#GivingTuesday

This year is PRX’s 10th anniversary and we’ve been doing a lot of reflection on PRX’s accomplishments as well as those of our producers, stations, and public media partners.

PRX is participating in Giving Tuesday (think the opposite of Black Friday, Cyber Monday or… Brown Thursday?!). In contrast to the buying frenzies, we want to show our support for a different kind of gift-giving, a day for giving back.

We invite you to donate to PRX, and to give to other Giving Tuesday nonprofits, too.

Why PRX? We believe that public media plays a critical role in our civic society and our democracy by creating an informed and educated citizenry. That belief is what drives all the serious fun we have getting public radio stories out into the world. It’s why we nurture new and established talent, forge new distribution opportunities, and use technology to get public radio onto new platforms.

Some major PRX accomplishments from 2013:

Pop Up Archive.
STEM Story Project and the Global Story Project open calls.
– Built The Moth app for iOS and Android.
– Saw many programs reach Kickstarter success.
Matter One and Matter Two.
PRX Remix app for iOS and Android.
– PRX/CIR collaboration on Reveal pilot.
Public Radio Player redesign.

PRX is a small entrepreneurial nonprofit with big ambitions. We’re leaders and innovators who want to continue to develop content, technologies, and ways of doing things that provide broader access to public media. We want to support our storytellers and truthtellers to do what they do best: add value to our lives and our communities.

Here’s a testimonial from one of our PRX Remix listeners:

When the world looks like it’s starting to suck even worse and it’s going down hill, I turn off my phone and I turn on the radio to you, and you always give me a little glimmer into the things that are here that are good. Just little people with little stories. It makes the whole crappy world look a whole lot better.”

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to PRX today so we can continue our mission of making public radio more public.

Take a moment on Giving Tuesday to reflect on public media as a whole and consider donating to your local radio station, a favorite public radio program, or other public media organization that you find valuable. You can find a full list of Giving Tuesday participants here. And help spread the word.

PRX at Ten / Where Are They Now: Kiera Feldman, Rockstar Journalist

This post is part of PRX at Ten’s Where Are They Now series about former PRX staff.

Back when Generation PRX started YouthCast in 2006 — a podcast to showcase the best in youth-produced radio — we decided to look for a smart host who could reach both youth and adult audiences. Kiera Feldman – who began in youth radio at KBOO and was a Brown University junior at the time – basically blew the lid off what we asked for and elevated the job to art form. Funny, talented and whip-insightful, we knew Kiera was destined for greatness. Now a freelance reporter for the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund, we asked Kiera to share what she’s been up to since the good ol’ YouthCast days.

From Kiera:

Kiera Feldman, former YouthCast host, current rockstar reporter

I often find myself returning to something I read in a Transom essay some years back. “Radio is my first love,” wrote Gwen Macsai, “and like a first love, no matter how far you stray and no matter how badly it ended, your heart still skips a beat when it walks through the door.”

Back when I hosted PRX’s alt.NPR YouthCast podcast (2007-2008), I thought of myself first and foremost as a Radio Person. I’d be making annual pilgrimages to public radio conferences ’til I died, I thought. But these days, my shotgun mic is stashed away beneath my bed, still a treasured possession but more of a relic from another time. (It’s an AT835b, because I know you want to know.)

To recap: after graduating college in 2008, I moved to Brooklyn because it was a thing people did. I found a new extracurricular: producing segments for a progressive radio collective on WBAI called Beyond the Pale, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. (That first year, I also worked on PBS documentaries and as a fill-in producer at WNYC.) I was the only 20-something in the lefty radio collective, which meant I’d get goaded into doing all the stories that involved young people and going into the belly of the beast. I was a Radio Person working with print people on a volunteer-run show, and gradually I became a print person, too. It started with doing magazine versions of radio stories, like this n+1 story about Jews for Jesus.

The thing was, in the radio world, there just wasn’t much opportunity to do longform narrative storytelling of the muckraking variety–which I discovered was what really made me tick. But that’s a thing you can do in magazines, and I’m deeply indebted to radio: my ear for dialogue, being able to pull off the print version of the perfect tape-to-tape transition, being able to do interviews where you get people to recount events so that you can reconstruct it as a scene later (the Ira Glass “and then what did you say? And then what did she say? And what was going through your mind?” approach), and on and on.

Lots of my stuff is on my website, but here are some highlights:

+ The story I’m most proud of: “Grace in Broken Arrow,” about child sex abuse cover-up at an Oklahoma megachurch. (Over at the Nieman Foundation, I laid out some of my thoughts and working theories about trauma reporting, investigative narrative, and the tremendous honor and responsibility of being entrusted with vulnerable people’s stories.)
+ “The Romance of Birthright Israel” in The Nation. The story was funded by the awesome and amazing Investigative Fund, which is supporting a few of my current projects (thus making it possible to be a freelance investigative reporter).
+ The last radio story I did–a dispatch from the Birthright trenches–and it is pretty funny, I must say.
+ “Living the American Dream in the West Bank” for VICE: about New Yorkers who become West Bank settlers (“the long white flight,” I called it in a follow-up story).

Cheers to WFIU: Indiana Member Station and Regular Royalty Earner

PRX is home to the largest open marketplace of independent public radio content. Stations of all sizes buy weekly shows, specials, short pieces, and long documentaries. We take pride in the quality and variety of content that stations can buy and present to their audiences.

