stories about border crossings from youth groups across the country, presented by KUOW in Seattle and licensed by 17 other stations.
Award-winning producer John Rudolph completing work on an ambitious documentary history of the New York City Police Department, in time for the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 and broadcast by WNYC.

PRX is unique among networks in public media in actively promoting an open model, not asserting exclusive rights in content, and developing a “long tail” approach to distribution that encourages new voices and niche creators to participate.

The Content Venture Fund enhances the existing PRX marketplace with new incentives for content creators. It also establishes a dedicated funding pool that PRX will bring to other public media funders as a matching opportunity.

3) Capital Reserve. $250,000.
PRX will establish a capital reserve as the first step in a growth capital campaign for further expansion of services over a multi-year period. PRX has begun working with the Nonprofit Finance Fund Capital Partners on a planning and design phase for the next phase of PRX’s development, and this initial capital reserve allocation helps set a benchmark for subsequent investment.

After six years under the leadership of seasoned public radio professionals on the Station Resource Group board of directors, PRX is establishing its own board to govern, support, and help lead its growth and bring a wider circle of perspectives to its work.

PRX will cultivate and recruit 6-8 national leaders from public broadcasting, technology, business and nonprofit sectors to serve on its board. Funds will support this board development work and the facilitation of initial board strategy sessions, along with board travel and meeting expenses.

PRX will also convene facilitated advisory meetings that bring together stakeholders and representatives from key user groups and constituencies, such as independent producers and station staff.

PRX’s initial work was guided by a multi-year business plan that helped clarify value propositions for different constituencies, set priorities in the sequencing and scale of activities, and informed the case for philanthropic support. PRX will renew its business plan to guide activity through the next several years, building on accumulated experience since launch and a new assessment of the environment.

PRX is also actively pursuing high-impact relationships with other leading entities in the digital public media sphere, up to and including potential mergers and acquisitions. The business planning and investment in organizational capacity will help guide the exploration and pursuit of these opportunities.

Watch this video for a short overview of PRX:

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