What is PRX NXT?

Originally posted on Generation PRX.

At PRX HQ, we’ve been talking about how to improve PRX in a number of ways, including some exciting changes to profile pages, audio and, ultimately, listening. It’s a project we’re calling PRX NXT. We asked Director of Project Management Matt MacDonald, who heads up the project, to break it down.

GPRX: Take it from the top: What is PRX NXT?

Matt MacDonald, developer smarty man

Matt: PRX NXT is a significant refresh and update to the PRX.org website, improving the publishing process and creating brand new piece and producer profile pages with a focus on increasing listening.

GPRX: What are the biggest changes producers will notice as it rolls out?

Matt: Producers will notice that piece pages will be updated to make it much easier for people to listen to their stories and share their work. We know that visitors to PRX often first experience a producers work via a piece page, that essentially a piece page is a homepage for PRX and the producer. With that in mind we’re focusing on designing that page to encourage more listening. Right now when you visit a PRX piece page it is very much geared toward the marketplace, producers selling pieces and stations buying pieces. The most visible change will probably be how much we’re improving the listening experience.

GPRX: How will these changes help producers get audio work out in the world?

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Matt: I’d say the most important change that we’re making relates to the listening experience. PRX.org has always been an open and transparent marketplace and the listener community has just sort of come along for the ride. With PRX NXT we are creating a world-class listening destination for professional audio and storytelling producers. We want to make sure that when a producer points someone to their PRX piece or producer profile that they get a great listening experience.

GPRX: Anything else we should know?

Matt: We’d love to hear what producers at all stages of their career and experience level need to improve their work and build audience. Whether you are looking to become a professional producer or a skilled hobbyist, we want to make sure that PRX is the home for your audio stories.

Have an opinion? Fill out the PRX Producer Survey.

TIPS from a PRX INSIDER

Last weekend I attended a radio retreat in Medford, Mass., organized by my friend and collaborator, Ari Daniel Shapiro. At the retreat, I gave a short talk on four things producers should-but-often-don’t know about using PRX. I’m summarizing the session, below.


I’m lucky to have something of a 360° view of PRX. As a curator I listen to almost everything that gets uploaded, and I see what stations do and don’t buy. As a help-desk hand I talk to both producers and programmers everyday; I know what about PRX is intuitive, and what folks don’t always understand. And unlike most others on the PRX staff, I’m also an independent producer. When I get home from work, I use PRX as a front-end user to sell my own stories. Here are some things I think every PRX producer should know.

Can I make a living at this?

PRX is a valuable resource for a.) getting mileage out of second-run work, and b.) distributing that awesome creative audio stuff that you do for the love of sound. But you should know that PRX was not designed to pay commission-like rates. We would love to see producers get paid more, and we believe that PRX is a major mover in the effort to improve the economy for independents. In fact, most of the over 9,000 pieces licensed on PRX last year came from independents. But the economic environment for independents is a tough one, so know what you’re working with.

Resource: AIR Excutive Director Sue Schardt’s extensive study, “Mapping the Independent Landscape.”

To clarify about PRX royalties: We don’t take a cut of your royalties, and PRX royalties are no longer a flat rate. PRX allows you to charge $0.50, $1, or $1.50 per minute/per license. If your piece is licensed by a larger station, you may make more than the rate you chose, but you’ll never make less.

PRX is doing a lot to get indie work in front of stations and listeners: More than 400 stations are on PRX; we just launched REMIX Radio as a streaming, satellite and broadcast radio service; last year we boosted royalty rates for producers who get their works aired in major markets; and we are encouraging stations to create local showcase shows so they license and show off more indie work.

Resources: Understand the PRX Economy and royalties.

9,000 pieces? How do I get some of that action?

There are four identifiable factors that contribute to a piece’s popularity on PRX: Style, length, production quality and timeliness. Here are some DO’s and DON’Ts:

Style

  • DO: choose your genre and format carefully. Listen to what’s on the air! Be wary of commentary and radio drama. On the whole, folks just aren’t buying them. (However, excellent productions of each of these genres have gotten good responses, especially when presented with a holiday or news hook.)
  • DO: get lots of different kinds of sound. Do things that stations may not have the time or resources to do themselves. Get field sound, find lots of perspectives, do unexpected stories, write clever narration, and be creative.

Length

Stations are overwhelmingly interested in two kinds of pieces. Hour-long documentaries, specials and weekly series; and segments under 5 minutes. Keep in mind that programmers are often working within very specific network clocks. Resources: network clock diagrams and more stats about piece length.

Production Quality

Good quality sound and clean editing make all the difference.

  • DON’T: use low-quality phone interviews. DO: use a tape sync or two-way.
  • DO: know what tools and skills make great radio. Resources: mic, recorder and software comparisons from Transom.org; production technique advice from AIRmedia.org.

WAIT! Retrofit your audio before you upload.

Picture yourself a year from now in a different part of the country, listening to your piece on the local public radio station. You want your story to make sense then and there just as much as it does in your home city today.

  • Edit out all station IDs. DON’T say: “You are listening to WXPN.” DO say: “This story comes from WXPN in Philadelphia.”
  • Make it evergreen. Edit out any references to dates or events that will make your story irrelevant next week or next month. DON’T say: “Two weeks ago at the corner store.” DO say: “In the spring of 2007, at the Petunia County corner store.”
  • Do a podcast? Great! But don’t say it on the air. Most stations won’t air anything identified as a podcast. So DON’T call it: “The Big Bad Podcast.” DO call it: “The Big Bad Show.” And DO direct your listeners to find your show online, by subscribing to your show’s podcast. It’s subtle, I know.

Pull on them pitch-pants and get marketing.

  • Make it look good. You probably spent 10 or 60 or 100 hours on whatever it is you just uploaded to PRX. Take the time to make it searchable and appealing. Resource: How to Make an Ideal Piece-page.
  • Work that news peg or holiday hook. Send your calendar-pegged stories to the PRX editors. We will consider featuring your stories in playlists, on the homepage, and in our weekly newsletter: prxeditors(at)prx.org. And don’t stop there. Timeliness is magic when it comes to getting on the air. Tell stations about it!
  • Know who’s buying. Every year we publish all kinds of stats from PRX. Get to know the most active stations. We also have a constantly updating feed of purchased pieces. Know what’s selling and who’s buying. Resources: PRX Zeitfunk Awards and our feed of recently purchased pieces, which is also on twitter.
  • Certain local shows rely heavily on PRX for work from independents. Research the show or station you’re contacting and send them stories you know will appeal to them. Keep your eyes out for:
    • KUT O’Dark 30
    • KUOW Presents
    • NHPR Word of Mouth
    • WNPR Where We Live

Resource: We can’t give you the email addresses of Program Directors, but you can learn about contacting stations in our FAQ. And keep those stories coming!

Introducing a new interactive tool for PRX Producers

Our new PRX Pointer will help you get your pieces to show up in search results and score more hits, listens, and licenses.

Take me there!

Below is a snapshot of the PRX Pointer. Purple bubbles point to the most essential parts of the piece page. When you hover your mouse over the bubble, you’ll see a hint pop up. If you click on the hint, you’ll be directed to an in-depth explanation, and instructions on how to edit that part of the piece page.

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Check out all of our PRX Pointers