CAB Minutes 2/9/2015


Steve Rapkin called the meeting called to order at 6:35.

In attendance were Steve Rapkin, David Sztyk, Lue Ann Eldar, Judith Cholst, Barbara Gerolimatos, Catherine Arcure, Anita Aboulafia, Renee Cherow-O’Leary, Gary Brocks, Sue Hornik (by telephone), John Bacon, and Helen van der Voort


DS moved that the agenda be approved and was seconded by CA.


DS moved approval of the minutes, CA seconded and minutes were approved with two changes incorporated at the request of LAE.


SR introduced two officers from the station to talk about digital operations:

Thomas Hjelm, Vice President of Business Development and Chief Digital Officer who joined in 2011, and Kevin Stuart who joined in November and is responsible for digital product and development.


TH started by introducing how the station thinks of itself as a digital organization. The “brand” has really grown and thrived, but life has become more complicated as it has become not just a broadcaster but also a producer of shows such as Alec Baldwin, Studio360 etc. His group is building products and experiences to allow listeners to listen and become involved. They want to find the “intersection points” to allow listeners to engage.


NYPR has one of the largest digital portfolios - it accounts for 18% of all live-stream listening to public radio, produces some 30 podcasts including Radiolab and Freakonomics, and operates nine websites and three apps. There are five million hours of live streaming per month and fourteen million podcast downloads a month.


Four years ago the department had five people. That has increased to fifteen to twenty people in technology, product managers, quality assurance, etc.


The station has been doing podcasts for over a decade and it has been a thriving business. There are approximately 30 podcasts per month available and on- demand listening is the primary way for reaching listeners.


TH said the team not only codes but is also part of how the broader organization thinks about all of its activities.  Production thinks about podcasts, while fundraising thinks about how to make raising money through technology as frictionless and easy as possible.


The smartphone is now the main vehicle for listening to the media  - everything has to be mobile-friendly. Now in an on-demand world, listeners want what they want when they want it.

Data about listeners could be exploited by the unscrupulous, but the station protects it and uses it to optimize relationships and provide what listeners want.


The audio strategy is to bridge curation and personal choice. A graph was presented showing “range of curation” where one end is fully curated -- lean back and listen -- and the other end moves to “on-demand” podcasts. The center is the opportunity area where new products can be created to meet underserved and emerging needs. The next generation of sites will guide listeners, using data to convert listeners into members. For example they will use data to look at what is being listened to and then use that to appeal to the sense of membership.


WNYC App – the centerpiece is the “Discover” app that allows you to program what you want to listen to based on how much time you have and what you’re interested in. Hit go and it will download a playlist for you that will meet those parameters. The content is pulled in from NPR as well as The New Yorker, WSJ and Talking to Bloomberg. It was built in-house and rolled out last March. The station recently received a grant from the Knight Foundation to continue development.


KS talked about the “users” and the development of four “personas”:

  • WNYC loyalists – used to listen on radio but more and more listen online and on demand.  35% of all users listen on demand and he expects seeing 50% in a year.
  • Show fanatics who love their favorite WNYC shows – may be listening through podcast, station or direct websites.
  • Podcast junkies, who listen through Itunes podcasts.
  • Social drive-bys, millenials who come via Twitter/FaceBook feeds to read/hear a certain story. The challenge is to learn how to turn this group into regular listeners.


The digital strategy is mobile, audio, data – “MAD”.


Mobile: Shift towards a more utility-centric site making better use of data, greater use of responsive design, best mobile-optimized website

Audio: Audio segmentation – small bites of listening vs. longer shows, distribution to new audio platforms – easy to engage on social platforms and easily shareable.

Data: Smart registration – not just who is logged in but also use demographics to create a profile of entire user base, create better analytics and integration of data with customer-relationship management.


TH – explained that PII (personally identifiable info) can be very sensitive and misused, but that the “lifeblood” of public radio is the trust of the public and if we cross the line we lose the trust.


CA asked if WQXR has the same level of detail that WNYC has and whether there is a “discover-type app”. TH answered that they are experimenting with this.  For example the Bach month with the downloadable piece each day was very popular. Part of the problem is that it is very easy to “tag” words in journalism but very difficult with a musical piece. They are working on it.


MOP asked what impact FCC rules have on the ability to do what they do. The answer is there is a lot more leeway with talk content vs. musical. Rules make music on demand potentially very expensive and difficult. There is freer rein and more flexibility with archived spoken content.


