Convening, connecting and collaborating is how Executive Director Jeannie Ericson describes the mission of the integrated Media Association (iMA). The non-profit organization brings public media professionals together to innovate, increase effectiveness and work more efficiently to raise the bar in providing quality service to the communities they serve. Membership in iMA includes public radio and TV stations, NPR, PBS, other networks and related organizations that serve the public broadcasting community.
“Public media is very diverse, with lots of independent organizations, so it doesn’t always work together well,” adds Ericson. She adds that the mission of iMA is twofold. “One of our key initiatives is to look for common ground among our members so we can offer opportunities to capitalize on economies of scale.” One example Ericson cites is a planned training curriculum about topics in online media, such as web analytics, content management tools and strategies for social media.
The second initiative is to help the public broadcasting industry push the boundaries in innovation and technology. Making the transition to online media is essential for public broadcasters, but Ericson notes that it is not always easy. “Many station managers come from a traditional broadcast background and place a premium on the quality of content. They are reluctant to take risks with media they feel may compromise that quality. Others who may have had more exposure to new media are eager to play in the sandbox and try completely new ideas.”
Ericson cites the use of Drupal, an open-source content management system, as an example of innovations coming to public media. Various public broadcasting entities use Drupal. NPR’s Public Interactive group is using Drupal for its Core Publisher product. PBS Engage is Drupal-based. The Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network also uses Drupal.
To get a better sense of members’ needs, Ericson notes that IMA is conducting a survey of their technology concerns. “While public and commercial broadcasters have some things in common, they are different in many ways, and the listeners they serve are different as well.” She adds that iMA is getting help from the NPR research department to develop the survey.