Please note that PBS offices will close in observance of Labor Day from noon Friday through Monday, September 5.

PBS TV Schedules Service (TVSS) experienced delays updating new program information over the weekend. The incident was first reported at approx 7am ET on Friday 8/19 and was fixed at 1pm ET on Sunday 8/21. 

During this time, TV schedule modules on producer sites were fully operational, however, new data updates made after Friday morning were not reflected until after the fix was made on Sunday afternoon.

TVSS is now fully functional, but please let us know if you see anything that looks out of the norm. You can reply directly to the thread below or reach out to your program manager with any questions.

COVE pre-roll bug

UPDATE ON 8/24/11

A fix for this bug was rolled out to production yesterday morning. (8/23/11) The fix has been tested and appears to be working correctly. All pre-roll should be working properly now.  You should not see any pre-roll on any videos that are shorter than 3 minutes in length. Please contact your PBSi Program Manager if you have any questions or concerns. We appreciate your patience while we worked to fixed this issue.

Yesterday morning (8/18/11) at approximately 10am EST a small upgrade was rolled out to COVE. The upgrade was intended to be an improvement to the controls for pre-roll.

Unfortunately that update has caused pre-roll to appear before most of the videos in the system that are shorter than 3 minutes in length.

Pre-roll should not appear for any video that is shorter than 3 minutes.

Our Products team informs us that they should have this fixed by Tuesday (8/23) or Wednesday (8/24) of next week.

An update will be added to this blog post when the fix has been rolled out to production.

We apologize for the inconvience.

Please contact your Program Manager if you have any questions or concerns.

As you've heard me say before, dashes (hyphens) are better for SEO than underscores (and both are better than using no separators between words) IF you're creating brand new pages or you're changing your URLs anyway. There is a lot of risk involved with changing URLs, so don't add dashes if there aren't other reasons compelling you to change them.

So, if you are building a new site, redesiging your site, or adding new pages to an existing site, use dashes to separate words in your URL slugs (and follow all the other best practices we've laid out on Producer Exchange previously). Dashes are delimiters (so words in a slug are treated as separate words). If you're not making any other changes to web addresses, it's not worth tearing up your link structure to add them.

More info on how Google and Bing treat dashes vs. underscores.

Google just announced a major change to how Sitelinks display.

Visit the Webmaster Central Blog for details.

This means it's more important than ever that your website be well optimized. In addition to getting that #1 ranking for your branded terms, you also need a sound information architecture that supports your traffic goals, a strong internal linking strategy, well-crafted title tags, unique snippets, and reader-friendly URLs.

PBS Account Upgrades

Our PBS Account system on will be upgraded on Thursday, August 18th.  This upgrade is expected to have minimal impact on the day-to-day workflow of producers and the online experience of public-facing users.

PBS Accounts (or Universal User Authentication) allows users to establish their own "PBS Account" that maintains a single identify across multiple PBS systems – e.g., PBS applications, producer websites, etc. 

The current PBS Applications that utilize UUA include:  

  • The Merlin Admin Tool
  • Bento
  • COVE 2.0 (To become effective late summer/ early fall 2011)

On August 18th at 3AM ET, the upgrade will go into effect, and all systems attached to UUA will not be accessible for approximately 5 minutes.  Once the upgrade is complete, users will be able to log-in to their accounts using their existing passwords.  However, as a general rule of practice, it is suggested that passwords be checked and/or updated with strong characteristics:  e.g. At least 8 characters long, contain a combination of upper and lower case letters, special characters and numeric digits.

If you would like to change this password, you can log into your account now at  and update your password by clicking the Change Password button on that page.

Please note that users who have not used their UUA accounts for 1 year, will be automatically removed from the UUA database, and need to sign up for a new PBS Account.  

Thank you for your patience as we work to improve your experience with PBS Products and Services.  If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to your program manager.  

On Monday evening, Amazon Web Services encountered a networking failure in their Virginia data center (where all of our sites are hosted from) which resulted in approximately 30 minutes of downtime for many services including the Video Portal, Homepage, and topic pages.

