May 7, 2010

Isay's StoryCorps spreading motherly love, Web 2.0-style

It's been a big week for indie producer Dave Isay and his team at StoryCorps. In an May 5 appearance on Colbert Report promoting his new book, Isay defined the essence of motherhood as a combination of "fierce devotion, love and, you know, wisdom." He also went along with Colbert's joke demanding a follow-up on MILFs. The first StoryCorps animated short went viral on the Internet, previewing the series to air this summer on PBS's P.O.V. and on public TV stations as interstitial spots. The sneak-peak video, also tied to the Mother's Day theme, is "Q&A," one of the most popular StoryCorps audio interviews. It brings visual life to a loving conversation between 12-year-old Joshua Littman, a boy with Asperger Syndrome, and his mother Sarah. And finally, the StoryCorps iPhone app went live in Apple's App Store. It allows iPhone users to listen to the story of the week, share stories on social networks and prepare for and record StoryCorps interviews with their iPhones.

Robert Siegel left his head and his heart on the dance floor

We don't want to spoil this video for you, so all we'll say is you'll go gaga over this one from NPR. Robert Siegel is definitely a highlight, but we like those "Directors" too. Stay tuned to the Current blog as your Friendly Pubcasting Reporters track down the back story on this.

UPDATE: Tamar Charney, program director at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor, reports the video "has been quite a hit with our Facebook fans. After we mentioned the spoof on-air our FB fans number started ticking up!"

Reporting from the Dorkosphere, Your Intrepid Reporters now have the full story.

Shereen Marisol Meraji, an online/on-air producer for All Things Considered, told Current that the idea was hatched after staffers watched the now-viral 82nd Airborne Division's rendition of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video. "Theo [Balcomb, fellow producer] said, 'Hey, wouldn't it be fun to do a spoof video here?' I said,'Dude, that is brilliant and we are so doing that.' " That was Wednesday, May 5. The two teamed up with colleague Justine Kenin for the shoot.

Next step, talent. "We thought about who we could get that would be down for it, the younger, on-air talent. Ari Shapiro, Guy Raz, Korva Coleman -- she's notorious for being cool. So I sent out first a blast email to the pretty cool people, the relaxed people. They wrote back and said, sure." And of course producers signed on as backup dancers.

Then came the even bigger names. "I was kind of scared of Nina [Totenberg], but I knew we had to open with her. So I had one of the producers who has worked with her, like, 30 years, and he went and asked her. She's awesome in that hot-pink dress and her signature pearls." Not to mention her "Justice Gaga" lines. Approaching Siegel was even more intimidating. "I was so nervous. I work with him every day, and we have a good relationship, but he's known to be a real newsman -- but he's also very funny! I figured, I’d gotten everyone else, so I said, 'Hey Robert, you won’t have to dance or sing, you can just be you.' And I let the idea simmer. Then later a producer working with him on another piece said, 'Get in here with your camera, he'll do it at exactly 3:06.' "

The Directors (still our fave) from All Things Considered "would not dance," Meraji said. "I was doing these little movements for them and Brendan [Banaszak] said, 'I'm not going to bounce around like that.' " So Banaszak and Greg Dixon improvised their own movements -- a homage to pubradio directors everywhere.

Everything but the backup producer dancers was done in one take. "We shot and edited on Thursday, and I wanted [Senior Veep for News] Ellen Weiss to see it." Weiss encouraged Meraji to post it on NPR's Facebook page. By 1:30 p.m. Friday, 908 fans had clicked "Like" and 238 left comments, and the YouTube count was still ticking upwards of 32,000. Maraji thought it might be a hit, among a certain audience. "I was thinking it would go viral in the Dorkosphere. Nerdy people will like it."

Online scavenger hunt grows Arizona PubMedia's Facebook fan base

Looking for a way to boost participation in your station's Facebook fan page? Arizona Public Media's page, which had stalled at 555, picked up 100 new fans in just six days in March, as well as pulled them into PlayPBS, its local version of the COVE player -- all with an online scavenger hunt offering free tickets to a David Sedaris performance. Station spokesperson Steve Delgado told Current the idea bubbled up during publicity brainstorming between the underwriting and promotions folks and Sedaris's team. At the same time, the station was planning a PlayPBS soft roll-out and wanted a few hundred visitors to try it out. So an item ran on the Facebook page announcing that fans would have exclusive access to the new PlayPBS. And, as a bonus, they'd be eligible for six pairs of Sedaris tickets. All they had to do was answer questions by watching certain videos. Example: In the Masterpiece presentation of "The 39 Steps," how do the Nazi spies make their escape? (In a submarine!) The fan posting the first correct answer received the tickets. The station had a lot of fun with the contest: They'd advise when fans were getting "warm" or "cold." When one answered correctly ("Shrimp etouffee") the response was, "BAM! WE HAVE A WINNA!" Delgado said the fan base has steadily grown since then to 961. And perhaps best of all: Sedaris complimented the contest onstage.

NPR News app among the most highly rated by iPad users

The application that NPR created for the launch of Apple's iPad has received the highest user ratings among the apps offered by major American news organizations, according to this analysis by Newsosaur Alan Mutter. NPR's app ranks sixth among the top ten news applications in terms of downloads, but iPad users give the content and experience an average rating of 3.5 stars, higher than apps created by USA Today (3.0), the New York Times (2.5) and the Wall Street Journal (2.5). The BBC and France 24, the international news channel funded by the French government, received user ratings of 3.5 and 4.0, respectively, and Mutter believes that the rich-media iPad experience offered by broadcasters has an advantage over newsprint publishers. Mutter warns not to judge publishers by their inaugural iPad applications: they didn't have much time to design for the new platform, and they didn't want to invest heavily in a device that might turn out to be a "dud." He adds: "If the first month is any indication, however, the iPad could be a bigger hit than the iPhone. Apple said it sold 1 million units in the first 30 days, as compared with the 74 days it took to sell the first million iPhones. And a new study shows iPad users are twice as likely to be interested in general, financial and sports news than the average American. Now that it looks as though publishers are playing with live ammo, they need to get serious about planning iPad strategies."

OPB finishes up American Archive prototype

The prototype for the American Archive is complete, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting (background: Current, May 14, 2007 and April 13, 2009). CPB commissioned the project in January 2009 to determine how best to preserve and archive the historic video and audio stored throughout the pubcasting system. The first phase (25 stations took part) was an inventory, the second (22 stations) concentrated on restoring, digitizing and cataloging more than 5,700 sound and video items totaling more than 2,300 hours of broadcast material. The prototype will be unveiled at the PBS Annual Meeting this month in Austin, Texas. At this point, the prototype is just for demonstration as rights clearances are still pending.