2012 State of the Station

You can listen to this speech as well, at http://kboo.fm/node/50143

Hello, I’m S.W. Conser and I have the great privilege of being your Board president. Let me start by saying, The state of the station is strong.

I know that a few people in this crowd spent some time last month at “That Thing in the Desert,” out there on the playa in Black Rock City. And you may well know that there’s a drinking game that they play at Burning Man. Every time you hear the word “community,” you drink. I see a lot of coffee cups out there today. Prepare to get very wired.

You know, decades before the dawn of Burning Man, there was a place in Portland, a refuge where people could go to learn the principles of radical inclusion, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, and decommodification — a do-ocracy, in other words. That place was — and is — KBOO. All these years outside the mainstream have forced us to be creative. If there’s a problem, fix it — or find someone who can.

2013, our 45th year on the air, may be the most critical year in our history. Times are changing, the technology is changing, the landscape beneath us is changing.

There is a great deal for us to celebrate in the run-up to our anniversary. We are the one remaining broadcast outlet that still spotlights local culture, that still brings emerging musicians into the studio, that still digs down into the political and literary scenes, that still takes risks. We don’t need TV executives from AMC and Viacom to tell us why this town is more lively, more relevant, more informed, more experimental than the media markets they came from.

The bottom line is, KBOO is not interested in shrinking our footprint on Portland's cultural landscape. We're going to expand our mission. We're not just going to be raising up the next generation of radio producers. We are going to be training the next generation of non-profit leaders.

During the past fiscal year, we've had the privilege of welcoming a dynamic new Development Director to KBOO, and I'm only sorry she's not here today to meet with everyone. Lynn Fitch will be back from her travels next week, and she will also be acting then in her new capacity as Interim Station Navigator, so please stop in and say hello.

For those of you not familiar with the job of a Development Director, Lynn has been tasked with expanding KBOO's presence in the community and the wider world. In keeping with the Strategic Plan that we rolled out last year, we're looking to team up with community partners and open up new revenue streams.

We made a big stride in that direction this past summer, with the award of a Meyer Memorial Trust grant. This is a big break for us. The MMT grant is directed toward updating and strengthening KBOO's policies and the Board infrastructure. We on the Board are looking forward to going back to school, so to speak. Along with improved Board and Station policies to guide us, and stronger sub-committees, we're looking forward to being better prepared for the evolving face of radio and of non-profit community building.

The Board of Directors is completely dedicated to fulfilling the terms of the Meyer Memorial Trust grant. We've already been meeting with some of the best non-profit consultants in the region, and we'll be working on a structure that will improve not only the fiscal, outreach, and development skills of the current Board members, but also the wider volunteer base.

The Meyer Memorial Trust grant represents us dipping our toe in the water of new funding models. KBOO’s Strategic Plan sketched out a number of digitalage initiatives for the station, including a wider web presence and a community media center. Fulfilling this $25,000 grant will give us stability and the opportunity to work towards future capital campaigns in the community.

There’s a great deal of excitement on the programming front. Our new Interim Program Director, Erin Yanke, has scheduled an all-programmers meeting for next Saturday, and I hope all you program hosts will be there. This will be a great chance to tackle the new Programmer Rights and Responsibilities document and move forward the Strategic Plan, finding out what resources are available for improving programming and connecting with the wider community.

There are new opportunities for volunteers to take their skills out into the community. Field recorders have been bringing back audio from far afield, including the Oregon State Penitentiary for the Prison Pipeline show. On the live broadcasting front, KBOO has produced live remotes not only from the Occupy encampment, but also from the Waterfront Blues Festival, PDX Pop Now, the Pickathon, and from the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration. The live remote gear has been updated with a digital consol, better internet connectivity, and other upgrades to make everything sound sharp both in our building and off site.

We’ve also had a great increase in our live music production in house. Anyone who’s wandered into the station in the evening time, or sometimes even in the afternoon, might encounter a band setting up for a live session. Tom, Devin,  Emily, Kate, and so many others have been sharing their knowledge with the young engineers who are making these musicians sound so good.

Erin has been starting a Music Department blog. And with the help of many volunteers, she’s gearing up to create a database for the KBOO music library. There’ll be a general library remodel to go along with that, and already programmers, musicians, and record labels now know about the new releases we have in the library. We are moving forward on digitizing our archives, which is no mean feat, let me tell you. It’s very delicate work, dealing with those fragile old tape reels. We’re making the archives accessible to KBOO staff, KBOO members, and the general public, and we’ve already started producing special programming from the archives.

Speaking of archiving, some of you have seen the Automagic archiving that started last month on the KBOO.fm website. All programs produced at KBOO can now be accessed and listened to at any time. Music programs are archived for 2 weeks (thank-you, Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and public affairs programs will be up forever. So we are now fulfilling one of the big Strategic Plan goals for the digital age: time-shifting our programming, so that listeners around the world can tune in to a show whenever it’s convenient for them.

