The 2019 Community Media Conference countdown is on.
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Every time I've strayed from the beaten path
I've never regretted it.
- Tori Murden

Over the last two months, my work with NFCB’s Community Counts Initiative (CCI) has taken me to Alaska, Minnesota, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, California, Oregon, and Nebraska. Mostly, I have been off the beaten path of large urban centers except to pass through the airports and rest up in a hotel. Off the beaten path is community media’s heartland. A place where caring people show up for their neighbors, their town, their region, and work to expand awareness and contribute to making life more meaningful in local terms.

I have rolled up my sleeves with the stellar folks that I am honored to work with, and taken a hard look at problems that have solutions within reach, as well as dilemmas that offer only a path forward through an uncertain terrain. In every instance, the power of showing up for one another in real time, to affirm shared values and exchange valuable experience, is transformational. Stations are finding ways to build bridges to a new generation of listeners and leaders. They are creating sonic art that connects people and celebrates the beauty of finding a place in this world. They are reliably providing critical news and information when and where it is needed most.

Is it perfect? No. Are there miles to go in the unending quest to serve the public interest? Yes. Still, I am profoundly humbled by the courage it takes to navigate a changing world and a changing field of play while staying grounded in places you care about and have a stake in. It takes grit and it takes heart in equal measure. What I notice consistently is that the effort counts… it matters. That’s no small thing in a world grown increasingly complex. Even if the places in which it transpires are small in size, the value is incalculable.

I hope you’ll join me in San Diego… these and other stories from CCI will be presented in the break out sessions and distilled in the general sessions. We have so much to figure out and so much to celebrate all at once.

Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters

Leading change

The megatrends affecting media have particular impacts on community-based media makers. How will stations align objectives we aspire to, such as expanding audiences for programming we offer, with our own traditional goals, such as increasing participation in media? How closely will our response to the many choices that are wooing our listeners align with expectations regarding preservation of what our stakeholders think is “community radio”? How will rapidly developing technology ultimately affect the future of terrestrial radio? Which new producers or external forces, as yet unknown, will become our partners in leading change? These are just a few of the questions that may press all of us to consider the possible, probable, yet mostly unpredictable, future.

Coming to San Diego June 18-20, the 2019 Community Media Conference is a time to regroup with friends, allies and colleagues. NFCB’s conference is a time to learn, to converse, and to recharge. We bring you to inspiring visionaries and people who are working day-to-day to reshape their communities. Register now to attend.

You will connect with people like Sally Kane. NFCB’s CEO has worked in community media since 2002, but she got her start a couple decades before that when she volunteered at the community station her parents helped found. She continued to volunteer for her local community station and went on to serve as Station Manager, General Manager, and eventually Executive Director. During her tenure, she led a successful capital campaign, started a local news department, expanded membership, and increased revenue. A trained facilitator and nonprofit management consultant, Kane joined NFCB as CEO in 2014. Her passion for excellent local media, compelling performance art, and meaningful service inspires her to work diligently to ensure that community stations are an integral part of the public media system and that they are essential institutions in the many communities they serve.

You’ll also learn from people like Joseph Orozco. Joe brings 40 years of experience in Native media, and community radio, and Is a student of holistic management, consensus building and rebuilding Native nations. Over the years, he has presented Native radio workshops on healthy station operations in partnership with NFCB. Orozco chaired the NFCB Board of Directors from 1993 to 1996, and was a founding Advisory Council Member to Native Public Media and Native Voice One. In addition, he is a former elected Pacifica board member, AIROS Board of Directors member and a former Indigenous Communications Association board member. Orozco will present at the 2019 conference because he strongly believes Native media is a sovereign right.
From new leaders to these veteran station builders, you will convene with those whose knowledge will inspire you and help you realize new possibilities. What you'll take away will be priceless.

