CAB MINUTES: October 2013



Submitted by Renée Cherow-O’Leary, Ph.D., November, 2013


The meeting convened at 6:30 PM in the WNYC 8th floor conference room.  The main speaker for the evening was Dean Capello, Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President, Programming of WNYC.  He has been at the station for sixteen years.  Among those also attending the meeting from WNYC were Board of Trustees member, Ellen Polaner, Brenda Williams-Butts, Senior Director of Community Engagement and Audience Development, and Noreen O’Loughlin, Vice President of Integrated Marketing and General Manager of the Greene Space of NY Public Radio.    




Capello indicated that WNYC has moved from a strictly locally focused station to a station serving the national public radio community.  The station is now in the midst of its second strategic plan and it is looking at delivering programming in ways that fit into the contemporary audience’s media habits.  This includes looking at a firm move into digital media including download programming as podcasts and shifting schedules.  People want on-demand radio now and public radio serves multiples audiences all day long.  The platform on which the programming is heard is shifting so that people can hear any program at any time.


This places new demands ion the station.  It is serving different audiences, even with the same content.  WNYC is “always looking for tools to serve the audience better.”  The station can measure radio listening that comes from streaming, for example, but cannot tell who is who.  This is a problem since commercial radio can measure its audience.  But public radio relies on underwriting and philanthropy and it is harder to measure the numerous ways people access public radio.  And yet, Capello said, foundations today are much more agenda driven and it is important for WNYC to cultivate its customer relationships.  Particularly in regard to drawing young viewers to the station, it is important to remember that they are less loyal.  They have many information outlets that they access. 


Everything today has to be on multiple platforms.  This raises traffic for the programs.  There is a stable group that still listens to the radio the old-fashioned way but that’s not growing.    WNYC owns the audio audience.  Video is expensive to produce and the field is difficult and crowded.  There is a video presence at the Greene Space, a video and a story, that is starting to rise to the top.  They have hired an Infographics specialist whose data unit is the best in the country.  Norren and Dean are working on a series of events that can be the stimulus to produce podcasts and video.  They are hiring people who know how to work in different media and are getting better and better.  For example, they can now produce segmented parts of podcasts that can specifically meet the audience needs.






Producing and owning content is another important new emphasis.  Have to worry about the talent base to draw new audiences. They are looking for more women on the air, great women creators and hosts.  Only 11 of the 100 top broadcasters are women hosts.  Financing this is in direct competition with commercial media.  Getting sponsors is important and programming is expensive to produce.  There is a huge, critical mass of talented people.  200 people are working under Dean and all have their own little projects. 


They are producing and plan to produce a couple of big shows for audience and revenue streams.  News content is expensive and has to be supported.  Want to continue to produce at a high level.   They are always looking for interesting content.




WNYC is in Year Two of a five year plan but they may have to rip it up and start again.  There are many upcoming news issues: the first anniversary of Sandy, Election cycles, and balance of New Jersey news.  WNYC has become expert in Data Journalism, using maps, census and precinct data.  This is a “see it and share it” approach.  They are producing hurricane evacuation zone maps, information about local public schools with  New York Times backed out of this venture after a year.  The Daily News is now involved. A Health Unit is being created as the rollout of the Affordable Care Act takes hold.  Funding is needed to cover this.  Research is available but it needs to be interpreted and personal stories highlighting the larger trends can illustrate issues.  But this work does need to be funded.  The Health Site would also produce a series of medical memoirs and people can share their stories.  Capello said this is the idea of “hosting the community talking to itself.”  This is much more dynamic, he says, than just reporting the facts.  Other health ideas include the story of DNA, choices about Huntington disease, genetic testing.  They are looking for ways to be distinctive in their coverage.  And now WNYC can directly solicit feedback rather than waiting for it. 


Noreen O’Loughlin said that they are planning a series of surveys, using Arbitron, but not only one source of proprietary research.  They will do focus groups, quantitative research, a community panel, , and research could be a new feature on one of the WNYC apps.  They are looking for consistent ways every couple of years to do a comprehensive research initiative.  NPR has a listener panel and they can pick up a lot from online. 


There is no choice between informing and entertaining .  Have to do something no one else is doing (as in Radio Lab or Ask Me Another).  You can’t get away with being boring!




