Can VRM save Public Broadcasting?

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We want to support the programs we love.
We want to support the people who might produce programs we might love in the future.
We don’t want to save public broadcast stations just because they are transmitters that used to be the only way we could get these shows, but we do want to support stations that create and support communities.
We want to be able to donate money for podcasts, individual shows and stations.
We want to do this in ITunes and on the IPhone and in other places too.
We want to support stations to produce shows we don’t care about, because other people might be interested in them.
Some of us (OK, exactly one of us) don’t mind pledge weeks, but want additional options for supporting podcasts.

We all hope that this little picture
will help us do what we want.

That’s the “Relbutton,” “rel” being short for “relationship.” The Relbutton was one of the hot topics at the first workshop of Project VRM, which I was lucky enough to attend some of yesterday and today. Sadly other commitments interrupted, so I missed some sessions, but I did make sure to be at the session on VRM and Public Media, which is where we reached the above conclusions.

VRM is Vendor Relationship Management, the alternative to CRM, Customer Relationship Management. As someone who only learned what CRM was when learning about its replacement, I believe that VRM will eventually need a less geeky, less reactive, more assertive name like BISS (Because I Say So), but that will come.

In the meantime, VRM is a wonderful set of concepts and projects-in-progress about giving consumers control, even consumers who are getting something for free. Hence the excitement about the public media and the Relbutton. The button will let us as listeners/viewers/readers say: “Hey, I am interested in this story/podcast/program/series/station/website and I would like to support it in some way, on my terms, when and how it’s convenient for me.”

Once every public media distribution platform is outfitted to accept Relbutton input, you’ll be able to use the Relbutton to build whatever kind of relationship you want to establish with them, whether it’s donating $5 once or $50 monthly or getting on a mailing list or learning that the station needs in-kind donations of something you have a garage full of. If the object of your desire isn’t set up (the technical term is “VRM-compliant”) yet, the Relbutton will collect and escrow this information and send the producers a message to let them know that they are missing out on your love.

Those of us who don’t love pledge week can hardly wait for the VRM gang to make this real. Stay tuned.

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