The 2019 Community Media Conference brings forward many speakers who are leading and facilitating content, revenue, engagement and organizational capacity efforts at their organizations. Much like you, they are asked to develop and communicate a compassionate strategy while responding to a changing environment.
Media continues to evolve, but ultimately what will be our new reality? Shifting tastes, new demographics, fresh demands from competition, emerging technologies, persistent calls for accountability, and public funding debates, are among the trends that are requiring large and small community media organizations to transform our longstanding processes, and to question our long-held assumptions.

When you need advanced guidance, NFCB's conference intensives feature longform training to help you in addressing your most pressing needs. Want to have a sound audio strategy? Can you shape the best culture for your station’s staff and volunteers? How can you envision a donor-invested future? Conference intensives will assist you. They are:
  • Painting Pictures with Sound, featuring Dale Willman (City University of New York) Join your colleagues and fellow producers for an extended (four-hour) intensive on creating immersive stories with sound. Award-winning journalist Dale Willman brings a wealth of production, journalism and visioning experience to the table for this hands-on session. He’ll work with you on the mechanics of preparing for an interview, the basics of making the recordings of the interview, and then the preparing of material for editing, and finally, editing. You’ll leave with a new toolbox of skills, trial access to Hindenburg software, and fresh knowledge from a distinguished journalist for creating strong programming.
  • Harvesting the Fruits of the Giving Tree – Major Gifts and Revenue Planning, featuring Gwen Colwell (Greater Public) Every station, whether large or small, should be thinking about how to cultivate large contributions to meet essential revenue goals. This intensive will delve into the language of major giving, the development cycle and how major gifts work in your pipeline, and how to apply strategies you may already have in your annual giving efforts to a major giving program. You’ll learn about getting your staff, GM, and board on the fundraising page with you. And you’ll get to build a case for support and learn how to make the ask in a real-time exercise and practice opportunity. Join fundraising professional Gwen Colwell for this three-hour interactive session.
  • Managing the People in People-Powered Media – Human Resources and Community Media, featuring Jeannie Smith (HR-Rx, Inc.) One of the most challenging areas for community radio stations is the matter of human resources. The cost of ineffective management of staff and volunteers can be tremendous: lost productivity, decreased donations, talented people departing for greener pastures, bad word of mouth and litigation are among the outcomes when relationships sour. In this intensive, attendees will learn about core practices for optimum human resource management, such as mediation and conflict resolution, safe/civil workplaces, individual evaluations and smart hiring. Along the way, Jeannie Smith will answer your most perplexing questions and guide you through solutions.
Those passionate about community media who are called upon to navigate these challenges have a long to-do list. More often than not, we are expected to be futurists and strategists, among other roles. Leaders must anticipate forces that may drive change over the next one, five, ten, or more years. Simultaneously, we must prepare our organizations to respond and innovate in preparation for potential events. Along the way is occasional disruption, such as economic challenges, that impact our cities and towns and strain our stations’ resources.

In short, every community radio station leader needs to forge a culture that produces transformative solutions. That’s why you need to be at the 2019 Community Media Conference June 18-20 in San Diego. Register here now.

Quincy McCoy, KPFA

Quincy McCoy is a busy man. As general manager of KPFA in Berkeley, CA, he oversees one of the nation's most influential community radio stations. He is the former Vice President of Radio for Rhapsody America, and MTV Digital Music Group.  A well-respected radio and music industry veteran, McCoy has worked as a major market on-air personality, program director and operations manager.

In addition, Quincy McCoy is the author of No Static: A Guide to Creative Radio Programming, and has penned several screenplays and short stories. He is winner of the International Peter Brock Award for feature writing and former Co-Chair of Youth Radio Board of Directors and recipient of the 2001 Peabody Award for significant and meritorious achievement in broadcasting.

What is your first community radio memory?

A small station in Upstate NY aired a radio documentary about slumlords who weren’t supplying heat to their tenants. The program was called “They Don’t Give a Damn,” and it aired in February with compelling interviews of the tenants, who were old and poor folks. What’s important to note is the major impact it produced. The Mayor’s office appointed a task force and the conditions were changed. That was my first glimpse at the power of radio.

