Local Content Creation

Local Content Overview

About Charting the Territory

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February 2003

This update covers the next steps in SRG's work to strengthen stations' management of local content creation. Much of what we're doing comes out of the December meeting of our Local Content Advisory Group. Follow-up Advisory Group input via phone conversations and emails, along with comments from other SRG members, has also factored into our current work and what we propose to do. Here are the highlights:

Identify top performers in different formats. We’re taking an in-depth look at the performance of local content following Morning Edition at stations in the top 50 markets. Specifically, we’re examining loyalty and how successful stations are in sustaining the loyalty figures posted in Morning Edition. Our goal is to identify the top performers in various formats.

Conduct case studies of successful local content following Morning Edition. Morning Edition is one of public radio’s signature programs. It broadcasts when radio listening is at its daily peak, captures a peak in listener loyalty, and generates more cents per listener hour than most programs. Taking advantage of this dynamic is a critical programming decision that we know is given tremendous thought at each station. We’ll look at different kinds of nationally and locally-produced programming - news, talk, classical - and present models for successful programs.

Compare different presentations of Morning Edition in the same market. Why do listeners choose one broadcast of Morning Edition over another? What role does local content play? We’ll go to several markets where two stations present Morning Edition and conduct informal focus groups with listeners. Our goal is to hear the language used by listeners in describing local content (if they can identify the local content in Morning Edition).

SRG has also gone to CPB’s Future Fund for support to continue and build on our work in the local content area. Our proposal includes plans to:

Develop a case statement for local content creation. Our statement will outline the strategic importance of local content creation to stations and articulate its value to listeners. The projects above will inform this effort, along with interviews with some of public radio’s most thoughtful and articulate managers and producers.

Conduct case studies in several areas. The case studies will expand understanding of the wide impact of local content creation on stations and the communities they serve. They include an in-depth look at stations that are pursuing new approaches to local content. Which stations are breaking new ground, and could they serve as models for other stations?

Find the top ten places to work in public radio. We assume that high quality local content is created at stations where creativity thrives and risk-taking is encouraged. We would conduct a national contest to determine which stations have the best working environments.

Develop an economic template that will help stations calculate their expenses and revenue on local content. Not all stations break out costs for local content. This budget information would help station leaders in their decision-making on local content and help measure its impact on the station and listeners.

All of these projects will help us flesh out the Programming Ledger that SRG developed last year. Our aim with the ledger is to create a framework for more disciplined management of local content creation and a more effective and meaningful mission/investment/return calculus.

Overall, SRG’s work in this area seeks to help managers achieve the difficult task of evaluating local content through objective measures while nurturing creative environments where local content can achieve its highest potential of becoming an indispensable part of civic and cultural life in a community.

Please pass along your feedback about where we're headed with these projects. We’ll keep you up to date on what we're finding with each of these efforts.

Kathy Merritt

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.

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