Posted by: ateedub | July 14, 2008

Investigating ‘The Conversation’ at My Local NPR Station

WAMU, my local NPR station, recently launched it’s own social network powered by Ning. Creatively called “The Conversation” (perhaps a shout-out to Joseph Jaffe), it’s touted as a way for listeners to add to the news coverage. It’s obviously also a way for WAMU to keep listeners engaged, not only promoting their programming, but also providing additional opportunities to give.

I commend WAMU for seeking feedback from their listeners. This is an important business function gained from social media, and it’s what consumers now expect. I am far more likely to contact them online, than by calling in to provide a comment. But I’m not sure that I would be an avid enough commenter/participant to want to sign up and join a community around this.

But I thought I would check it out, support my local NPR station, and maybe learn a thing or two as well.

Brendan Sweeney, a producer at WAMU, posted a question about rising food prices on May 15th. There are now 14 replies, including replies to replies by Sweeney. Some of the topics suggested are pretty interesting: Carlito, a non-WAMU employee brought up the idea of high fructose corn syrup being the basis of our cheap food in the US. Sweeney and colleague Kay discuss some interesting angles on high fructose corn syrup, and Jo Arpee chimes in with the full contact information for a nutrition expert at the University of Maryland.

This info raised my suspicions that Arpee might be a press officer at University of Maryland, but a quick Google search suggests she’s a nutritionist herself. Sweeney and Kay’s initial public discussion does spark further comments and gets members of the public involved.

It seems the original discussion originated out of an episode of the Kojo Nnamdi show that aired on April 10th.

Kojo Nnamdi Show: The Global Impact of Rising Food Prices – April 10, 2008

They followed it up with a show on June 2nd: Kojo Nnamdi Show: Local Effects of Rising Global Food Prices – June 2, 2008 So Sweeney’s original post makes a lot of sense.

If you take time to listen to the segment, you’ll see that the high fructose corn syrup is part of the lead to the story and part of the explanation of the economics of school lunch menus by Susan Levin. Really fascinating stuff. Another user comment on organics developed into a guest on the show who talks about developing a $60/week organic food budget.

From this one example, I’m happily surprised by the impact WAMU’s Conversation is having on its programming. I now plan to join The Conversation at wamu.org!

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