Localore: Producer-Driven Innovation at Stations

February 3, 2012 at 11:30am

By Amanda Hirsch



Localore is a $2 million initiative from AIR (Association of Independents in Radio) that is attempting to fuel long-term innovation at stations, with producers as the engine oil.  Specifically, the project aims to use producer ingenuity and creative applications of technology to bring new audiences to public media (see AIR executive director Sue Schardt's comments to the NPR board last year on the importance of reaching new audiences). This week AIR announced the 10 winning projects that will receive Localore funding; see the press release and project list, and read Andrew Phelps' excellent summary for Neiman Lab.  Each project is producer-driven, but based at a station (some of the producers are station employees, others are independents).


Inspired in large part by The Corner, an independent public media project funded under the last major AIR initiative, MQ2, AIR intends for Localore producers to "find the corners...to go to far reaches of the community where people don't even know about public media," Schardt explained.  Jessica Clark will be documenting the status and outcomes of each project on the Localore blog, hoping to inspire similar work throughout the public media community.


The design of Localore assumes that it's easier for an individual to innovate than it is for an organization -- particularly an organization as under-resourced as many stations. "Stations want to innovate," Schardt told me, "but they're busy 24/7 cranking out the sausage." Station staff are stretched thin,  she explained, and struggle to find the time or brain space to do anything other than their day-to-day work. The solution? Arm an inspired individual producer with the resources to operate outside of the institution, and separate from the station's daily demands.


This sounds great -- but how does it solve the core problem, of stations not having the resources to innovate? Schardt emphasizes that the stations participating in Localore all have "skin in the game," management buy-in, and are committed to creating long-term institutional change. She notes that during the application process, producers and stations needed to work together to submit video or other media to the "station runway" -- this meant that out the gate, stations had to commit resources to the project. Beyond this initial investment, every station is contributing both cash and in-kind resources on top of AIR's funding, for a collective contribution of over $650,000. And producers aren't just using stations as office space -- each participating station has identified a project team, with specific staff members designated to provide production or editing assistance, measure impact and more.


Schardt hopes the active involvement of stations means that once Localore funding comes to a close, the project leaves behind "DNA" and "native intelligence" beyond whatever media the producer creates, helping stations continue to engage any new audiences longterm. She also notes that AIR is helping participating stations identify opportunities for future funding. In addition, in his piece for Neiman Lab, Phelps reports that several Localore producers will be using Zeega, an open-source platform for interactive media development that grew out of MQ2; Zeega's Kara Oehler has said she's anxious for these producers to help inform the platform's core features, with the hope that "as opposed to just ending up with a bespoke mix of technology experiments after Localore ends, these projects will make a lasting contribution to the tools for public media."


A hearty congratulations to the Localore winners and to AIR for their stewardship of this exciting initiative. I sincerely hope that Localore does indeed fuel the kind of long-term change that Schardt envisions -- not just at the 10 participating stations, but throughout the larger public media community, as well. Do you think it will?