When were you first acquainted with KPFA?

When I moved to the Bay Area in 1995, I became a mentor/board member at Youth Radio, the headquarters of which was next door to KPFA. There was a partnership between the two non-profits, so our YR kids had access to equipment and training. Today several Tech Operators and Producers working at KPFA came from Youth Radio (now called YR Media).

You have led your station through many changes as well as challenges. What advice would you give a colleague for navigating to the best outcomes?

I believe in talking out loud about failure—what works and what doesn’t—is essential to your eventual success. It’s crucial to talk about failure because it creates a database of knowledge of what not to do in the future. Best of all, failure is an indicator of innovation and a driver of collaboration keeping us unafraid to take calculated risks and think big.

Are there any techniques you find most useful for resolving differences?

First, you must embody a value system, one that deals with human relationships within the station. Second, you should maintain and encourage a strategy of collaboration and teamwork among people at every level. This will lead to team-oriented, results-seeking, and self-starting behavior. The third essential quality is accessibility. A manager must be available for honest, open, two-way communication.
How do you stay positive about the work you do?

I’m devoted to developing my skills. You have to dedicate yourself to being a fair leader who provides a creative, positive, stimulating workplace for all your players. Be honest and be a living example of the qualities you demand from your players. Great managers make the commitment to excellence, to challenge themselves and others, to reinvent themselves and step up to a lifetime of learning. My mantra is, “What can I do today to make KPFA better tomorrow?”

What are you most proud of as a veteran manager?

I’ve been mentoring folks for years. I remember where I came from and the people who helped me navigate the twisting, barrier-filled radio mind fields to get to where I am. I’ve stayed connected to the common threads of persistence and determination, and my desire to see success echoed in others who were determined to follow in my radio footsteps. So, the list of folks I shared knowledge with and support over 30 years are still in the media landscape, and it’s their success that makes me proud.

Is there anything your station does so well that you think other stations should borrow?

What the most creative people in radio do is create a dialogue between themselves and their listeners. When this is done well, our mission, music and stories connect and enhance the overall relationship between our programming and our listeners. KPFA’s 70-year history speaks volumes and is arguably the best radio narrative in the country. We tell our story well.

What are you most optimistic about right now in regard to noncommercial media?

The digital environment of podcasting with its on-demand and time-shifted content provides a platform of opportunity to offer new voices from the progressive community, ranging from novices to popular writers, commentators, and activists in exclusive formats. An astonishing schedule of podcast channels can truly create a meaningful difference in our membership numbers.

Are there any tips you could offer early-career producers and aspiring managers?

To borrow a phrase, you must "declare"—make a covenant with yourself—that you are committed to hard work and the constant focus it takes to be great. It’s like coaching a sports team, it takes a complete commitment in the success and well-being of everyone on the team.

Habit forming

A recent study of newspaper audiences has revealed the secret to loyalty may be simpler than great thank-you gifts. A new study by Northwestern University’s Medill Spiegel Research Center in cooperation with the School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications indicates that loyalty is built on frequency. If you make your content a habit, you are more likely to have a consistent base.

