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Fridays from the Frontline: A Tuck Student Examines Evolving Media Landscape Through NPR Internship

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Admittedly, the media and entertainment industry is not a primary destination for freshly minted MBAs. UCLA Anderson School of Management and NYU Stern School of Business sent more of their Class of 2016 grads into the field than any other leading schools, at just 6.5 and 4.3 percent respectively. And yet, the vastly evolving media landscape calls for innovative thinking, strategic new approaches, and reinvented business models as never before.

Meghan McDavid, a student at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, spent her summer interning at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of National Public Radio (NPR), working for a fellow Tuck alumnus in the organization’s Strategy & Business Partnerships team. As she shares in the post that follows, the experience revealed to her just how vital a role MBAs can play as NPR and other media organizations seek to navigate the shifting landscape, in particular the complex relationship between media and technology. Read on to discover more of what she learned.

The following post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, Tuck 360.   

The Evolving Media Landscape: An Internship with NPR

By Meghan McDavid, MBA ’18

Prominently displayed in NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., is a poster of longtime NPR host Michel Martin invoking Shirley Chisholm to describe NPR’s independent status. “We are ‘unbought and unbossed.’ The listeners own us.” The reality of ownership is slightly more complex for the public radio network, but its dedication to independent journalism in service of the public is deeply ingrained in the organization. It is evident in NPR’s formal mission, in its strategic plan and priorities, and in the day-to-day work of people throughout the building, from journalists and archivists to programmers and executives. As both a lifelong listener and an MBA intern, this was incredibly heartening to witness firsthand, especially during a busy summer that featured significant developments around the world and just down the street on Capitol Hill.

For my part, I served as a summer consultant with the Strategy & Business Partnerships team, which does everything from high-level strategy to business development to internal business excellence. Thanks to the team, especially my boss Michael Lutzky T’06, I worked on substantive, challenging, impactful projects that touched all of these areas and had the opportunity to share my findings with executive decision-makers. I learned more than I thought possible about the media industry, public media, nonprofits, and journalism. Through cross-functional discussions of acquired content, marketing strategies, and more, it was clear that NPR is not just dedicated to its mission but also has a strong sense of itself and its core competencies, which is critical for a legacy organization in the midst of a continually shifting environment.

One of the most rewarding parts of my internship was exploring the complex relationship between media and technology through the lens of NPR’s unique capabilities and position. It was exciting and challenging to examine emerging and potential future technological innovations, identify the opportunities they create for NPR and competitive media organizations, and consider how to leverage those opportunities to build on competitive advantages and address potential gaps. While questions about what the future of NPR looks like and how audiences will engage with it underlie almost everything happening throughout the organization, the opportunity to take a broad, high-level approach to these big questions was enlightening. At the same time, by working closely with the Digital Media team, I gained insight into the tactical efforts underway to advance and bolster NPR’s position in the digital marketplace.

I was already interested to see how the media landscape—and NPR’s place within it—continues to evolve but after my experience this summer, I’m even more attuned to shifts in technologies, resources, and partnerships that may represent new avenues for media organizations.

All that, and I saw puppets perform a song called Socks Are Murder during one of the many Tiny Desk Concerts I attended.