Schedule: web platform model by year’s end

By Karen Everhart

An NPR-led project this month officially launched planning for a joint Public Media Platform to put public radio and TV content on the Web and mobile devices. By year’s end it aims to create a “proof of concept” prototype.

The six-month, $1 million planning initiative will build on NPR’s experience with its open Application Programming Interface, experimenting with ways to make public media content available for noncommercial public service, not only on comprehensive on-demand platforms and station websites but also through specialized widgets yet to dreamed up by creative hackers.

Project participants — most of the major program distributors in public broadcasting — will work out terms of use and technical systems for sharing content among local stations, indie producers and others. The talks will also deal with organizational structure and business plans for operating the platform once it’s built.

While NPR is managing the PMP planning (Current, March 1), most of pubcasting’s other big content providers have committed staff and resources to the effort. CPB granted nearly $784,000. American Public Media, PBS, Public Radio Exchange, Public Radio International and NPR together are providing in-kind support valued at $252,000, according to NPR.

By year’s end, the project will deliver a working PMP prototype and a plan for developing it into a working system. “We may settle a variety of rights, business and governance issues, or find that a discrete set of issues still need resolution,” said NPR’s Kinsey Wilson, senior v.p. of digital media and chief architect of the project. “But we won’t understand all this until we test things out and have a conversation.”

Three core groups will do the planning, interacting as their work proceeds:

  • A leadership team, comprised of the field’s top digital media execs, will try to define the capabilities, business rules and governance of the platform. The platform “has been described in conceptual terms, and there’s a reasonable understanding of the boundaries,” Wilson said. The platform won’t operate as a content management system, which would duplicate publishing systems already in place, nor will it be a “massive, public-facing” web portal. The structure and purpose of PMP will be more akin to the Public Radio Satellite System or the Creative Commons system for licensing content, he said.
  • A planning team will hash out details. It will look at what’s in place on various pubcasting websites, what each participant could contribute and how to build and budget for the platform, Wilson said.
  • A proof-of-concept team will handle the heavy technical work.

A big deliverable will be a working prototype to be built on NPR’s open API. “The other partners will be contributing code and tying their systems into the prototype,” Wilson said. NPR’s API is the most fully developed of the systems available to run the PMP, but its use in the prototype doesn’t mean it will serve as backbone of the final system, he said.

An advisory council will provide feedback from key constituencies and “mission-driven technology and journalism organizations,” according to NPR. These advisors will include people from pubcasting stations as well as new journalistic and media groups including Document Cloud, a Knight Foundation-funded online archive of source material contributed by investigative reporters (documentcloud.org), now in beta; Miro, nonprofit maker of a new open-source audio/video player for the Web (getmiro.com), and Mashery (mashery.com), an API technology company.

From the public broadcasting family, advisors will include reps from the Independent Television Service, the National Black Programming Consortium, the Station Resource Group, and stations — KPBS in San Diego; KQED in San Francisco; Kentucky’s Louisville Public Media; WGBH in Boston; and North Country Public Radio in Canton, N.Y.

“At the end of the day, this is about defining business and working relationships among a wide variety of public media producers who manage content in different ways today,” Wilson said.

Participation on PMP’s core working teams may also change. Twenty-five staff from the six project partners attended a June 18 meeting at NPR headquarters, according to a list provided by NPR. They included:

For American Public Media, Joaquin Alvarado, Matt Berger and Mike Reszler. CPB: Rob Bole and Tim Isgitt. NPR: Wilson, Harold Neal, Stacey Foxwell, Zach Brand, Daniel Jacobson, Danielle Deabler and Public Interactive’s Debra May Hughes and Doug Gaff. PBS: Jason Seiken, Daniel Klaussen, Edgar Roman, Jan McNamara, Jon Brendsel and Kristin Calhoun. PRX: Jake Shapiro, Andrew Kuklewicz and Rekha Murthy. PRI: Cory Zanin, Ann Phi-Wendt, Jennifer Randolph, Julia Yager and Morgan Church.

Stacey Foxwell, who worked in NPR’s programming office for six years before joining the digital media team in 2008, is PMP project director.

Earlier articles

Ken Stern, then NPR chief exec, appoints Digital Distribution Consortium working group, 2006, and discussions begin, 2007.

Rights to Open Media Network technology was to be given to public TV, 2008. But though public stations accepted the donation, neither PBS nor NPR was interested, and OMN ceased operating.

NPR releases its Open API in mid-2008.

Movers and shakers endorse proposal for pubTV, radio online news collaboration, 2009.

Public Radio in the New Network Age, the final report of the Station Resource Group’s Grow the Audience project, recommends that the field develop “common or easily shared resources for convergent IP activity” among its content providers.

Radio nets and PBS propose “public media platform” based on API, March 2010.

Related links

NPR press release on platform project: “Most comprehensive public media digital technology effort, to date,” June 14, 2010.

Comments, questions, tips? karen@current.org

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