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The SPI Files: Jeannie Ericson, iMA

By Amy Baroch, Station Products & Innovation

Last week we learned more about what WUCF is doing down in central Florida with our feature on Grant J. Heston. This week we venture a little further out in public media to catch up with Jeannie Ericson at the Integrated Media Association (iMA).

Who are you and what do you do at iMA?
I am the Executive Director for iMA. I do what a lot of small business owners do. I draft the vision and business plan; I contract partners to help with execution; I manage the accounting and forecasting (with help); I write web copy and press releases and I tweet; I manage the web site; I visit stations and conferences to get to know those in our industry; I brainstorm solutions to support our mission and figure out how to implement; I look for partnerships and collaborations; and I try to consume as much news and trend information about technology, public broadcasting, media, and other relevant industries as possible. Every day is different, which is precisely why I enjoy it so much!

How long have you been at iMA?
Since July/August, 2010

Before iMA, what did you do?
I was working at Public Broadcasting Atlanta (WABE & PBA30) to establish Lensonatlanta.org, the first regionally focused, online community for a major metro area. Prior to PBA I worked at the IBM Innovation Center where I managed a wide variety of strategic web and mobile-based initiatives for corporate clients.

If you didn't work in public media, what would you be doing?
I would likely be civically active in Atlanta. I love this community, and it’s important to me to be part of solving our challenges. I’d love to be involved with the Atlanta BeltLine project. The BeltLine is a 25 year, $2.8 billion project that will provide a network of public parks, multi-use trails, and transit along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor circling downtown and connecting 45 neighborhoods. The Atlanta BeltLine is the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment project currently underway in the United States. The appeal for me is not only the long-range positive impact on Atlanta, but it’s the intriguing challenge of coordinating economic factors,
environmental issues, transportation goals, historic and artistic interests, neighborhood and metro-wide public opinion, changing political winds, and on-going fundraising over the course of 25 years. A mind-boggling set of variables!

Explain iMA in Twitter-style, 140 characters or less.
iMA strives to enable collaboration/sharing and provide thought leadership/education to help #pubmedia innovate and improve efficiency.

iMA has been working really hard on the next conference at SXSW. What are some of the sessions and activities you are planning this year?
I’m really excited with the way the conference is coming together this year. We are planning some very focused tracks that will provide insights into the best of the best in pub media AND how the trends outside the industry can help us do a better job serving our communities. We’ll have a one day Executive Summit with discussions about stations becoming leaders in solving some of our more significant industry challenges. There will be a track dedicated to deep technical discussions, clinics, and presentations on topics and technologies like Drupal, HTML5, WordPress, Open Source Tools & Tricks, Advanced Analytics, Mobile Design, and more. And finally we’ll have sessions targeted at a Digital Management level audience around topics such as the Public Media Platform, Bento and NPR Digital Services interoperability, Social Media ROI, CRM Systems, What pub media can learn from Silicon Valley startups, the Business Case for Mobile DTV, and still lots more. We will start posting session details on our web site in the next couple of weeks as we confirm speakers. I’ve been really encouraged by the response so far!

So much is happening in public media right now and iMA has been lighting up a lot of good conversations via the Innovators Blog and Twitter. Have you discovered anything particularly exciting or surprising in social media lately?
Between our IBM grant for strategic use of social media to our partner session with NPR at ONA to the recent webinars around measuring success, I can say that I’m most excited to see the industry shifting away from “new fun gadget” mode and focusing more on the serious mission-oriented uses of the social media toolbox. To me social media has such a natural application for pub media with our mission of serving the community and such an incredibly loyal audience. From crowdsourcing and news source identification to general station communications to audiences helping promote pledge (“I pledged, did you?”) to cross promoting platforms to connecting with our audience in the spaces they choose, I am seeing more and more organizations tying their efforts to goals, measuring the effectiveness, and making changes based on hard data. I wouldn’t say this practice is pervasive, but there is definitely a shift occurring that is really encouraging. Social media is another tool in the toolbox, but it happens to be a tool that is tailor-made for pub media!

What is the next big thing for iMA?
We have about a dozen really exciting initiatives in the pipeline with several coming very soon. We are performing research and establishing baselines on industry mobile apps and sites and successful functionality that will be unveiled at the conference. We are working on providing analytics related education, which may be the most requested need. And we are beginning to piece together how to enable a technical community within pub media – working with national organizations and stations. This is a very high priority for iMA, but I want to make sure it can be done well and maintained before going for it.

What do you see as the future for public media and how does iMA fit into that vision?
I don’t mind reaching for the stars, so iMA aims to play a role in transitioning public media into a collaborative industry that pushes the boundaries of innovation on all viable platforms. We see public media professionals continuously exploring new opportunities and platforms for content creation and distribution, engaging audiences, generating revenue, and always measuring results. We envision a future where it’s natural to turn to industry peers to refine ideas, develop solutions collaboratively, and share resources. Becoming an industry that works together and recognizes and embraces a constantly changing landscape will allow us to serve our public better than ever before and cement our position as a vital community resource.

And – just for fun – a few quick-fire questions:

1. iPhone or Android? iPhone
2. Dogs or cats? Love both but my husband is allergic to cats so we have a dog
3. Blog platform of choice? Enjoying Tumblr
4. Elmo or Grover? Cookie monster
5. I am currently listening to… WABE in the a.m. / Beck channel on Pandora and thecurrent.org (oh, and WWOZ.org and KCRW iPad app, and … and …) during the day
6. I am currently reading… Wired (iPad) and Bicycling (hard copy mag) and 8 half read novels on my nightstand
7. I’m currently watching (TV, film, etc)… Frontline, Nova, NewsHour Dexter, Fringe, most any scifi movie/show I can find
8. Most overused phrase: Did you ever see the IBM ad for corporate bingo? Architecture, infrastructure, paradigm shift = BINGO! … I always thought that was hilarious! Seriously, though, I think “innovation” is the word du jour, so it has sadly lost its umph!

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