Really interesting NY Times piece about a company with a mesh network approach to covering cities with free wifi. Turns out that putting transmitters on light poles isn’t practical, which reflects what I learned trying the free wifi in Mountain View. It’s as practical as lighting a city with outdoor lights. Tends to leave big shadows in buildings. Instead, the startup, Meraki Networks, propses to create a mesh of homes that share their Internet connections.
There’s a conference for public radio stations at the end of the month in Boston. I want to speak there, and there’s a chance I might, but in case not, there are a few ideas I wanted to insert in the flow, after blogging, podcasting, and extrapolate towards what I think will happen in the 2008 election, and the role public radio can play.
First, I’d like to offer hearty congratulations to public radio for doing such an excellent job of embracing podcasting. Their programming makes the most sense, imho, for podcasting, they have few of the licensing problems that commercial media have. As the Internet is used more to distribute content, whether streamed or via MP3, the role of the local broadcaster is diminished. There is nothing to be done about this, no point struggling against it. There’s no way we’re going back to the terrestrial broadcast model, the producers of the shows need distribution less and less, that’s just a fact. In other words, there’s some mopping up to do, and I think it will be done, and there is no shortage of controversy here, but that’s not what I came to talk about.
The political system in the US has yet to make the big transition that the Internet will cause. The candidates are still raising huge amounts of money to buy time on the commercial TV and radio networks. All this activity basically routes around non-commercial public media, which may play a small role in introducing the candidates to sources of money, but of course it doesn’t get a dime of the political advertising bonanza. However, this is good, because public radio, unlike commercial media, doesn’t have the conflict of interest that comes with it. As with podcasting, public radio can be the first to embrace the new model. There’s nothing in the way.
The new model, which I think of as a glass turned upside down, reverses the roles of candidate and the electorate. Instead of candidates putting up a superficial image that has nothing to do with who they are or what their policies will be (famously, Bush’s promise of no nation building, an example) the voters decide what their issues are, and then go shopping for a candidate. I believe the entire political system is going to re-form around this simple idea. It’s like the New Hampshire or Iowa process, gone national. The voter is the decider, the politician a vendor, the voter is the policy-maker, the politician an implementor. The voter is a customer, and the voter is a thinker and organizer. In this mix, money plays a smaller role than it does today. Maybe even an unimportant role. This is my hope, but we’ll see how it plays out.
What this means for public radio is that it should be seeking more programming from today’s listeners, because that’s where the new ideas will be coming from. The staff should do more facilitation, editing, training, outreach. The voice of public radio should be, surprise, the public. I believe this will happen whether or not public radio embraces this concept, but as with podcasting, it works so much better when we work together.
I am not advocating an instant change, nor is one possible or even desirable. My weekly listens include many public radio shows (there would be more if shows like Fresh Air and Morning Ediiton were available as podcasts). I love the flashback shows, and story of the week. But the most futuristic of the public radio podcast offerings is This I Believe, the show that gives a voice to the listener, and that’s all it does. We need more public radio like that.
Now, if I can give a speech at the conference, I’ll elaborate on these thoughts. If not, this is my stake in the ground. I don’t doubt for a minute that this is the theme of media for the 2008 election. I’ve given the idea to every candidate that has been willing to hear them. Now I’d like to give them to the media. Thanks for listening.
PS: Hey, Fresh Air is now available as a podcast. That’s a big deal. 🙂
In America we love our lawyers so much, these days when kids have a playground fight there could be a lawsuit against the kid who prevails. And be careful who you choose to represent you, because they could sue you for their own malpractice. I’m sure it’s happened, somewhere.
That’s why I’ve become a fan of a website written by a lawyer called Overlawyered. Great stuff. Today they explain how having a “Super Bowl Party” can get you in trouble with the NFL. You can have a Big Game Party, no problem there, but Super Bowl is a trademark of the National Football League.
Concise explanation of why they suck.
“Panels are competitions between people who, deprived of a chance to say what they have to say, resort to pitching products.
“Everyone walks out into the hall grumbling about how everything is happening in the hall.”