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Station Spotlight: TPT Captures Minnesota

By Kelsey Savage, PBS Interactive

Capture Minnesota Project
Like each local station, every state has its own personality and substance. TPT’s Capture Minnesota project taps into the passion that people feel for their home state by asking them to submit photographs that represent the quintessential Minnesota.

The project, which started in August, is “a celebration of our entire state”, according to John Daenzer the Vice President of Interactive Media at Twin Cities Public Television. ”We love where we live, and we know many, many very talented photographers do, too. We also were confident that they would appreciate an online place to share their work and enjoy the contributions of others just like them. The response has been extraordinary.”

Currently, after four months of operation, about 50,000 photos have been uploaded by both professional and recreational photographers. Almost 8,000 users have cast 2 million votes and generated over 80,000 comments. How did TPT generate such an enthusiastic response? Jessi Foell, Interactive Content Coordinator at TPT says, “We announced it to our staff first to get the ball rolling since we have a lot of great photographers in house. From there, we did on-air promotion, social media promotion and ads in our newsletter, magazine and website.”

In September, TPT found another way to drum up participation around the Capture Minnesota site by offering a “Challenge” section (http://www.captureminnesota.com/challenges). In a round robin-esque voting style, users are shown two photos and asked to pick their favorite based on that challenge’s theme. Past themes have included topical events, like “State Fair” (http://www.captureminnesota.com/challenges/state-fair), or open ended categories, such as the color blue (http://www.captureminnesota.com/challenges/the-color-blue-3). Watch out though, because the beautiful photos and sophisticated ballot system make it easy to slip into a voting trance.


Of course, curating such an expansive online library of photographs has not come without its struggles. One challenge, Daenzer explained, was to figure out how to house all the user generated photos. Instead of creating their own system, TPT decided to collaborate with Pediment Publishing. Pediment handles a majority of the technical aspects needed to run Capture Minnesota and was also able to help TPT customize the website through branding.

In addition, users can grant TPT permission to use photographs they upload, resulting in a bonus to the web and design teams promoting the project.

Capture Minnesota Metrics
“We initially considered how we might tackle something like this by building our own tool. But after looking at what that would take and considering the service that Pediment offered, we decided it was smarter to customize their solution with our branding and use their tool to run the project,” Daenzer says, adding some advice for other stations facing a similar decision. “Given the complexity of a system like this – I’d recommend that stations seriously think through the implications of building their own solution before they do that. It might be smart for them because they control the whole thing, but it’s also nice to work with a partner who handles a lot of the execution of the program.”

The partnership between TPT and Pediment will also result in a book, due to be released at the end of April 2012, which showcases the top photos and might even result in a second book that will hit the shelves during the 2012 holiday season.

With so many photos to choose from, which ones do these Minnesotans feel best celebrate their home. Foell says, “I’d have to say the category that captures the spirit of Minnesota is Landscape (http://www.captureminnesota.com/categories/landscapes). There are breathtaking photos of Minnesota’s landscape that are almost unreal. They are a great example of what people love about this state.”


The Station Spotlight series looks at #localpbs stations and the projects they are working on to highlight the innovative landscape of public media. If you would like to share your station's latest digital efforts, please contact pbsi_stationservices@pbs.org.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing the work on our project! We hope it helps other stations find ways to celebrate the work of folks in their areas, as well.

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  2. Thanks so much for this write up. We are considering working with Capture. I'm going to share this with our staff -- these details are really helpful.

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