Distribution as Promotion – Rekha on Growing the Audience

PRX’s Rekha Murthy was recently invited to add her thoughts to the Station Resource Group’s (SRG) collection of short essays on how to “widen the use and deepen the value of public radio’s service.”   SRG is putting the finishing touches on Grow the Audience – an important and much-anticipated research initiative funded by CPB. You can read more about the full project and download more of the preliminary reports and essays here.

Download the PDF of Rekha’s essay, excerpted here.

Distribution as Promotion
Setting public radio objects in motion

by Rekha Murthy
Public Radio Exchange (PRX)

Six years ago, I left NPR to work with Web and mobile media. Now I’m back in public
radio, with Public Radio Exchange, and I think of that time away as a really long aircheck.
I’m no longer the listener I used to produce for at All Things Considered: terrestrial
broadcast is only a fraction of a listening experience that has become fragmented and
dynamic. I stream station and show feeds from across the country, catching Morning
Edition on KCRW when I oversleep on a snowy morning, and sticking around for sunny
weather reports and Morning Becomes Eclectic. My browser’s bookmarks include On the
Media, Studio 360, This American Life, and All Songs Considered. I download podcasts like
World Cafe, alt.NPR, and The World Technology Podcast. I tend to listen to All Things
Considered by scanning the online rundowns and streaming only what grabs my interest.
Even when I do use my radio receiver, I’ll then go to the Web to email a good story or
episode to friends and post the link on a social bookmarking site. The Web is where I find
new listening, too.

This experience of fragmentation and recombination forms the basis of how I think about
growing the public radio audience.

Break Public Radio Down to Build It Back Up
Public radio is often talked about as a single entity. In some ways – such as mission and
standards – it is, and we should continue to raise public awareness at the entity level.
However, there’s another kind of outreach that has great potential in today’s fragmented
media landscape, one that wields public radio objects, not just categories or entities.   …

Read the rest of the essay here (PDF download).

Greetings From A New PRXer

The rumors are true: PRX now has the best Director of Projects + Partnerships it’s ever had!

Hi everyone, I’m Rekha Murthy, PRX’s first Director of Projects + Partnerships. I’ve worked in public radio, Web, and mobile media for the past 12 years. My public radio career began with an internship at WFCR in Amherst, MA (thanks guys!). In 1998, NPR brought me to Washington DC to be a writer and editor for their Online division. Then, from 2000 to 2003, I was a producer for “All Things Considered”. I’ve since freelanced for “On Point”, “Day to Day”, and “The World”, and I helped design and teach a radio documentary course for MIT undergrads.

Before, after, and sometimes during my public radio life, I have been a user experience designer (aka information architect) as well. I’ve worked for Web and mobile startups and consulted on my own. Past clients include France Telecom R+D, Bank of America, IEEE, and BarnesandNoble.com.

It used to feel like I was jumping between two different worlds, but now I know that good things come from crossing media. MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program, where I got my Masters, affirmed this belief. While there, I designed a multimedia walking tour of Paris for handheld devices. I also spent a lot of time (read: thesis) analyzing how people use the streetscape for everyday communication.

I enjoy radio documentaries while I’m cooking and knitting, and first-person narratives when I’m at the gym. I surf the Web a lot, tracking fads and trends and guessing which ones will endure. I blog occasionally, too.

As for PRX, I like to think about it in terms of movement. Producers and stations use the framework we provide to keep public radio pieces moving, bringing greater exposure and revenue to an ever-growing pool of content.

Much of that movement has been in radio broadcast. But now we’re also thinking beyond broadcast, to a myriad of rapidly evolving ways to distribute and consume audio. These include satellite radio, HD radio, mobile devices and, of course, the Web. At PRX, we believe public radio has a major role to play in this dynamic media world.

That’s where I come in. As Director of Projects + Partnerships, I’m here to move your content further. With your input, I’ll evaluate which platforms are worthwhile, and what kinds of content work best on each. I’ve already helped send dozens of albums to iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, Napster, and Rhapsody, where people are paying to download public radio content to their own players.

PRX on iTunes
Actual iTunes placement of a real album from PRX.org. Click for context.

I’m a firm believer that old and new can co-exist in mutually supportive ways. Broadcast radio will be around for a long time. But the content it airs can go all sorts of places, reaching new people. A digital presence might lure people back to their radio dials. Or it might develop a following in a new medium. Maybe some followers will become producers themselves, bringing a fresh perspective to the field.

All this movement can be overwhelming, but we at PRX see it as an opportunity, and we want to make it easier to navigate. I am looking forward to getting to know you all, and hearing your thoughts on how to keep your work moving in this exciting media world. Feel free to message me from my profile on PRX.org.