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Emerging Platforms Initiative

The Emerging Platforms Initiative at GBH is a commitment to experimenting with new forms of storytelling on new platforms for new public media audiences. Our mission is to create original, mobile-first series for emerging video platforms, iterating quickly based on learnings and successes, and applying those learnings to the GBH productions you know and love.

We see a strong parallel between the early days of television and the content we currently see on social media. Public media has the chops and the mandate to transform the social video landscape by creating competitive and entertaining content that’s also inspiring, enlightening and educational. GBH’s Emerging Platforms team functions as an internal skunkworks: supporting, informing and pushing this work forward.

The Emerging Platforms Initiative is experimenting with formats common on social platforms, focusing on Stories, live streaming, short form video, vertical video, filters and lenses. Our work is produced for YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, Twitter, and more. Our work is audience-first, mobile-first, and engagement-oriented.

  • Joanie Tobin headshot
    Content creator and cookie aficionado, Joanie has worked across industries as a Senior Producer at Priorities USA, a producer at Bustle Digital Group focusing on INSIGHTS, their Facebook Watch series, as a post-supervisor and producer at DigitasLBi where she cut her social teeth making content for Snapchat and Vine (RIP); and as Harvard Business School’s first digital content producer. She was born and raised in Charlestown, Mass. and has her MA in international journalism, specializing in documentary making. Joanie also has experience in public media: in 2016 she produced the multi-platform video series Localore: Finding America, which aired on YouTube and WORLD Channel.
  • Rob Tokanel
    A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Rob is currently finishing an augmented reality project in Charleston, South Carolina, that contextualizes and reimagines Confederate and antebellum era monuments using a location-based mobile app. Prior to that, Rob worked as a digital platforms producer at Mic in New York City, producing vertical video content for Snapchat Discover, Apple News, Twitter and IGTV. The themes that tie Rob’s work together are education, innovation and creating for young audiences. Before J-school, Rob spent six years producing digital historical documentaries at Facing History and Ourselves in Boston.

  • A live, interactive series on Twitch, where viewers participate in the design and build of a science-themed escape room. Our pilot season culminated in a live escape game experience where viewers assisted a group of astronauts escape a futuristic space station orbiting Mars.
  • The Emerging Platforms team piloted a GBH-wide TikTok account starting in 2019, testing concepts such as a public media explainer series, science education, and Olympics coverage. Our efforts on TikTok have tested the feasibility and performance of unit content on TikTok, and informed best practices around the building.
  • Curiosity Desk is the first digital video series produced for the GBH News YouTube channel. Hosted by reporter Edgar B. Herwick III, the series extends the popular radio feature to a digital audience.
  • Iterating from a series of successful Instagram Live pilots early in the pandemic, the team helped Studio Six take a new approach to the 2021 Simply Ming season, producing over a dozen live cooking demos on Facebook which later were repackaged for broadcast television.
  • Prototypes - Emerging Platforms a woman shrugging with the words "The Real Citizen Kane" in front of a picture of Orson Welles and an unknown man.
    We’ve created prototypes for the news department, national and local productions that test out new formats such as TikTok, YouTube explainers, video Reddit AMAs and Instagram Story quizzes.

  • Twitch. An escape room. YouTube influencers. Outer space. And public media. You never know what concoction of trends will make an experiment successful. And that’s the job of WGBH’s emerging platforms initiative: finding mixes that help the Boston-based public media station reach younger audiences (Gen Z and millennials) through newer platforms (Instagram, Twitch, Twitter, Snapchat Discover, YouTube, subreddits, and TikTok). And so on Monday night, the team put a handful of siblings with a popular YouTube channel into a custom space-themed escape room and broadcast their attempts to break free on gamer-friendly, Amazon-owned livestreaming service Twitch.
  • Can you teach an older institution new tricks? Producers in public media are testing just that by producing videos for TikTok. NPR, WGBH in Boston and PBS’ Nature have all been experimenting with the social media platform in recent months. Each producer received a grant from a $50 million Creative Learning Fund, which TikTok established in May to help institutions and public figures produce educational videos on the platform.
  • It was a wonderful kind of day for Arthur fans on Tuesday, when the show’s producers hosted a live online event to engage more kids and make the 24-year-old show’s extensive back catalogue relevant again. During the event, US pubcaster GBH (formerly WGBH) had audiences make their own episode of Arthur in real time by voting on what would happen next in the story, splicing clips together to make it happen.
  • The broadcast of Season 12 will air on GBH 2 and GBH’s YouTube channel, while the innovative experiences on Twitch and Amazon Alexa devices provide opportunities for local, national, and international High School Quiz Show fans to engage with the show more interactively than ever before, including the chance to compete with other fans and past contestants.
  • This week and next, WGBH, the Boston public television station that produced both iterations of Zoom, will use its social media channels to share video segments where former Zoom cast members guide viewers through the same kind of science experiments and do-it-yourself activities that powered the old series.

We are committed to documenting what we learn along the way to better help our internal productions and other public media stations in this space. To be included on our monthly Emerging Platforms newsletter, email Senior ProducerJoanie Tobin.