The downtime began at 10:25:04PM and was resolved at 10:56:02PM, after 31m of downtime.

Applications impacted:

  • ALL PBS network (Producer sites hosted on EC2 in the same zone)

The issue has been fully resolved at this time with all sites operating normally. 

Please leave a comment in the thread below or contact your program manager with any questions. 

Based on various feedback and analytics data, we’ve recently made additional improvements to site search (powered by RAMP).

Highlights of some of the recent adjustments:

  • Checking to see if a search term matches a program name on the Programs A-Z list and returning that program’s homepage if a match is found
  • Stronger “phrase matching”
  • More emphasis on matches in titles
  • Less emphasis on non-phrase matches in video transcripts
  • Remove “top video results” box

Read on for additional details...

Some of the adjustments to the algorithm give preference to those factors that tend to coincide with program and episode pages, since we know that most of our top site searches are for program and episode names. This includes boosting pages and videos with a close phrase match in the title, since those names tend to be reflected in object titles, whereas it is less likely that whole episode names are repeated frequently throughout a video transcript.

Another tweak that addresses this same point: if a user’s search query matches the name of a series included in the Programs A-Z list, then we can identify that program’s homepage (i.e., the URL from that list) as needing to surface higher in the site search results.

Example of a search query that matched a listing in Programs A-Z and RAMP giving preference to the URL from that list:

You’ll notice that “phrase matching” has been improved so that pages containing exact matches of multi-word queries are now getting a boost over pages that contain all the words but not in proximity to each other. Boosting this factor, however, does mean that search results are better when users are searching for exact names and titles as opposed to general concept queries (like topics in the news).

Example of RAMP favoring a page with a "phrase match" instead of returning results that match either word in the query:

Another obvious change is that we’ve removed the “top video results” box that used to appear above all the regular results. At launch, that box forced videos to the top of the page because we assumed that users wanted a quick way to get to full episodes. Unfortunately, the transcript matches tended to pull video results that were not relevant to the query and/or to generate duplicate results. By removing the box, we’re now allowing the most relevant results to appear at the top regardless of whether they are web or video objects, which should improve user satisfaction and get users to the most relevant content more quickly. Users can still choose to get just video results by using the filter in the left column.

This box has been removed:

Users can still filter here:

Keywords in titles are also being weighted more heavily than before – which helps users more quickly see how the results are relevant to their search terms – so be sure to use unique and relevant titles for your pages and videos. Please refer to our SEO checklist for more details on <TITLE> tag best practices.

Many of the SEO best practices we’ve covered in our SEO 101 webinars and Producer Exchange blog posts, as well as Merlin guidelines, can also help surface your content in site search, so there are definitely things you, as web producers, can do to get your pages and videos surfaced for relevant site searches.

We have plans to make additional tweaks and improvements moving forward, so please leave feedback about our recent update and any other issues you’re seeing with the results.

Thanks to all for joining us on Tuesday’s Webinar: SEO Basics ~ Refresher.

A copy of the Deck is now available and can be downloaded below.

There were good questions asked throughout the webinar, and we hope to keep the conversation going. Please use the comments section below to ask any follow-up questions, and do let us know your thoughts on the new webinar format where we integrated your questions throughout the presentation.  


By Ashley Carufel, PBS Food web producer

Today PBS launched a sneak preview of PBS Food. The PBS Food content channel will serve as a centralized web experience for food and cooking content from across the PBS system. The goal of the content channel is to better aggregate and promote such content in order to drive traffic to national and local content.

The launch today is considered “Phase 1” with a complete launch in Phase 2 expected by the end of summer. Phase 1 predominantly focuses on the “Fresh Tastes ” blog authored by two well-known food bloggers: Jenna Weber and Marc Matsumoto.

Marc Matsumoto
Marc Matsumoto is a food blogger and photographer who spreads his passion for food through his websites and . For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blogs in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures.

Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.

Jenna Weber
Jenna Weber graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2008 and, since then, has worked as a pastry chef, bread baker and freelance food editor. Currently, Jenna blogs full-time on where her delicious daily recipes and quirky culinary musings appeal to thousands. She lives in Northern California and, when not in the kitchen, can usually be found on her yoga mat.

