CAB Minutes: January 2021
NYPR Community Advisory Board
CAB Meeting #3 2020-2021 Season
Thursday, January 21, 2021 | Public Meeting via Zoom
Guest: Ed Yim, WQXR Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President
- Conversation and Q&A with Ed Yim
- Community Advisory Board Business
- Public Comments
Presentation by Ed Yim
Ed Yim joined WQXR in September 2020 as Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President. He began by introducing Elliott Forrest, and discussed his long-standing working relationship with him, including an early-2000s production at the Hollywood Bowl. Ed also called on two CAB members he knows from school, and his former position as President and CEO of the American Composers Orchestra. He reviewed his past experiences and the path which led him to WQXR, including working with a number of major orchestras from Philadelphia in 1992, to Los Angeles where he opened the Disney Hall, through positions at the New York Philharmonic and ACO. He considers himself a big fan of Broadway, an “orchestra and theater nerd,” and avid choral singer. He considers new work to be an important part of his life and career, and likes learning new things.
He expressed his desire to work collaboratively with all of NYPR to comprehensively enhance all of its platforms, giving examples of working with Goli Sheikholeslami and Audrey Cooper to explore seamlessly connecting all components of NYPR including news and storytelling. Stating the NYPR community “can do so much if only we only open the gates of communication and collaboration” he shared a recent example of Yannick Nézet-Séguin of the Philadelphia Orchestra connecting with Brian Lehrer. He is currently learning the history of the station with archivist Andy Lancet. He feels that “unless we know our history, we can’t plan our future very well,” and says the challenge is to adapt the station’s history for the 21st century, particularly in terms of bringing a new, diverse generation of artists to our audiences. He has a “Yes/And” attitude regarding bringing together traditional Classical programing with more diverse voices of artists working today. He considers NYPR to be “a Multi-Platform Sound Media Company” and WQXR specifically as “a Multi-Platform Music Service” encompassing numerous ways to experience content, including many things that other stations aren’t doing, from terrestrial radio through digital, streaming, podcasts, and more.
He has been thinking a great deal about when and how people listen to the WQXR. For example, a large portion of listeners have the station on in the background (which he prefers to think of as “companionship” as a more constructive and inspiring way to describe what WQXR does), but there is also a cohort who use the station as a portal to learn more and go deeper into pieces and composers. He is looking at ways to most beneficially deliver different ways people use WQXR (morning radio, smart speaker while making dinner, podcast, etc.) and how they all fit together and feed one another. Comparing WQXR to other Classical Music stations, particularly large-market “sister” music services (such as WFMT in Chicago, Minnesota Public Radio, KUSC in LA), or other music services like Spotify or Pandora, and expressed that “our competitive advantage boils down to 3 things:”
- He considers our hosts the best in the business, and that WQXR provides a human touch which brings value to listeners’ lives, with a unique voice and presence that our listenership truly values. This sets us apart from streaming services such as Spotify..
- WQXR resides in New York City, so it reflects the most diverse and culturally exciting city in America, and one of the great cultural capitals of the world. Being partnered with cultural organizations big and small, from Carnegie Hall, the Met Opera, Juilliard, to National Sawdust, Caramore, and local chamber ensembles means the station stands out to the country and the world.
- Being a part of NYPR, as a “story-telling journalistic organization” with “rich resources, skills and perspectives on audio media,” and “an immense infrastructure and level of experience” is “something not a lot of Classical Music stations in this country have to draw on.”
In terms of immediate goals, WQXR is embarking on the first intensive listener survey since 2015, conducted by Slover Linett in Chicago, with an objective of identifying both who is listening to the station, and as importantly who is not listening but might have a penchant for Classical Music. In order to lay a baseline for future strategic planning, the firm has been directed to question outside of the current audience in such areas as concert going, seeking those with children studying music, etc. There is a particular interest in reaching BIPOC communities in NYC and understanding differences in need and methods of outreach.
A major topic of concern is the critical role WQXR plays in supporting the performing arts in NYC, particularly when live performances have ceased for some time due to the pandemic. There is an emphasis on maintaining relationships with performing arts organizations over the next six to nine months as well as going forward post-pandemic. Regarding the overall strategic plan, Goli has stressed three items:
- How to best have a diverse and inclusive team that serves a diverse and inclusive audience
- How to celebrate and demonstrate the value of the listening experience
- Ensuring that WQXR is a welcoming and accessible place for those who want to learn more about classical music and make it a part of their lives
He concluded by stating there may be an announcement in February regarding station support of NYC arts organizations. He left open the possibility of presenting the strategic plan for the next 3 years to the CAB, possibly by June of this year.
Nancy stressed the CAB’s interest in the audience study, as the CAB represents the listening audience, and there are in fact several members who are avid WQXR listeners. She stated she would reach out to members to see what might be done to assist with audience outreach and obtain feedback that would be valuable to the station.
Q&A with Ed Yim, moderated by Marlene
Asked about how he envisions collaboration between WNYC and WQXR going forward, Ed said that he has engaged in several conversations with Andrew Golis (Chief Content Officer), and Audrey Cooper about how WNYC & WQXR might collaborate to provide more cultural coverage for NYC audiences. Ed and Audrey specifically have spoken frequently about what might be done to increase coverage of culture in NYC, for institutions of all sizes and genres, telling the stories of cultural organizations, and if there is an event coming up, explaining its importance and why it should be on the radar of New Yorkers. At this point they are still at a level of broad discussions, but are looking at ways to become real “sister stations.”
