05 May 2009

PBS -- Cool with Teens???

When approaching a blog about some of the great things PBS does for youth and media literacy it is hard to even know where to start. For any of you that don't know, I have a strong connection to PBS and so I try to stay on top of new developments. That said, even someone like myself that is very familiar with PBS is still blown away by the magnitude of resources available and the potential PBS has to make our lives better not only as citizens, but as information professionals (no matter what kind of library or information environment we end up in). The fine people at PBS are well-deserving of praise they get and obviously I am preaching to the choir, but is PBS seen as being cool or is there still the notion that PBS is old-school? PBS consistently is ranked by Americans as being worth tax-dollars (only beat out by national defense) so clearly people think it is well work their buck (it averages out to be $1 per citizen in tax dollars, not including of course public and private sponsorship funding). How would teens view this though? Is PBS doing enough online for teenagers?

What prompts this post is the new look of PBS online and a comment by AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle that "PBS may be cooler than you think" (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090423/ap_en_tv/us_on_the_net_pbs_online). Is this a backhanded complement or what? Do people really not percieve PBS as being a mover and shaker in media? PBS recently has made some changes with the look and layout of the website and is making huge moves to make material even more accessible online, but the media non-profit has been offering video online for many years. With the popularity of Hulu and YouTube, you would think these are the only names out there or that they were the first providers. So now that PBS is even more user friendly with the launch of the new video portal it is easier than ever to access even more content (this summer there will be even more national and local content) and to share it. So if there is a perception that PBS isn't 'with it,' does this change with the new website? Specifically kid-focused programing has been available at a kid's video portal (http://pbskids.org/go/video) since September and now (as of a few weeks ago) the grown-ups are joining with a new video portal for PBS videos (http://www.pbs.org/video). You can watch video for free, share it (including through Facebook), or download it (buy it on DVD or through iTunes). The website is slick and easy to use for the even mildly website savvy (if you use YouTube or Hulu it is a breeze).

Being so heavily influenced and engrained within PBS it makes it hard for me to see, but isn't PBS considered cool? Also, the area where I have spent most of my adult life seemed to value PBS. Surely there are things for every age on PBS, but is this really translating to cool-factor nationwide (specifically with teens)? I'm curious to know what my fellow bloggers think. Also, the one thing that I'd like to see more of online is more focus on teens specifically (even though I hardly think that PBS doesn't already do this in programming). The popularity of Road Trip Nation being just one example of how programming is aimed towards young adults and music shows like Austin City Limits and Soundstage are far from Lawrence Welk. Another YA show is In The Mix, even though I as a teen never would have watched something like that. I don't think anything much needs to be done to convince parents and educators to how great PBS is, but does PBS need to do more to be something for teenagers to value? From my experience, which is unique, I remember PBS not being thought as being cool until people discovered more as a later teen in college. Cool people listened to NPR in the car and talked about what was on PBS the night before when at the coffee shop. However, is this true in your experience (especially for the YA set too old for Kid's Club, but not the target audience for Frontline)?

Does PBS need to do more to make a section of their amazing website a place for teens or are they already doing this enough with what they currently offer? Personally, I do think PBS needs to make a more teen friendly website and if there is a perception of un-cool this would help. After looking at all that is out there I think PBS online is showing great support for kids and for adults, but even though there is material about or for teens online, it is tucked away in one section or the other. What I'm trying to say is, I don't know if PBS is missing young adults in programming, but there certainly is more they could do online.





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