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PBS: Building Online Engagement

PBS: Building Online Engagement

Jayme Swain is on a mission to shed PBS of the remnants of its “old and stodgy” reputation.

“There’s actually a lot of innovation going on around … new ways to
really engage the [online] audience,” says Swain, who directs PBS Engage, the social media arm for the public television broadcaster.

Engage was established in late 2007 largely through a grant from the Knight Foundation and now features a multi-platform, interactive web presence, both on PBS/member station sites such as the Engage Blog and the WGBH Lab, as well as externally on Twitter (@PBSEngage), Facebook, and YouTube.

Swain says that from the get-go, Engage’s approach has been “opening
up the conversations and seeing what the community would say.”

“It’s really a like-minded, smart audience going to talk about some
really critical civic issues. I think once we opened the door to that
type of participation, people really walked through.”

Video interview with Jayme Swain

Show Notes

  • PBS Engage director Jayme Swain explains how PBS has learned to
    listen and better engage its audience through its social media
  • Swain discusses how the Engage project has changed the programming mindset at PBS.
  • Swain addresses the challenges of identifying and working with the right business model in social media.
  • Swain notes the importance of experimentation at PBS.

Running time: 5 minutes, 24 seconds. Recorded at PBS’ Crystal City, Virginia offices on Wednesday, April 29, 2009.

Bryan Person is the social media evangelist at LiveWorld. He blogs at and tweets at

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