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Digital First Discussion from TechCon 2015



This post marks the first in a series on PBS Digital's presence at PBS TechCon 2015, in Las Vegas. Look for more posts in the coming weeks! 

This year’s PBS TechCon – my first! - marked a big step forward for PBS Digital.

With a special track of “digital sessions” throughout the conference relating specifically our team’s efforts, we were well represented in an event typically dominated by talk of broadcast specs, closed captions and SMPTE codes.

Admittedly, I was initially skeptical that we’d find a captive audience. Thanks primarily to the outreach efforts of our SPI team, however, our sessions were consistently packed with curious minds from across the PBS map.

Despite being precariously scheduled as the very last panel on Friday afternoon, my own session – an informal panel discussion about lessons learned from PBS Digital Studios (“Send in the Cats!”) – sparked thoughtful conversation about the hopes, obstacles, and successes of stations that have embarked on creating original, web-only video content.

Presenters Travis Gilmour of Video Dads (formerly Alaska Public Media, co-creator of Indie Alaska) and Chris Ostertag of KLRU (BBQ with Franklin, Austin City Limits) – cheerfully shared experiences from the frontlines of their own successful digital adventures on YouTube and beyond.







Some of the big takeaways from the hour:
  1. Treat YouTube for what it really is: the second-biggest search engine on the Internet, owned by the first-biggest search engine (Google). Your videos should utilize titles, tags, descriptions and accompanying art that reflect what viewers are actually searching for on YouTube. Google Analytics is your friend!
  2. Adopt the best practices of what already works well online. Keep your videos short, informative, conversational and as short as they can possibly be.
  3. Engage your digital audience in unique, meaningful ways. Platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo can be effective for not only raising production funds but also for creating lasting relationships with viewers who might not otherwise have encountered your station’s content.
  4. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Tap into your local communities to find compelling stories and talent. The PBS name still goes a long way both in getting access where other brands cannot and in the public perception of the quality of your content.
  5. Digital content is NOT competition for your broadcast content! Instead, consider it a means of expanding your reach to new audiences. This should be understood and clearly communicated at all levels within your organization.
As the line between broadcast and digital technology becomes hazier, conversations like those at this year’s TechCon are critical to both easing fears and encouraging adoption throughout the system.
Many digital pioneers are already doing awesome things at stations across the country (and if you’re reading the SPI blog, you probably are one of them!), so hopefully our presence will continue to grow at future TechCons.

P.S. Don’t forget – if your station is interested in applying for the PBS Digital Studios training grant, applications close April 24th. For more information, check out this SPI blog post.

Raymond Schillinger | Video Operations Manager | PBS Digital Studios

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