Local Content Creation

Local Content Top Performers
June 2004

Details, Details: Keeping the Morning Edition Audience
January 2004

Program Ledger:
Evaluating Program Performance

October 2003

Programming Performance
May 2003

February 2003

First Report & Programming Ledger
October 2002

About Charting the Territory

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Somewhere in a studio right now, a reporter is watching the clock and putting the finishing touches on a local news story. It has taken hours to carefully craft the script and then to edit and mix the sound. He's excited about the great interviews he recorded. His adrenalin rushes as he hurries to get the piece ready for air. When the story begins its broadcast, he breathes a sigh of relief. If he has done his job well, listeners will gain new insight into an important local issue.

This scene plays out at hundreds of public radio stations every day. For some, it's not a news piece being produced but an arts module or a concert series. For others it's a newscast or a talk show. At the heart of every public radio station is the urge to create and connect. From the earliest days of public radio, stations have instinctively tapped the talents and imaginations of their staffs to give listeners programming that reflects the values and concerns of the community they serve. Today, these efforts have taken on a new importance - most station leaders say that producing unique local content is critical to their future success. Through a Charting the Territory planning initiative, SRG is developing strategies to increase the value of such programming to listeners and to stations.

Stations recognize that the benefits of producing unique local content go beyond satisfying mission. By producing programming that connects directly with community, the station forges critical ties with the people who listen and give to public stations. Without question, national programming has widened the scope and the audience of public radio. Unique local content complements that service and also helps define the image of a station and build its reputation as a community institution.

In today's crowded media marketplace, the decision to continue or start producing unique local content also comes as a counter-strategy in competing with other media outlets. Forces such as Internet radio, satellite radio, and the consolidation of station ownership are creating more national streams of programming. With the exception of some AM news/talk stations, commercial radio stations have abandoned local news programming of any significance. The field is open for public radio stations to provide listeners with context and meaning on local issues and to present music and cultural programming that reflects the needs of the local audience.

Unique local content comes in many forms. For our purposes, the focus is on-air content that is produced at a station for a local or regional audience; provides a sense of place, and enhances the station's ties to the community it serves. There is an impressive array of original content on the public radio airwaves, ranging from news magazines and talk shows to concert series and arts profiles. However, impact is more important than form. Unique station content should embody the core values of public radio. It should be radio worth producing and worth listening to. Some stations develop unique local content that they intend to present nationally at some point. But even these stations are, for the most part, showcasing a local culture or tapping the resources found in a particular community in the hopes of benefiting a larger audience.

The motives for producing unique local content are clear. The challenge for station leaders is finding the right path to manage and sustain the effort while nurturing the creativity required to produce compelling programming. Stations need to grow their capacity to create local content without placing a burden on station resources. They also need to honestly examine the performance of their local content to make sure that resources are being spent wisely.

The goals of our focus on unique local content are to:

  • Understand how local programming can deepen stations' connections to their communities and increase the stations' value to listeners
  • Examine ways to assess the impact of local programming
  • Devise tools for stations to evaluate their investments and returns on local programming.

SRG will work with a number of stations, public radio organizations and consultants on this project. We will share ongoing information about the project with stations and ask for feedback.

This report was developed as part of Charting the Territory, SRG's national planning initiative for public radio that is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and SRG member stations.

Copyright © 2003 Station Resource Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.