Twin Cities Public Television
Judy began her work on Next Avenue while she was managing director of audience and brand strategy at PBS and PBS KIDS. In that position, she led the launch of many PBS brands and programs, including series such as History Detectives and Curious George, specials such as Ken Burns’ The War, and brands such as PBS KIDS GO! She also was a member of PBS’s planning and strategy team that determines the organization’s direction, focus, and content.
Judy has worked in strategy, business development, and branding for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PBS in 1999, she managed the advertising and communication department at Northwest Airlines’ leisure division for more than eight years and was the director of communication at Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) for more than two years. She holds a degree in marketing from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Q. Why did TPT and Next Avenue decide to join Age4Action?
Next Avenue started with the question, “What would it look like if public television served America’s booming older population with the same depth, focus, and creativity that it serves children?” The Atlantic Philanthropies provided two planning grants to PBS/TPT that allowed us to think about that very question. We spent time learning about the audience and determining the information and perspective that the audience needs to make good decisions during a new, older stage of life, which its members are defining now.
Initially, because we are public television, we thought we would invent a new series—a Sesame Street for the older population. But when we really thought about where people would look for life-stage information, we realized that the web would provide the deepest and most personalized experience. So, while television may be attached, at the core Next Avenue is a massive new website that is in development now.
When we thought about the content for the site, we knew that public television could provide a lot of good and relevant content from programs like the PBS NewsHour and NOVA. But we couldn’t do it all. So, we started looking into the nonprofit and government space for content partners. And that experience opened a world to us. In essence, we realized that we could become the media arm for organizations that serve the nation’s older population. Next Avenue could be a valuable mass media partner to help to communicate the resources, tools, and information that these organizations create. We could bring aggregated and curated content to millions of people in readily accessible and engaging ways and use the power of television to tell people it’s available.
The topic areas we defined are no surprise. The channels the site will offer include health & well-being, money & security, care giving, living & learning (free time) and work & purpose. On the latter, we learned through our conversations with Atlantic and many of the people in the Age4Action Network that somewhat of a revolution is occurring regarding work. Boomers are redefining what work means. Do I have to work; do I want to work; how do I work; where do I work; what can I do for work; and what can I work for? Work is a fascinating topic because people are asking so many questions and holding so many discussions. Media can surface those questions and the possible solutions, options, or at least, ideas.
Age4Action is in the thick of it. That’s why public television is here. In fact, TPT has formal content partnerships with a number of organizations in the group, including Encore and the National Council on Aging (NCOA). And Twin Cities Public Television is working locally with the Vital Aging Network. So, lots of good collaborations are forming.
Q. What is the Latest Next Avenue News?
We’re busy building a website and establishing content partners. We’re focused on launching in the first quarter of 2012. We have the site built and have conducted user-interface testing to ensure that it makes sense, is easy to use, and is what people are looking for. The result was very positive.
This next phase is all about curating and developing the right content, the right mix of content, and the right depth and breadth of content. The content comes from three main sources: public media; public and nonprofit partners and people, including users of the site; and expert contributors. We are partnering with a number of nonprofit and governmental agencies and are establishing formal relationships. In addition to Encore and NCOA, the groups include the 27 institutes that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Administration on Aging (AOA), Leading Age, Family Caregiver Alliance, National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), SCORE, and the Department of Labor (DOL).
It is an editorial site; so we will vet all content and, in some cases, rework it. To that end, we just hired the executive editor/general manager who will be adding to our editorial staff over the next few months. Her name is Donna Sapolin. In addition to many other publications and online properties, Donna was the vice president and editor in chief of Home Magazine, PointClickHome.com and Women’s Day Special Interest Publications; the editor in chief of This Old House; managing editor for Great American Home Cooking; and design and style editor of Food and Wine Magazine. She also was director of and adjunct professor for the magazine/digital program at New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute and developed multimedia content for flypmedia.com. The list goes on!
We are thrilled Donna is on board and very excited to see the site content and overall experience take shape.
Q. In what ways can Age4Action help Next Avenue?
The help goes both ways. What we do best is delivering media that provides often-complex information and perspective in accessible and consumer-friendly ways. We’re the media people. You are the experts, the people taking the pulse of what’s happening. Together, we can inform, inspire, and engage people to take action.
Q. How does Age4Action’s mission apply to you in your personal and/or professional life?
My colleague, Jim Pagliarini, likes to say that I took my professional bungee jump with Next Avenue. I left a very good job at PBS to concentrate on it. I admit it was scary at first but, like so many people who do it, I am so happy I did
And my experience inspired me to go further. For years, I worked for good causes; so work itself provided a lot of satisfaction. But all the talk about the potential of the age boom—and I am in it—made me think that I could do more. So, I started volunteering at an animal shelter on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the Dorchester Humane Society. It’s a scrappy little place that went no-kill in an economic downturn, which is quite a commitment. I joined their board, and I do everything from work on defining the brand and developing strategy to walking the dogs.
While I get a lot of joy out of work, I learned that you can get a different kind of joy from volunteering. And when Rhett, the super tender and loving but bruiser-looking pit bull, finally finds a forever home, and I see a picture of him with his new family, curled up next to a nine-year-old boy, I literally cry like a baby.