Welcome Aboard, Public Interactive!

Yesterday, NPR announced that it will be acquiring Public Interactive (PI), a company that provides Web services to many NPR stations. (You can read the press release for full details.)

Several folks have asked me what the relationship will be between the NPR Digital Media team and the team at PI. As happens frequently in public media, our two groups have have collaborated on a number of projects over the years. For example, NPR and PI are currently partners (along with several other organizations) in a collaboration to improve online election coverage across public media. My hope is that with a closer connection between the two groups we will find many more opportunities where it's beneficial to work together.

However, while there are synergies, each group really has a distinct focus. NPR Digital Media's main mission is to create and distribute NPR content to users, stations and other partners on a variety of digital platforms like NPR.org, NPR Podcasts and NPR Mobile. Public Interactive is really focused on directly serving the digital needs of stations by providing tools and services. PI also distributes content to stations, but they work with multiple content providers including Reuters, BBC, PRI and the New York Times Syndicate (as well as NPR). We believe that it's important for PI to maintain this kind of independence to ensure that they can best meet stations' needs. To reflect these two important but distinct roles, NPR has decided that they will be managed as separate units, though there will likely also be many areas where we can collaborate.

I'm looking forward to getting to know the PI team better over the coming weeks and to see how we can work together to best serve the overall mission of public media.

What do you think about this announcement? Do you have any advice for NPR and Public Interactive as we go forward in working together?



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If PI remains a fee-for-service entity for stations -- under the NPR umbrella instead of the PRI umbrella -- then it remains unclear what the advantages were to NPR and PI in the purchase / sale.

I suppose having similar business cards and ultimately the same boss means you'll be able to work together a little more often and with less friction. Which is intrinsically a Good Thing. But to date (and admittedly, it's only been 24 hours) I'm not hearing what will really change for either PI or NPR or the stations.

There's talk of the PI purchase bolstering NPR's commitment to digital distribution, but not much definition beyond that.

So either [1] there are Grand Plans for some really cool stuff, but those plans are under wraps until the purchase is completed, or [2] this is a "nice" purchase for NPR to have made, and NPR is hoping something good comes of it later, once everyone's had a chance to think about it and come up with some ideas.

I'm hoping for #1.

Sent by John Proffitt | 8:26 PM | 8-1-2008


Thanks for the clarification. This strategy makes sense in the short term, but ultimately the more integrated digital media services are across source networks and stations, the better.

The network-station polarity is an artifact of the broadcast era that will not make sense to maintain indefinitely online -- unlike broadcast operations, which necessarily retain the legacy structure based on media properties, supply lines and territories.

Listeners/viewers/readers of digital multimedia content don't know or care how the services they use are structured, as long as they work for them. The web service, fixed or mobile, is their primary frame of reference wherever they are. This argues for the eventual reconcilation between the two missions and areas of focus you describe in the interest of a more integrated service model.

The primary mission in the digital era is serving and supporting the users with valued content, social and educational experiences -- not maintaining institutional hierarchies.

Sent by Stephen Hill | 4:35 AM | 8-2-2008