Invited to identify opportunities for partnering with city Arts organizations from legacy to smaller companies, Ed said the station has been working on specific actions they can take to try to help artists and arts organizations of all sizes, specifically during the pandemic. He said while it is premature to share specifics, they have received input from the community, including the City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York Community Trust, many friends and colleagues at large and small cultural organizations large and small, basically asking what is needed and would be most useful from the station at this time. They are planning to announce a series of platforms and initiatives on how we’re going to work with them over the next 6-9 months as we wait out the vaccination period before returning to live performances again.
Asked about any new programs in development with traditional terrestrial WQXR radio and podcasts, Ed expressed that while they receive many good ideas, there hadn’t been an efficient system in place to appraise which proposals were best to pursue and which could be supported to a successful outcome. He is very pleased at the recent promotion of Merrin Lazyan to Director of Content Development, formerly the lead producer of Aria Code, which he cited as a great example of how content should be developed at WQXR. For future possible programs, they are hoping to conduct regular, thorough reviews of all ideas coming in both internally and from our cultural partners, taking into consideration the necessary resources, support and marketing required to ensure success.
Queried on whether the station is planning to resume the “Midday Masterpieces” series in the Greene Space, and if so whether they would still feature Juilliard students, Ed replied that while they plan to continue supporting young artists at the beginning of their career, they want to be certain to pay attention to other New York music schools such as Mannes and the Manhattan School of Music, as well as Juilliard. They are also reconsidering the traditional concert format, looking for ways to use these events in a more inclusive, audience-building way than in the past.
Ed responded affirmatively to the possibility of commissioning original work for the station, stating that it is a part of WQXR’s history, and is something they would like to consider going forward, once they have found the right circumstances.
Addressing several questions having to do with possible uses of WQXR’s platforms, Ed repeatedly stressed that the station is assessing and seeking the most effective uses for its resources in order that they are best employed to serve the community at large, and build future audiences. Rather than attempting to be on too many lanes, they are considering the most productive ways in which to use their “megaphone” and the scale of the listening audience to best support arts organizations, build a more diverse audience, and bring about the most all-around benefit for the community. For instance, while he feels it is imperative they must and should play role in the educational space of the city, rather than being physically involved in many schools, it may be more productive to be deeply involved with just one, in order to exemplify the effectiveness of music curriculum, and rather than taking on an entire musical instrument drive, to instead partner directly with the institutions which it would benefit most. He also noted that the Greene Space is being considered for events which highlight and take advantage of its intimate nature as a venue, rather than producing events that are a physical manifestation of existing audio programming.
Zoom Format Comments: Tim received email comments on the new format, noting that while it showcases the speakers very well, the downside is tending to have less sense of community due to the inability to see all attendees on the screen at once. Nancy commented it may not be possible to do so due to the current Zoom webinar account. They agreed to discuss details and possibilities offline.
Meeting Minutes from the October 2020 meeting were approved unanimously, pending corrections, so moved by Jacob and seconded by Liz.
Listener Survey and Feedback: Nancy had organized the data from the station by categories in order to make it more easily readable, and encouraged members to have a look. Carole asked whether there might be feedback from other shows than the four listed, for instance for any podcasts. Marlene and Nancy discussed that it is generally the top four or so shows which receive comments; Nancy said she will follow up with Brenda to see if the station collects more data that the CAB might receive.
Website: Nancy indicated she has seen progress on the station’s website in terms of the placement of the CAB and ability to locate our information. She will discuss with Tim about making further improvements.
Recruitment: Nancy announced a discussion of recruitment at the February 10th meeting. She asked for volunteers for the committee, and gave a preview of the timeline and time commitment. There are 7 or 8 candidate slots available this year, four due to unfilled places last year (due in part to the pandemic), and three or four current members with expiring terms. She said we are hoping to have more advertising and placement on the WNYC website, with the hope of getting a few more applications than last year.
“Meet the CAB” Facebook Profiles: Nancy thanked the CAB members who participated in adding their profiles to the Facebook page, particularly to Lauren for having the idea and doing the work. She believes the profiles are driving traffic to the page, and is considering how we can leverage this going forward, in particular how we can give specific feedback to the station. She will try to get statistics in time for the February meeting. Nancy reiterated her past comments that the CAB develop the Facebook page and Newsletter to a high level before expanding our social media presence. Lauren noted that six profiles have been posted so far, going up 2 at a time. She asked members to reach out to her if they would like to participate, remarking that once a profile is created it is reviewed and approved by the member, Chair and Vice Chairs prior to being posted. She encouraged members to ‘Like’ the posts regularly on the CAB page, and said that sharing posts on personal pages definitely drives traffic and creates engagement back to the CAB page. They are working to link up comments from the Facebook page to the CAB Newsletter.
Discussion by CAB and Members of the Public: CAB members and the public in attendance discussed Ed Yim’s presentation, with generally very positive comments regarding his ideas, connections, and leadership qualities, and about his determination to achieve more diversity in programming and listenership, though it wasn’t completely clear on how he planned to achieve this. Maggie expressed enthusiasm that a research firm has been engaged to identify new listeners. David Booker felt Ed had been somewhat dismissive of the many listeners who tend to keep the station on in the background. Carole [?] asked for thoughts on Ed’s idea of “going deep on a few goals” rather than trying to accomplish many of “wide” goals, and asked the group which goals in particular we thought they might focus on.
Nancy stressed that for the February meeting, we should be thinking in terms of ways in which we can be a strong partner to the station through connecting with our personal networks (including organizations, non-profits, schools etc.) in order to have feedback of value on both what we are hearing from current audiences, and possibly identifying new potential listeners. She indicated that this goes for the newsroom as well, and that since the news in general may be getting relatively quieter, to keep in mind we still need to be sure they are covering things the audience wants to hear, and to be sure they are reaching the right audience.
Nancy stated that for future public meetings (March, April, May and June) she is hoping to invite Goli, and to potentially have Ed Yim back again.