The SPI Files: Montana West, NHPTV

by Michael Smith, Station Products & Innovation

Last week on the SPI Files, we got the inside scoop on Eric Freeland, Director of Online Programming & Promotion for PBS Interactive in Arlington, VA. This week, we're moving up to New Hampshire to speak with NHP-TV's Integrated Media Producer Montana West.

Q: Who are you and what do you do at NHPTV?
A: My name is Montana West and I am the Integrated Media Producer for NHPTV, which basically means I’m the “web guy”. I am responsible for all facets of our online presence, our web site, our online video (encoding/posting), I manage and support our social media /blogging efforts, our e-communications, I am also responsible for a fair bit of online graphic design as needed… you get the idea.

Q: How long have you been at NHPTV?
A: 4.5 years now… time flies.

Q: Before NHPTV, what did you do?
A: I owned my own business out of Brunswick, Maine providing web sites, IT support and computer education to individuals, businesses and educational institutions.

Q: What skills and expertise did you gain in your previous work that you were able to integrate into your role at NHPTV?
A: Teaching web programming to high school students helped me master my web programming abilities (you never learn something as good as when you teach it), also helped master my patience, which helps when teaching people new things and in pretty much everything else also.

Q: How has NHPTV managed to remain so successful over the past 50+ years?
A: Great question… I have no idea!
My personal opinion: A dedicated community of volunteers / viewers / donors. Also we differentiate our schedule from other regional PBS stations because we’re in an overlap market. Speaking as a viewer, our schedule always seems to have an advantage over the alternative.

Q: How is NHPTV engaging with social media like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr? What tips can you offer stations looking to expand into different social media outlets?
A: Especially after recent layoffs at NHPTV, we are stretched pretty thin staff wise. But we recognize the importance of social media and how it allows the station to have a voice and an “e-tangible” presence online. Our primary social media focus is on our main Facebook page, from there we duplicate a lot of our posts from Facebook to Twitter, occasionally specializing Tweets to try to look like we know what we’re doing.

We also manage a YouTube for select videos and a flickr account for our photos. We do have a tumblr that I personally manage and occasionally reblog select posts of others to try (with moderate success) to keep a community feel, but it’s mainly populated automatically from our Posterous.

As for tips, I’d say get out there and give it a try when/wherever you can. Find other stations and likeminded organizations and connect with them whenever possible over different platforms and do what you can to keep your feet moving.

Q: What is the next big thing for NHPTV?
A: 1-word… “Plastics”.
Honestly we would like to focus on making our video as available as possible to all formats and devices, both live events and video on-demand. We live stream our spring auction every year and the feedback we had most often this past year is “why can’t I see it on my iPad” (our live stream uses an adobe flash video player).

Q: What do you see as the future for public media and how does NHPTV fit into that vision?
A: Wow… another great question.
I think public media will learn to thrive off of small donation widgets that make giving money super easy and stay local content wise. It’s going to be lean for a while, but NHPTV is supple and ready for the future.

Okay, now a few fun "quick-fire" Q's:
  1. iPhone or Android? Android

  2. Dogs or Cats? cats

  3. Elmo or Grover? Grover

  4. Blog platform of choice: WordPress, tumblr, blogspot – but not necessarily in that order.

  5. I am currently listening to… Tenacious D

  6. I am currently reading… George Martin’s A Dance with Dragons

  7. I’m currently watching (TV, film, etc)… lots of PBS (kids with my son and science for me) along with some HBO series (True Blood, game of thrones, this sort of thing).

  8. Most overused phrase: “I should have it done by day’s end”

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