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The SPI Files: Lauren Saks, PBS Arts Online

By Rachel Lim, PBS Station Products & Innovation

There are so many great projects happening at PBS and around the system that we want to share. Starting today, we’ll be launching a new blog series, The SPI Files, featuring some of the people who make it all happen. This week, I caught up with Lauren Saks, Senior Manager of PBS Arts Online.

How long have you been at PBS?

3 years in August. I started on the Engage team, where I helped PBS build its powerful Twitter following, blogged about Josh Groban and people that keep chickens as pets, and hosted a slew of live chats. I also helped stations with their social media strategy.

Before PBS, what did you do?
Grad school for new media. I researched war photographs and the different types of imagery that appears in the mainstream online media vs. military blogs or citizen journalist-run news sites.

If you didn't work in public media, what would you be doing?

I’d own a pie shop.

Explain PBS Arts in Twitter-style, 140 characters or less.
Classic and cutting edge arts, from PBS national, local and web-original.

How can stations collaborate with the PBS Arts project?
PBS Arts online hosts a monthly exhibit or collection of station content. A station gets to curate the collection to highlight the arts in their area. We have seen public works of art in New York, visited arts institutions in Cincinnati, questioned the 'literature-ness' of Gone with the Wind with GPB from Georgia and more. I am always looking for more stations to highlight in the monthly spotlight.

What is the next big thing for PBS Arts?

PBS Arts has just launched a web-exclusive series called Off Book. The bi-weekly series explores cutting edge art and the people that make it. We are very excited to put the show on many social media platforms to grow our audience. You can see the first episode on Light Painting right now!

I loved browsing the Flickr and YouTube submissions from under the “Contribute Arts” tab. Tell us more about your experience with User Generated Content and any tips or best practices for most effectively leveraging this kind of interactive content.

User generated art has always been a foundational goal for PBS Arts, but we have only dipped our toe in the water. Going forward, we hope to really focus our efforts by asking for specific kinds of art, as it relates to other content on our site. That way, we can foster conversation that is relevant to both the audience and the content.

How is PBS Arts engaging with social media like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr?
PBS Arts has had tremendous success with content promoted on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, Facebook is by far our number 1 traffic driver. For Off Book, we are using a show-specific Twitter, as well as Tumblr and Vimeo. These channels let us give our content a personality and a voice. We can also find existing audiences on these platforms that may not be a PBS.org visitor. They will still see our content and our brand, even if it is not on their site. Hopefully we can encourage them to become PBS.org visitors as well. I hope to have many more lessons learned soon.

What do you see as the future for public media and how does PBS Arts fit into that vision?
PBS Arts, both on TV and online, aims to bring the arts to everyone, despite their geographic location. And no one does the arts like PBS. I hope we can sustain and build our arts offerings so that everyone can continue to have a bit of creativity in their lives, even if it is just a snippet of video from the site.

And – just for fun – a few quickfire questions:

iPhone or Android? iphone.
Dogs or cats? Dog. Not just any dog. Superhound Ziggy!
Blog platform of choice? Tumblr. Just starting but already loving.
Elmo or Grover? Grover. Like the furry blue friend, I try to shy away from contractions (any in my answers above?)
I am currently listening to... Elvis – Burnin' Love
I am currently reading... Just Kids by Patti Smith
I’m currently watching... Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Most overused phrase: Word.

Know someone whose SPI File you’d like to see? Let us know and we’ll feature them in a future post. Have questions for Lauren? Leave them in the comments below.

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