The Raising Of The Social Media Bar

Met with Jennifer Ferro, General Manager of KCRW, this morning.  Got a tour of the studios and met a lot of amazing people.  They have been considered to be at the forefront as one of the most influential  radio stations – commercial or public – and seeing the direction in which they are going is mind-blowing. But they should also be known as the ones who are re-defining what Social Media and Community can be.

They are truly in a different class – one that most corporations would “give their left foot” for.  We’re not talking about just a Facebook or Twitter Account.  We’re not even really just talking about digital media here.  We are talking about intrinsic values that have moved to the core of everything they do. 

What was (and still is) a public radio station working out of a basement of Santa Monica College is heard around the world via KCRW’s website and mobile app, but most people already know that.  The influence on the music industry is palpable as many first-hears of bands are on the station, the music they play is often heard on TV and in Film, and they have a larger number of shows that have been picked up by other NPR stations nationally. But many already know that as well.

What’s so impressive is the true community that has been cultivated through traditional media and now even more in the digital realm.  For a free radio station to generate enough loyalty from its listeners to entice them to actually pay for membership (there’s over 56,000 currently), its outstanding, but they do so much more.  Here’s just a few things that make this Community rich:

  • Their website provides multiple streams for free access to the shows worldwide. And, also has blogs, podcasts, forums, stored music programs and much more;
  • They have multiple apps;
  • Their extensive library is pretty insane (and we didn’t see all of it) with their librarian, Eric Lawrence, repeating the mantra that they will listen to every piece of music that is submitted;
  • They sponsor music and arts events throughout LA and the world;
  • Host many cultural events that allow guests to meet and share ideas and grow as a community;
  • Everything is authentic based on what makes sense for the program;
  • And, perhaps one of the greatest things (but also one that could lead to stress for Jennifer and the staff) is the huge outpouring of support from the community. Certainly something that most organizations would love, but there’s got to be frustration that there’s not enough time in the day, days in the week or staff to facilitate every fabulous opportunity.

One of the newer elements that has Jennifer and the Producers excited is a new office where the producers of most of their popular shows now sit side-by-side and share ideas regardless of the style or genre of show they produce.  It creates a much more natural connection between shows,  subjects, guests and, ultimately the community.  This new office has only been in place for a few months, but listeners have been able to tell the difference just from listening – with a much wider array of people participating in programs like the Guest DJ program, or on Good Food or DNA (their Design and Architecture show.) Jennifer decided to make the change to foster the sharing of ideas – and it truly shows.

What they do on the air and in the real world provides for a truly brilliant community and brings social media to such a level that you can only tip your hat and aspire to create an iota of what the team of employees, volunteers and listeners have created over years of communication, trust and the spirit of exploration.

Hopefully, someone will be able to do an in-depth case study of what they are achieving because the bar has been set high, but the inspiration is even greater.


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