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I'm an assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I teach and research how news sites can better reach their audiences. I received my Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri where I was one of the founding editors of MyMissourian.com, a citizen journalism site for Columbia, Mo. Before graduate school, I worked as a community newspaper editor in Southern Utah and Southern California.

Sick Day rants: Lowe’s, PBS, and Blip.fm

Just two days after making my grand pronouncement and joining NaBloPoMo, I’ve already missed a day. I have a good excuse. I was home tending to a sick wife and sick children. But I still could have snuck away for 30 minutes to post because I had a lot of time to think sitting on the couch watching hours of PBS Kids. So here are some of my thoughts:

  • PBS Sponsorship: I watched enough Dinosaur Train, Curious George, and Sid the Science Kid (and I had to embed one of the goofy songs from this show below. It’s creepy how realistically these computer animated puppets move) yesterday to notice how PBS handles its advertisers. I shouldn’t say advertisers because you can’t put a an in a PBS show, but you can “underwrite them,” and PBS has specific guidelines on how. What the viewer basically notices are short blurbs at the beginning and end of shows about who the sponsors are, without mentioni ng a specific product or making outrageous claims about the company’s brand. For example, the Chuck E. Cheese underwriting blurb shows a bunch of children playing, NOT at Chuck E. Cheese, but in a park. It does feature the tagline “Where a kid can be a kid.” I’m wondering if news organizations would be able to increase the sponsorship opportunities they could offer if they adopted similar standards.
  • Lowe’s Web Improvement: Being at home all day, I got to stare at the million home improvement projects I need to do, and hear the incessant drip, drip, drip of the shower faucet in the master bedroom. It made me think about how I would redesign Lowe’s Web site. Usually when I need home improvement advice, I hit the message boards. Why doesn’t Lowes.com have message boards? Even better, why doesn’t Lowes.com have moderated message boards? If I were Lowe’s trying to win the hardware wars, I’d take all of my in-house experts and ask them to spend one hour a day on the boards. I’d encourage them to answer questions honestly. They could suggest products the store sells. They could even put a hold on the product so a customer could just pop in and pick it up. They could even ask customers to send photos of their jobs that could help them identify solutions. I’ve actually done this with my brother. This would make their site less about sales, which is all it does now, and more about community, which could only help strengthen the brand. Just a thought …
  • Even better than Pandora?: A few friends recently have introduced to me Blip.fm, a site that allow users to create their own radio stations from publically accessible music. I’ve been listening to a lot of my friends’ stations lately, and I have to admit, I like them a little better than Pandora. It seems you have a bit more control over what you can listen to. In fact, you can see more than the next song on the playlist. Every once in a while, the song you see isn’t available, probably due to DRM issues, but it’s easy to skip to the next one. I like that it also incorporates videos when available. But more than anything, I get a stronger sense of community from Blip.fm because I’m interacting with friends. I’ll always appreciate Pandora for fighting the good fight, but I wonder if they’d have more help if they let listeners connect more.

3 Responses to “Sick Day rants: Lowe’s, PBS, and Blip.fm”

  1. Bob #

    Ugh. Hope the sick hasn’t claimed you as well, Hans.

    I’m a big fan of NPR’s underwriters because even the general visuals you describe are stripped out. There’s just that signature nasal guy (I need to find out his name) talking about the Medtronic foundation.

    What’s fascinating/scary to me, though, is that I know so many of their ads (and sites) by heart through simple repetition. For example, without any reference I can tell you that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s website is macfound.org. I’ve got no idea what they do, but I know where to find out!

    November 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm
  2. I know what you are saying. One of these days I’m going to have to look up the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation thanks to all their PBSKids sponsorship.

    November 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm
  3. Oh, and I should have noticed that NPR does the same thing, but I guess I’m outing myself that I don’t listen to NPR much. I sincerely try, but I usually end up switching to the rock station. I have the NPR app on my iPod Touch and I’ve downloaded a few podcasts too, but they remain unheard.

    Good catch though Bob.

    November 15, 2009 at 9:29 pm

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