MOP asked how many streaming stations there are and what is set up as searchable content, for example debate content? We have four broadcast stations, four special non-broadcast streams such as Q2, and seasonal, periodic streams. Unfortunately it is not as good on searchable content – audio first is the strategy -- but the stations should make transcripts available especially for enterprise journalism. DS asked what happens when WNYC develops something proprietary and people want it rolled out across the spectrum. It’s a different culture, and there is a “communitarian” culture in the public radio space. NYPR is looked at as innovators, doing things that even NPR isn’t doing. On the one hand we are very forward-thinking and do things to benefit NYC, but we are also part of a larger public radio system and have an obligation to build broader culture. “Do what’s right by the mission but also have a sustainable business model.” SR asked whether they thought stories would become shorter because people don’t want to download a longer product. No, there is still a place for long form stories, but Discover allows them to create a smart highlight reel. The example was cited of someone who discovered New Tech City through Discover. JC asked if they saw a day when there was no live person. No, certainly not for news and talk, but music programming can be pre-recorded. And we look at what our assets are – what we do better than anyone: live-ness, call and response, Brian Lehrer and his live broadcasts. MOP asked how involved the digital side is with the actual live events. They are fairly involved as TH is involved in business development. Live events are increasingly important to the stations’ life. Live interaction with hosts is an important asset, such as RadioLab tours, Ira Glass.


SR moved on to a discussion of meeting dates for spring meetings. He gave us exciting news about the next meetings. Elliot Forrest will be at the March meeting, possibly the first meeting with a WQXR host. The meeting in April will be changed to Thursday, April 23, Brian Lehrer will be the speaker, and in order to allow time to get to the Bronx, the start of the meeting will be moved later to 6:45. LAE thanked JB for his help in setting up the space in the Bronx Library. LAE asked for input on format, while also saying we would look to Brian Lehrer for what he would like. She pointed out that we only have a few weeks. JB suggested a discussion of the new Assembly Speaker. It was suggested that we do an interview with him. RCO suggested a look at the Bronx and its “mélange” aspect, and try to tap into this. SR agreed to let Brian Lehrer know what topics we would find interesting. AA suggested a discussion of health topics. JC suggested redevelopment of the Concourse. LE talked about development of the arts. CA asked if there will be a better effort to get the word out there. Yes, and it was felt that the current meeting had better “advertising.” MOP said that phone calls in need to be updated. CA said that it should be listed under events – however it is possible that there is an “arms’ length” issue due to the CAB’s independent structure.


Programs for May and June – June will be an internal organizational meeting and social hour. Suggested to move it to the 22nd of the month so we can use the Greene Space. May topics – suggestion of finances don’t really match up with the charter of the CAB which is to advise on programming and make sure that audiences are being served. RCO suggested having someone come to talk more about the podcasts. JB suggested someone from the archives. AA suggested the “public editor” or a discussion of how that position came to be.


Recruitment – Daniel Rath has resigned. RCO and JL will be stepping down and 3 people are up for renewal. SR suggested we choose 3 this year so we will have 2 spaces left for the following year since we will not have anyone leaving in 2016. There must be between 15 and 25 members of the CAB according to the Charter. LAE, BG, CA and JB agreed to be on the Recruiting Committee. They would like to expand demographics and are losing representation of the Bronx/Westchester/CT. RCO asked about the New Jersey representation and was told we have three representatives from there. JB suggested a performing artist, and JC suggested someone from an arts program. SR suggested we not send letters to community boards again as we are only looking for three slots and last year we got the majority of applicants from radio spots.


CA talked about the Public Response committee. A sheet has been put together outlining the CAB public comment period during meetings and encouraging members of the public to contact the listener comment line. The bylaws have a time limit for public comments at meetings.


2015-2016 Calendar: SR suggested cutting back meetings from 9 to 6-8 per year. Board meets 5x per year, and CAB by-laws mandate 6 meetings per year. SR feels attendance drops off as year goes along, and it is a lot of work, and the internet is a good source of comments. MOP feels the board may become superfluous if we meet less regularly. The comment was also made that it is also a burden on the station to supply speakers.


MOP comments – thanked CAB for covering issues of content and money. Still concerned about MaryAnne Gilmartin on board of trustees and impact on programming. Glad to hear programming director reviews CAB minutes.  Sorry there was no mention of article in Noticing New York from 12/8/2014. The station needs to catch up to NYT on foreign real estate investments.


SR closed meeting at 8:25. RCO moved and CA seconded.