There are other big changes on the website, including new layouts, search features, and web sponsors. Visits to KBOO.fm keep increasing. There were 400,000 visits last year. Half of those visitors found KBOO through a search engine, but more than 30 percent reach KBOO through Facebook — that’s a significant increase. Visits via the BOOletin, our e-mail newsletter, have increased seventy-fold. To be precise, 7,318.75 percent.

And with the realization that more and more listeners are tuning in on their mobile devices, our Web Coordinator has launched a new initiative for making KBOO more mobile-friendly.

Many of you know that, slightly less than a year ago, KBOO launched its longawaited second stream, at the Occupy encampment in downtown Portland. So as of October, KBOO's signal was reaching out 48 hours a day! We are now in the Rand D phase of a third webstream, which will allow us to establish a “farm team” for music programming, while at the same time we’re installing scheduling software for the current second stream.

On the engineering front, big changes are happening as well. There have been upgrades to the equipment, including a tripling of the speed of our in-house internet, improvements to the studios and air room, and new digital features to keep our transmitters humming.

And, we are all gearing up for big changes in our membership drive. We’ve recently completed a comprehensive analysis of membership drive results by program, day and time slot. This work will enable staff and hosts to make smarter decisions about what should happen when, during the drives. Our goal is to make membership drives more financially effective for KBOO and more enjoyable to listen to whenever you tune in. So, tune in during the upcoming Fall Drive to hear the experiment in action. And I hope that every volunteer in this room signs up to participate in the drive, which begins in less than three weeks now.

Some of the membership drive adventures to look forward to: two live remotes (one from Fire on the Mountain hosted by Shocks of Sheeba, and one from Holocene hosted by Anjali and the Kid). And we’ll be bringing in community partners from the Blues Festival and PDX Pop Now Festival to produce dynamic membership drive specials.

Membership, as most of you know, has been relatively flat over the past couple of years. This is not as bad as it sounds. KBOO has a dedicated base of contributing members who have stepped up to the plate in difficult times, an incredible team of more than 500 volunteers who've contributed thousands of hours of their time every week, and a a staff who have taken cuts in their own hours but still worked together to move the station forward.

And here’s some breaking news from Membership: we’ve just partnered with Supportland, which runs Portland’s biggest local business benefit card system. Beginning next month, they will begin powering the KBOO membership card, giving KBOO members far more benefits at far more local businesses than our in-house system ever did.

So I guess this is my moment to get all “Obama” and tell you what you already know: Times are tough. Business models are changing for non-profits, and that goes double for media organizations like ours. That said, I’m constantly amazed by the level of commitment and the creativity that I see every day at the KBOO Foundation. On the board, we're all volunteers. And we've been working together with the staff over this past year to make better use of limited funds. I won’t list all the ways that we’ve increased productivity, cut costs, and restructured operational expenditures, because I don’t want to bore you to death, but feel free to come up and talk with me later.

Some people here might balk at the term “fiscally conservative,” but that exactly what we’ve been. Up until 2007 we received CPB funding, and we spent that money frugally. Some generous gifts from Nathan Baily and the estate of Thomas R. Beatley allowed KBOO to build an impressive cash surplus. Since 2007, though, we’ve had a few years of deficit spending, which has decreased the surplus cash fund by about 50%. In fiscal year 2012, the Board of Directors cut a substantial amount from the expenses on the operating budget, which will result in a lower deficit for the fiscal year. For Fiscal Year 2013, we are striving for a balanced budget. We’re diversifying our fundraising plan, finding new ways to attract contributions, partnering with local small business, and renewing our focus on outreach.

Despite the decrease in the surplus cash funds, KBOO maintains a 3 month operating cash reserve fund. And even after the recent market downturn, the Nathan and Alan Baily Endowment Fund is stable. These two funds are Board restricted and are not used to support KBOO Community Radio’s daily operations. KBOO Foundation has no long term debt and owns debt-free fixed assets. In order to sustain our healthy financial position, however, we will have to eliminate any future deficit spending starting in FY13 and work towards rebuilding our cash reserves. Compelling programming and effective outreach to new communities can result in increasing our listenership and our members. The end result: increased contributions and volunteer resources to help sustain our operations and our future.

In a nutshell: we, the volunteers and supporters of KBOO, continue to have the passion and patience to to carry forward this amazing cultural institution. To quote Interim Station Navigator Lynn Fitch, let’s “move from a place of fear to embracing change … knowing that we have the ability to create our own reality, a better reality than we are creating now.”

This community — right here — is the true grassroots. Anyone who’s hung around in the KBOO lobby during the wee hours of Safe Harbor knows that you won’t see any billionaires lurking in the corners, handing out talking points to the hosts. What you will see is a lot of coffee consumption, because — Lord knows — the revolution is not a tea party.

We do now know, I’m happy to report, that the revolution can be broadcast, and web-streamed, and archived and time-shifted.

The tea partiers are welcome to join us, but please: leave all your billionaires behind. And leave behind the politics of whisper campaigns, of manufactured crises, of factionalism and finger-pointing. The people who want to divide us can't do it without our help, but we certainly don't need to help them. So, get off the comment boards, step away from the flame wars, reach out to the person next to you. Remember, you don’t have to be friends to be equals.

Thank you for listening. Now go out there and be KBOO.

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