This week, in our continuing series to highlight local station projects, we hear from Chad Davis of KNME on their science education site, Science Central and related Science Cafes.
1. Please describe the Science Cafés and Science Central for our readers.
Science Central is a local, KNME created and managed website devoted to covering local science.
The Science Cafes are an extension of that site, and are lectures by local scientists. We usually have an open invitation to the public to join us at the events where we screen all or part of a PBS science program (often Nova episodes) and follow that with a local lecture to bring the concepts home to our local market. Those lectures are taped and posted online.
2. What station or community need are you fulfilling with this project?
New Mexico is a big science market, with a couple of national labs...defense contractors...extra-terrestrials. Lots of science happening here and we feel this site is tapping into that local interest.
3. Generally, describe the resources it took to create the project, and the resources required to maintain it.
The design was done in-house about 15 months ago and we've been slowly remodeling since then. In fact, it's now due for a complete overhaul in the next couple of months as we integrate it with the backend of our video archive. That overhaul will take a couple of weeks. Maintenance, usually involves a couple days a month, depending on the amount of science content we have flowing in to the site.
KNME has one developer, one designer and one multimedia specialist on staff who are in charge of all web initiatives (including social media).
Much of the content we commission, acquire or produce. For science pieces we pay about $750 per 2-5 minute piece. But for the the Science Cafes specifically, which are done in-house, we need a shooter, editor, tech to aggregate files to the server and a developer/designer to process onto site.
4. How can this project be adopted by other stations?
Anyone interested in specific code can just drop me a line. Beyond that, I think the key is to talk with you TV programmer (they know your market and its tastes quite well) and with your education/outreach department to determine community needs. From there it's about being strategic and focusing on content that serves your particular community.
5. What sage words of wisdom do you have for other stations who may want to put in motion something similar? Also, what is the most important thing you learned NOT to do?
The design and development were straight-forward. The critical element is the content.
There's a lot of talk about how you can just take a FlipCam and create public media. That is technically true, but if anyone can do public media then our value proposition (as stations) has to be doing it better. To some extent that means investing in gear and skill that can serve as the core of your new media initiative. There's still room for FlipCams, but they should fill out the portfolio of content, not serve as its core. Also, there is a tendency to 'run and gun' with new media. We've found this is possible but again, doesn't differentiate you. Lighting and audio are most important technical parameters in terms of a shoot. But also, before you start, decide on scope of shoot (i.e 1 person or multiple) and then plan project accordingly (i.e; if you go w/1 person, you must disregard capturing individual audio). And good journalistic practice still applies, script your story as best you can before going into the field and know your dramatic question. Your piece will have less waste when you're done editing and more impact when you publish it.
6.Was the project fun?
It was fun to work on something no one else was working on, to flex creativity and try to think innovatively. And it's cool to be in touch with cutting edge science. We were just asked to hold off on posting our latest Science Cafe video because the research presented was so new that it won't be published until the fall. So we're not simply working with retreaded concepts here, we're working with folks who are expanding human knowledge.
7. What do you feel is the next big thing in online media?
A working business model. Okay, that should be next but I don't think public media has yet honed in on how to create more value than it captures. We're getting there, but slowly. And obviously the economy is going to put a lot in stasis for another year or so.
But strategically I think it's important to watch the initiatives on broadband deployment (especially 4G wireless connectivity). If you look at the adoption stats for netbooks (7% penetration in one year) its clear there is a demand for portable internet connectivity with a form factor larger than a smartphone but less weighty than a laptop. The fact that you can actually store most of your data in 'the cloud' (if you're comfortable with that) means you don't really need to lug tons of gear. So It feels like we're in an upward spiral with technology encouraging higher speeds of connectivity and vice versa and that's good for public media companies so long as the network remains neutral.
Also, semantic search is continuing to make strides forward and that's worth keeping an eye on in the next year. I just read about a new search tool called Wolfram Alpha. Hard to know what to make of it yet, but it's an example of the smarter search that is on the horizon.
Tactically, keep an eye on Silverlight. Flash has been the default streaming app for the web for a couple of years now, but Microsoft is refining Silverlight quickly and is finally starting to bundle it with other software. That's going to increase it's market penetration that much faster. Already, NBC is committed to using it to stream the next Winter Olympics, and Netflix is using it for their online streaming. That's just the beginning. Anyone who is in charge of maintaining an archive of .fmv or .mp4 files will need to start weighing the cost/benefits of additionally encoding in Silverlight soon.
And in design, I'm seeing more and more people playing with the third dimension in design (zooming in and out). I think down the road, structured, two, three, four column web pages will give way to pages that you can move in, through and out of...that you can manipulate like you do windows on your desktop. It's hard to imagine structure completely going by the wayside, after all when you want someone to give online you want it to be straight-forward and linear. But there will be site functions where you literally want to invite the user "in." And I think we're getting there.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Chad! If you have questions for Chad, please post them below.
If your station has an interesting project you'd like to share with the system in an upcoming post, or you've stumbled on something on another station's site that you'd like to know more about, shoot us an email! We hope to make the station spotlight a regular feature on the SP&S blog.