Help Promote PBS Food and "Fresh Tastes"

Anyone who would like to promote PBS Food and “Fresh Tastes” via their own social media handles, feel free to use the following suggested phrases.

Facebook: Check out "Fresh Tastes"- the NEW food blog from PBS featuring Jenna Weber and Marc Matsumoto! Also get a sneak peak of PBS Food before the full experience launches. Take a sneak peek at the upcoming PBS Food online experience with the “Fresh Tastes” food blog. Coming soon!

Is Your Cooking Program Listed?

Starting with Phase 1, PBS Food will regularly feature promotion of station food content in both the main homepage carousel and homepage modules. The Food team has thoroughly researched station content, but we welcome content suggestions from all stations and programs. Phase 1 also includes a featured list of station food programs – if we have neglected any programs from this list, then please alert the Food team asap.
Immediately following the launch of Phase 1, the Food team will continue our aggressive development calendar to launch Phase 2.

PBS will perform maintenance on internal databases this coming Wednesday, July 27, from 10am to noon ET. Producers and end users should see no noticeable impacts, and Amazon instances will be completely unaffected. Please reach out to your program manager if you have any questions.

PBS Arts Online has been an experiment since day one. Some things have worked better than others.  

We have tried a unique design look and feel for PBS. We’ve mixed national broadcast content with local content (even some from the archive!). We have collected video stories and imagery from users. Our content ranges from ballet to street art, symphonies to rock and roll. It is easy to say that it feels a bit schizophrenic at times, but we have learned one important lesson: PBS Arts seems to be very popular in the social space. This has remained consistent since our launch one year ago.

Because of our success in the space (on Facebook in particular), PBS Arts is toying with the idea of largely moving to the social space for content distribution.

On July 20th, PBS Arts launched another experiment: a web-only series called Off Book that explores experimental and cutting edge art. The 13-episode series includes episodes on light painting, collective imagery, and steampunk, among others. We will release a new episode every other week.

If you clicked on the Off Book link above, you may have noticed another experiment in the works. The premiere episode appears on YouTube. The episode also appears on Tumblr and Vimeo (and the PBS Arts site, powered by COVE). We will be promoting the series on Facebook, Twitter and interested blogs, using a combination of the PBS Arts site link and the YouTube link, to test the success rates using different platforms and their sharing capabilities.

In a few weeks, I’ll provide a case study of the dual linking trial, to see how the PBS audience (and a new audience that we are hoping to build on Tumblr and Vimeo) reacts to the video in different places.

Please leave any comments or questions in the thread below or feel free to reach out to me directly at


Updates to Legacy Header

PBS pushed out a minor update to the old global hat/header that lives on Producer sites and the Video Portal today.

The following things changed:

  • Changed "Support PBS" to "Donate" in support of Prosper
  • Updated the font to PBS Explorer 

Please note this has been rescheduled and will now take place exactly one week later than previously stated. It will now occur on Friday July 22nd at 7 pm PST and the same description below will apply. As always please inform us of any questions or concerns.

Disqus will undergo maintenance on its master database server this Friday between 7-8pm PST.  During this maintenance window, Disqus will be in read-only mode and users will be able to read but not make comments on discussion threads. 

The maintenance window is from 7-8PM PST, however, all work is expected to be complete within 15 minutes.

We will keep you informed of any additional updates. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. 

Do you ever find yourself asking…

  • Why does Google hate my site?
  • Why are my well-ranked pages not driving noticeable traffic?
  • Is it true that keywords don't matter anymore?
  • Do outbound links hurt my search engine rankings?

Bring these questions and more to our next webinar on Tuesday July 26, 2011 from 2 – 3pm ET.  PBS New Media Director, Melanie Phung, will lead a refresher course on SEO Basics and Best Practices.  This is a great session for those who missed last summer’s webinar or would like a quick refresher and opportunity to ask questions.

Join us July 26, 2011 from 2 -3pm ET

RSVP your Webinar seat now at:

See you there!