People want control of their time.  There is less interest in listening to whole episodes online.  A radio station is more linear.  As people grow, they need different things and WNYC aims to imagine the next few years and how they will evolve the business.  The current average age of listeners is 48 to 52.  The 35-50 audience is growing.  As for younger audiences, Capello said “A 30 year old public radio listener is more similar to a 50 year old public radio listener than their own cohort. “ Creating special tours like Radio Lab Live and Freakonomics podcasts, for example, can bring in younger audiences. Radio Lab has six million downloads. How do we convert them into regular public radio listeners (and members)? 



Capello said he was conflicted about the community forums that the WNYC CAB has sponsored in the past and possible yin the future.  People who speak at these may think that WNYC is inviting them and there is in place an editorially rigorous process that must be gone through to vet guest speakers (not those who attend the forums to hear the speakers).  The CAB does not have the authority to operate under these rules.


However, as he said earlier, there is going to be a new Health Unit in the News Department because there is an anticipation that coverage of health is going to be very important to the region and the nation.  Capello can imagine asking us to show up, each with three others, so we can have a “smart working session” that would be helpful to the station and bring feedback directly to the station through the CAB. 


“The health project is going to be the #1 priority of the newsroom,” said Capello.  Listening together and giving feedback would be important.  These would be similar to focus group projects.  Dean said that he would use the CAB as representative of the public (similar to research we did about how WGBH uses their CAB.)  Materials would be sent to the CAB in advance and everyone on the board would have a chance to express themselves.  Jim Schachter, WNYC News Director, and his SWOT team is producing this and it would be “helpful to give them a reaction.”  This could be a longitudinal conversation over time.  This could also involve hosts like Brian and Leonard to help think things through.


Capello said that in the next few weeks, we should pick a date and decide how to structure such a discussion and record the feedback.  This would serve to “set a template for the future.”  It would offer a 360-degree point of view.  Health sectors could be convened from government, universities, and other important venues of this kind of information.  For example, C apello described a partnership with Pro Publica. 


In the past, said Capello, “we used to hire a generalist reporter.  Now it is entirely different and we can get a reporter in a specialized field.  There are great names in health care journalism.   The newsroom is also focused on enterprise journalism, a process that can take weeks of months to develop in-depth stories. 


Capello said that it is essential to keep up with the audience and a pleasure to work with an engaged audience.  He is bullish about the audience continuing to grow.  He feels very strongly that in a competitive marketplace much news is “noisy and fractious.” There is an overwhelming “cacophony of stuff.”  But compared to AIR AMERICA, Fox and others, Capello said “it is not our job to take a position. “  He says that taking that stance has enabled public radio to continue to grow.  He also described the effectiveness of Listener Services which fields call in a centralized place.  This enables them to be “an early warning system” and keep their fingers on the pulse of audience feedback.  Starting Morning Brief is also a daily “touchpoint” for WNYC listeners to be responsive and “push out” in a proactive fashion. A new app has just been released and people are reading and listening on the WNYC website.  Audio downloads are also essential since it is hard to read long form on small devices.  Shows on WNYC have their own blogs as well.  Capello and Joyce Lannert, head of the CAB, will be in touch to follow through on proposals.





The final presentation at the meeting  was member of the CAB, Sarah Lenigan who shared with the CAB a Powerpoint on how we can best use the CAB Facebook page.  She based her work on Beth Kanter’s book, The Networked Non-Profit.


Lenigan said that social media is an opportunity to have a back and forth dialogue with the public.  The CAB has a Facebook page.  We have to decide what messages we want to get through.  We should create posts that create relevant content, ask  discussion questions, request feedback and follow up on the people’s responses. 


Sarah suggested we check out the AARP Facebook page as a good example:


Brenda asked the question: “What is our voice?”

Sarah said we can ask our own Facebook friends to come to the page.  They should “like” the page.  We can leverage our own networks to generate traffic.  It can be used for health-related content.  Brenda said the Community Engagement page is connected already.


The website and Facebook must be consistent.  We could use our “spots” ot link to the Facebook and there should be a link to the CAB Facebook page on the WNYC site.


Sarah said that Land’s End website is a good example because of its member features. It highlights a member every month. 


Our website should be about who we are.  The NY Public Radio and CAB site will be getting a new logo.  Brenda Williams-Butts will be made the site administrator.



The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 PM.  The next meeting is Monday, November 25, 2013 in the WNYC 8th floor conference room.  Guest for the November meeting is Graham Parker, General Manager and Vice President of WQXR.