[JPL] On Radio: NPR expands its digital presence

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Thu Oct 11 09:51:53 EDT 2007


On Radio: NPR expands its digital presence
Last updated October 10, 2007 4:34 p.m. PT


Want to listen to the radio? Pick up your cell phone or tune your portable
communication device.

Granted, you won't find as much content there as on a traditional device
picking up signals sent out over the airwaves -- yet.

But the trend is clearly to get content to listeners wherever they are and
through whatever portable electronic device they happen to possess, as
illustrated by two initiatives from National Public Radio and local stations
including KPLU-FM/88.5 and KEXP-FM/90.3, one of them already in operation,
the other to debut late this month or in early November.

Coming up is a relaunch of NPR Music, a section of the radio service's Web
site that already features stories, interviews and performances. The new
version, however, will greatly increase the content from local contributors
such as KPLU and KEXP (which in the past has worked with NPR Music; John
Richards has contributed to "Song of the Day" and NPR has used the station's
coverage of the South by Southwest music convention).

NPR, says KPLU program director Joey Cohn, wants to build a music site
featuring genres including jazz, classical, rock and folk. "They realize
there are certain stations with expertise in certain areas," he says.

KPLU will be contributing in-studio sessions, interviews, concerts and
jazz-related content such as "song of the day" lists for the jazz section.
"We've beefed up our live in-studio performances in the last few months,"
and turned them into podcasts, Cohn says.

"It's a destination for audiences to discover new music and engage with
tastemakers they trust," says Maria Thomas, NPR's vice president for digital
media. While the Web is replete with sites about music, there are few that
aggregate content the way NPR hopes to do, she says, or operate without the
prime intention of selling something (although listeners will have links to
retailers if they hear something they like; Amazon.com is already on board
and NPR hopes to add others).

"The big advantage for us is it's another outlet for our jazz stream," Cohn
says. While listeners may stumble across KPLU through Google or the iTunes
store, affiliation with NPR gives KPLU much greater visibility and a
potential answer to the question "how do you get the word out about what you

The service already available, NPR Mobile, actually has two components. For
those portable communication devices that are Web-enabled, NPR Mobile Web
offers news and feature content from NPR and local stations including KPLU.
Mobile Voice, for conventional cell phones, provides callers seven options
for audio content, such as national or local newscasts or features such as
Frank Deford commentaries.

Thomas says the latest ventures, as well as earlier projects including
podcasts of NPR content, represent a new approach for public radio in
experimenting with what models work in the digital era.

Those models may some day involve delivery of all NPR and KPLU content to
most portable devices, Cohn adds. But like many technological developments,
these projects are "kind of like baby steps," he says. "I'm waiting for my
flying car and my Dick Tracy watch, the sooner the better."

In other radio notes:

KIRO-AM/710 said afternoon talk host Dori Monson has signed a contract
The morning team of Scott & Sam from local contemporary-Christian music
format KCMS-FM/105.3 has added a station in Columbus, Ohio, to a list of a
half-dozen around the country that carry excerpts from the show.
KEXP-FM will broadcast from the CMJ Annual Music Marathon in New York Monday
through Oct. 19, hosting 20 bands in live performances during the week.
Fans of "When Radio Was," the compilation of golden-age radio shows heard on
KIXI-AM/880 at 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, may be wondering what's up with
the show, since repeats have aired the last two weekends. KIXI operations
manager Dan Murphy says the show's producer and syndicator has a new owner,
and a new host (Greg Bell, succeeding Chuck Schaden). New episodes will air
beginning this weekend.
Orkestar Zirkonium performs on "Sonarchy" at midnight Saturday on KEXP-FM.
The Sunday edition of Jim French's "Imagination Theatre," heard at 8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday on KIXI-AM, includes a new Harry Nile adventure.
P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or
billvirgin at seattlepi.com.

© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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