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What's Your Digital Strategy: Alaska Public Media


By Jen Carter | Sr. Associate | PBS Digital


In this installment of What's Your Digital Strategy, we talked with Pat Yack, Chief Content Officer for Alaska Public Media.

Having worked in public media for almost five years, as many public media professionals can attest to, Pat has worn and continues to wear many hats. While at Alaska Public Media, he's done everything in Digital, from helping develop the overall strategies to posting Iditarod updates.

We interviewed Pat and asked him to reflect on his station's digital infrastructure and strategy, and how the station has taken their definition of goals for digital innovation and implemented it in interesting ways.

How many station professionals are devoted to Digital at Alaska Public? 
We have taken a different approach, I think, from many, if not most, stations. We have integrated digital duties to a broad cross-section of our staff. We picked WordPress as our CMS for a variety of reasons, but chief among them was its simplicity. It offered us the chance to have many staffers post to our site.

Do you feel your station has a digital strategy? 
I would say we have a general one. It embraced the reality that we are a joint licensee. We were the home of a radio news network. We were working closely with the Alaska Community Foundation on a major citizen engagement initiative (TownSquare 49). We also knew that we wanted to focus on news and our vibrant and diverse local programs.

What would you say the strategy’s core principles are? 
Keep it simple. Keep it relevant. Keep it changing. Keep it locally focused.

What was the biggest development or focus to come out of the strategy discussions? Was this surprising to you? 
It is a balancing act to maintain focus and, at the same time, to appropriately weave in new and sometimes competing demands. As part of this overall strategy, we wanted to rethink our local role in producing for television. Instead of trying to recapture a past period, we decided to launch a video renaissance that centered on video for the web. This allowed us to rethink workflow and equipment, and to focus on telling stories for new and traditional audiences. No, it was not surprising. This was a well-articulated goal.

How has your strategy or digital focus shifted since the principals were decided on? 
We do not try to do what we did before in hopes of capturing an era that has passed. We don’t think about whether a project is “good television.” We think more about whether a project is an example of “good storytelling.” But every effort is made to tell the story across platforms. So, for instance, Indie Alaska episodes are posted on Mondays, broadcast on radio and television throughout the week.

Do you have any best practices, resources or recommendations for stations looking to create, enhance, improve or enforce a digital strategy at a local station? 
We worry less about “best practices” and more about “did a project work for us.” We are still in the experimental phase, where we are trying a variety of initiatives in hopes of learning what is valuable to our listeners and viewers.

I’ve explored available “best practices” and have discovered we are all creating new ones. We are comfortable in taking risks, learning from them, and moving ahead.

Recommendations to others?
1) Develop alignment between board, senior management, and staff.
2) Take calculated risks and learn from the outcomes.
3) Talk with viewers and listeners to see if you are providing something valuable.
4) Market, market, market. It’s not good enough to just create some new program or initiative.

Looking forward, are there areas, subjects or topics speaking to the broader key points of the digital strategy, which you’d like to incorporate or expand on in the coming months? 
We need to integrate our growing and very dynamic social media efforts with our larger, broader, traditional broadcasting promotions.

If you had to describe your station’s digital strategy in one word what would it be and why? 
Be Fearless. We are not afraid to fail.

Any additional comments or resources you’d like to share relevant to this topic? 
We appreciate being part of a number of PBS initiatives and value them all. Being part of the PBS Digital Studios family has been a big help to us. It is an exciting and challenging time to be in the business.

Share your station's digital strategy by contacting your SPI Rep or pbsi_spi@pbs.org for more information.

Pat Yack works with a talented team of storytellers and broadcasters at KSKA-FM, KAKM-TV, the Alaska Public Radio Network, and Alaskapublic.org in Anchorage. They serve most of Southcentral Alaska with local, state, national, and international news and programs. Pat is also a member of the PBS Station Digital Advisory Council, which serves as a collaborative and supportive partner in helping PBS create interactive products and services.