We’ve talked a lot about what the Public Media Platform (PMP) will do, but for founding Partner American Public Media (APM), it’s all about how they’re using the PMP right now.
Since early this year, APM has been testing out the PMP from start to finish by pushing content (like their nationally-distributed Marketplace and The Splendid Table) into the PMP and then having their network of stations pull it back out to populate their websites. This means that content is basically being pushed into the PMP on an hourly basis and has been for much of the year, according to Peter Karman, APM’s Senior Digital Architect and their principal liaison to the PMP (and also the inaugural chair of our Technical Management Committee).
“Each of the Partners picked their own pilot project for the PMP, and APM decided to test the content life cycle,” explains Peter.
In addition to being a national distributor of content, APM has multiple regional stations across Minnesota and they also own and operate Southern California Public Radio (SCPR)/KPCC and Classical South Florida (CSF). Each of these entities under the APM umbrella has their own content management system (CMS). APM inherited all of these systems—five in total at last count—which run the gamut from WordPress to Drupal to a homegrown Ruby on Rails CMS. The diversity in size, CMSs, and technical resources available (i.e. staff) within the APM network can be likened to what we see in the public media system today.
In many ways, this “evolution through acquisition” (as Peter calls it) makes APM the perfect test case for the PMP.
To accommodate these five CMSs and also to streamline the “push” part of the PMP process, Peter and his team designed what they call the Barn, which is essentially the centralized location for all APM content before it’s redistributed to the PMP.
Not only does this serve a technical purpose, but also according to Peter, it has forced APM to normalize data across all these systems—making sure things are tagged consistently and that metadata is the same across the board. Adds Peter, “… all the sort of normalization of data that you have to do to make it appear that we have one central CMS when in fact we have five of them.”
Even though the Barn was originally built expressly for the PMP, APM is excited by its potential. In the process of building the Barn, they realized it’s basically a really fast search engine—like Google for APM content. Building it allowed them to do other things with it in addition to push content to the PMP (for example, all of the story pages on the MPR News site are now largely driven by the Barn).
“Because we’re able to dynamically create all this content on the fly, whether it comes from the CMS that drives MPR News or from the CMS that drives SCPR or Marketplace or wherever, all that comes in at once and we’re able to get at it quickly,” says Peter.
SCPR has also been using the PMP to receive Marketplace. Here’s how it works: in their CMS, SCPR’s content creators, writers, and editors can go in and search for a certain Marketplace story. Their interface lets them find it and when they punch in their ID, it automatically populates all of the fields in their CMS from the PMP’s content. When they click “publish,” it shows up on SCPR’s website, with a link back to the original Marketplace story at the bottom.
Though it’s fantastic to see all of the tech pieces falling into place for APM, PMP Executive Director Kristin Calhoun has always said that the Public Media Platform isn’t a “technical project.” For Peter, this also rings true to some extent.
He says, “APM has really seen the PMP as an opportunity for the big media players to collaborate in a way that we haven’t been able to in the past. In some ways, coming together with a common API is a way of facilitating conversations about how to organize our content and who do we make it available to, etc. . . . and that’s been a rewarding opportunity.”
He often gets asked by colleagues:
“Who’s going to have access to our content? What are the financial and licensing implications for putting all our content in this same big pool as everyone else’s content?”
What I tell them is there’s nothing that is going to be in the PMP that isn’t available somewhere else. It’s just that the PMP makes it easier to get at and also helps people avoid licensing pitfalls because things will be done in a standardized way.
Public media is always hamstrung by its lack of its tech people and resources, so now your station only has to implement the PMP once. I think, in the long term, it will be a huge cost savings for [stations] because no longer will they have to support and understand multiple ways of getting content. It’s in many ways like the satellite system for radio, but for digital content. That’s what I’d want people to know…it’s everything in one spot, one API to learn… your developers will thank you.
Want the nerdy details of how the Barn works? Read Peter’s recent blog post.