The Local News Initiative says:
In the new Medill study, researchers measured what they call “stickiness” (how likely a subscriber is to remain a paying customer) and “churn” (subscribers opting out). While the study’s main finding was that a regular reader habit is essential for stickiness, it also identified consumption of unique local content as a key factor in retaining subscribers. Establishing expertise on subjects of deep interest to readers is a clear roadmap to generating reader revenue, according to the research.
Conventional wisdom has long held that deep dives and extensive content drives interest. Researchers discovered something startling, according to the Local News Initiative:
Spiegel’s data analysis also contains a puzzling surprise: Subscribers who read many stories per visit and read them thoroughly were no more likely to keep their subscriptions than those who skimmed. In some cases, high rates of story reading and time spent per story were associated with greater churn – people dropping their subscriptions.
While newspaper readership differs in practical ways from radio, the takeaways may hint at the cultural and generational change we are experiencing. Hundreds of cable channels, a countless number of websites, and a dizzying range of streaming services demand a great deal of people’s attention that once went to television and radio exclusively. The debate over how legacy media stays relevant has emerged as a result.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have proven themselves durable by making what they offer something people come for often. As a result, they have arguably changed media orientations. From news to family updates, to exchanges with colleagues, these platforms have made themselves into destinations people circulate to constantly via desktop and mobile. Even as journalism struggles with audience, websites with content tailored to social media have eclipsed revenue and engagement goals.
How can community radio become that kind of habit to its audience? What techniques are being utilized by different media to appeal to audiences, and what can we learn from? Here are a few insights: 
  • Before we assume how people interact with media, new examinations present findings that may make you think twice. It turns out your audience may be more engaged than ever. “What emerges from the research is that U.S. media habits in 2017 are more nuanced than they are often portrayed. Specifically, the idea that digital channels are simply cannibalizing traditional channels is by no means the full story. For example, the Nielsen researchers found that people are actually spending significantly more time, on average, with media today than they were two years ago. In other words, digital isn’t just changing the mix; it’s also increasing the overall market.”
  • The Harvard Business Review recently conducted a study in which researchers identified four effective strategies for an organization to stay connected with audiences. Traditional modes of interaction are changing and new models are emerging. Organizations are today called upon to respond to audiences’ desires, make curated offerings, and make access as simple and fast as possible. “What’s innovative here is not the technologies these strategies incorporate but the ways that companies deploy those technologies to develop continuous relationships.”
  • We understand more than ever how millennial audiences are shaping media, but new takeaways expand on why they gravitate to particular outlets. China’s massive millennial population is distinct, but the consulting firm McKinsey & Company says there are some common bonds to American young people's media interests. The firms points out the need for authenticity, digital experimentation, and linking of online activity back to core goals are still central to building relationships and habits.
  • Speaking of international research, Deloitte’s extensive survey on the rise of digital media in India should offer you clarity on how habits are created. Like everywhere else, mobile is driving audio consumption, with young people making up more of the audience.
  • Sometimes creating habit for audiences may be, as it was for the Detroit Free Press, to “be better or be different.” The newspaper started experimenting with its presence on Twitter and found a new audience by offering what they intended was a fun voice. Jokes aplenty, self-deprecating snark (“can’t wait to submit this one for a Pulitzer”) and a local focus were key. “Our audience is focused on Detroit and the state of Michigan,” one of the paper’s editors says. “Michigan is a very homebody state, if that makes sense. Most people who live here or who were born and raised in Michigan are very passionate about their state and think their state is better than everyone else.” They also owned mistakes with humor.
  • NPR Training dived into its immense data well to share the nine kinds of content that audiences love to share. But, rather than just borrow these ideas, NPR recommends you use the list to see what stories are worth putting a little more time and effort into in order to make them more shareable and interesting to your audience.
  • The Pew Research Center reflects how radio is declining among Latinos. The reasons why could offer clues on ways community radio might lure them back. Language may be key. “Many Latinos speak English and Spanish, and this bilingualism is reflected in their news habits. In 2016, Latinos primarily consumed news in English, with 83% saying they get at least some of their news in this language on a typical weekday (29% only in English and 54% in both English and Spanish). At the same time, a comparable share (71%) said they get at least some of their news in Spanish (17% only in Spanish and 54% in both English and Spanish).”
You are encouraged to connect with fellow community radio leaders and visionaries to create the best experience for your listeners at the 2019 Community Media Conference. Coming to San Diego June 18-20, the event features tracks on content, revenue, engagement and organizational capacity, conference intensives, networking and more. Register here to attend. Book your hotel room at the conference venue here.
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