Station Bento: A preview of the next big thing

By Amy Baroch, PBS Station Products & Innovation

By now, you’ve probably heard us refer to a new PBS Interactive product called Station Bento. Powered by Merlin and still in the early stages of development, Station Bento is a tool for creating station web sites, managing online content, and leveraging Merlin and COVE data in ways that can benefit local stations.

Station Bento, also referred to as Merlin 2.0, is a CPB-funded project that will meet the needs of stations from across the PBS system. Designed to be a flexible solution for stations seeking to develop strong web presences, Station Bento will help stations spend less time trying to keep up with technology, and more time creating strong online content.

Current development for Station Bento includes three implementations:

Bento Complete is a full turn-key solution for creating robust station web sites, fully hosted by PBS. Using site templates, layout tools, and plugins provided by PBS, stations will be able to quickly build sites with custom branding and configuration.

Bento Plus are Bento powered pages developed to make it easier for stations to gather content from across the PBS system via Merlin and COVE and present it within customizable layouts on existing station sites. These pages will be backed by an easy-to-use CMS and fully hosted by PBS.

Open Bento is for stations seeking to develop independent solutions and apps. Open Bento will provide developer access to the Merlin and COVE APIs, as well as the Bento source code. It will also facilitate collaboration and access to the PBS developer community.

Access to Station Bento will be through the Merlin Administrative Tool, and by using the Merlin API, content can be pulled from anywhere across the PBS system and can also be shared. For example, if a station doesn’t have the resources to create its own unique content, it can still provide its audience with fresh content pulled from the Merlin API such as interviews with the hottest film stars from WHYY’s Flicks, delicious potato puffball recipes from WGBH’s Daily Dish, or breaking news stories from PBS NewsHour.

Product development is already underway but we need your help. In addition to a select group of Alpha Test Stations, we are hoping that ALL PBS stations will participate in testing pieces of Bento along the way to a launch-able product. A top goal with Station Bento is to have this product built by stations since the product is for stations. If you are interested in learning more about Station Bento or helping us test and develop the product, please let us know by sending an email or adding a comment below.

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