Stations are also active producers. One of our founding objectives was to make good on the “X” part of PRX. The exchange was intended for stations, recognizing their dual role as consumers and producers.

This is why we’ve been watching WFIU of Bloomington, Indiana. They have been a consistent royalty earner on PRX, often in the top 20 each quarter.

What makes WFIU stand out? They post several regular series on PRX and the royalties have added up. At this point, WFIU has made back their PRX membership two times over. Yep, more than double.

WFIU has been broadcasting since 1950 bringing classical music and jazz to southern Indiana. They are charter members of NPR, showing their early and deep roots in public service. Back in 2004, they joined PRX and quickly saw us as a distribution path as well as a valuable catalog from which to select material.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with PRX — it gives smaller stations like ours a great opportunity to get to much larger audiences and helps other stations extend their programming resources.” -Will Murphy, Program Director

So today we salute WFIU – they are producing great content locally and distributing it nationally. PRX helps them get it out into the world… and monetize it!

(Hey, other stations! The lesson here: charge for your pieces! Choosing zero points is okay for a one-off special, but if you do a weekly series, we encourage you to charge points so you make royalties.)

Throwback Thursday: The First Earners on PRX


May 21, 2003. Steve and Phil setting up the PRX server.

In the ten years since PRX launched, over 112,000 individual pieces have been purchased in the PRX.org marketplace. Just think about that. In our relatively small public media world, that is a lot of decisions regarding a lot of content.

Back in 2003, there was little to no market for the exchange and payment of non-network public radio content. We took a leap of faith in assuming stations were hungry for a diverse array of content and were willing to pay for it. PRX set out to reduce the friction of each transaction. That hypothesis has proved correct. PRX has distributed over $2M in payments to producers over this span of time. We can boldly claim that without PRX, this money would not have been paid to so many audio content producers.

Back in 2003 we introduced (and still use) PRX points. Stations pre-buy point packages (much like buying tickets at a fair) then they can spend those points on content that best suits their audience. The cost of points is on a sliding scale, so that small stations can get access to excellent content. PRX subsidizes royalties for some of the smallest stations.

As we reflect on our 10-year milestone, we are taking a thorough look at the economy we built. Today, the exchange of paid content is commonplace.

The first batch of royalties ever paid (January 2004) totaled $4,414. We pay almost 70 times that amount each year now. Back then we calculated each check individually and sent paper statements using mail merge. Looking at the first list of payees below, we are reminded that PRX was built for multiple users – individual producers, organizations and stations. I look at this list often – as a reminder of the producers who took the leap of faith with us and as a call to action to continue improving our service.

Many of these first royalty earners are still selling their work on PRX today:

Ten years in, we are rebuilding the PRX website for the fourth time. We’ve listened, learned and matured. Chip in your two cents with our user survey and help us continue serving you.

Happy Birthday PRX

Extending the shelf life of great content in public radio is undoubtedly a good idea.

How to do it – physically – has drastically changed over PRX’s relatively short lifespan.

Before PRX was a twinkle in the eye of SRG  and Jay Allison, Bill Thomas  of North Dakota Public Radio instituted the “tape exchange” to do just that. Years later, deliberating on an NEA panel, Jay Allison and Terry Clifford hatched the idea of a new service that would use the power of the Internet to give producers access to audiences while showcasing innovation at the station level.

The idea took hold by combining the resources and credibility of major public radio stations, the strategic expertise of Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas with the creativity of Jay Allison. And they called it….

Interested Stations Group

“ The basic ante is this: Each interested station commits to providing weekly flexible time in the schedule. The time will be at reasonable hours, i.e. not 2am.”

Then…

Into-the-Air

“ To facilitate the relationship between radio artists and local public radio stations by creating new opportunities for producing, showcasing and distributing work. In-the-Air is a flexible vehicle that creates an opportunity for the local curator to feature independent radio producers, local station productions, and even the work of audience members.“

Then…

The Radio Exchange

“ The Radio Exchange is a decentralized partnership linking stations committed to program innovation and independent, station-based, and network producers whose work doesn’t fit conventional national vehicles and schedules–a web-based buffet from which stations each week pluck extraordinary, peer-reviewed content to assemble unique and compelling programming and enrich their public service.”

Then…

The Public Radio Exchange

“Making public radio more public”

Ultimately to…   PRX

“Our Vision is an informed society, connected by shared stories and inspired to improve lives and communities. Our Mission is to harness technology to bring significant stories to millions of people.”

As the name took hold, so did the service.  Jake Shapiro  joined as founding executive director and brought on Steve Schultze to oversee the design and functionality of PRX 1.0, launched 10 years ago. Kerri Hoffman, (then of SRG) jumped in to help with business operations. Today, a talented staff works tirelessly to improve the core service, advocate for compelling content and add more tools that benefit the mission of public radio.

Happy Birthday PRX – thank you Tom, Terry and Jay. Thank you Bill Thomas and thank you founding stations for your willingness to experiment and innovate.

Founding stations include: KQED, KUOW, KUT, WBEZ, WGBH, WKSU, WNYC, WPSU, WUNC, WVPE, WYSO

Cheers to our current and past employees who have contributed untold amounts of energy, enthusiasm and dedication to an impactful service.