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RAIN 7/27: NPR redesigns site with a view to becoming a top online news destination

Posted on: 07/27/2009


National Public Radio (NPR) relaunched its website today at NPR.org. The redesign repositions NPR as a more all-purpose online news service.

“With many traditional news outlets declining, listeners are depending more on NPR and our member stations to meet their information needs on every platform. The new NPR.org and our strong push into mobile applications will take public radio to the next level of audience service,” said Vivian Schiller, NPR CEO, in a press release.

NPR also announced the development of new NPR News smartphone mobile apps. According to the press release, “the NPR News App currently under development for the iTunes App Store will offer iPhone and iPod touch users the opportunity to both read and listen to NPR’s news coverage; curate their own audio playlists; tune in and bookmark a favorite station for its live and on-demand streams; and listen to the most recent stories from NPR’s news magazine, talk and cultural programs. NPR serves more mobile web pages to the iPhone than to any other device.”

The New York Times also has coverage here.


Newsweek today characterizes the NPR website redesign as part of CEO Vivian Schiller’s, “strategy to transform NPR into the No. 1 destination for free news on and beyond the radio… (and) extending its reach into local news. She plans on relying more on local member stations to fill what she sees as a ‘scary’ void in local coverage as hometown daily newspapers fold.”

Schiller told the magazine, “Radio is our core, our heart and soul. It’s where most of our audience is. But we have to make sure that we serve the audience wherever they want it. Of course, there’s traditional radio with massive, massive audience. But where else is audio listening going? We need to own that space. We’re the No. 1 most downloaded podcast in news and information.” Read more from Schiller in Newsweek here.


There’s lots of talk — some call it “hype” — about Swedish ad-supported on-demand music streaming service Spotify (we’ve covered the service ourselves, here ). It’s only available in Europe now, but its creators say it’ll come to America’s shores by the end of the year… with the music industry’s blessing.

Today comes news of a sexy iPhone app the company has submitted to Apple for approval (watch a video demo here). MocoNews, at WashingtonPost.com, reports the Spotify app will allow offline play, “push a button to download your Spotify playlists containing up to 3,333 songs to the app for playing whilst not connected.” In May the company had technophiles drooling over a demo of its Android app — see RAIN coverage here.

What’s the big deal? Wired’s Eliot Van Buskirk, now a fan of the service, wrote, “the application seems like a magical, all-encompassing version of iTunes, giving access to over 6 million tracks on demand, Spotify is already the most successful music sharing platform in Europe with more than five times the usage of its closest competitor. Because of its drop-dead simplicity and freemium pricing structure, the company could soon be in position to threaten just about every other music service.” Read his article, with a detailed review, here.

The success of the service here in the U.S. will rely on whether the labels will allow it to exist. And there are doubters (which is why some label Spotify news as “hype”). While co-founder Daniel Ek told Van Buskirk he’s confident he’ll be able to forge deals in the U.S. as he has with copyright owners in several European countries, it still remains to be seen. Labels want a piece of the action in exchange for licensing music; and Spotify hasn’t yet shown it can sell enough advertising or premium subscriptions (for users who want no ad interruptions) to generate a profit high enough to be attractive.


The record labels and Apple are reportedly working together to reinvent “the album” — in interactive digital form — with the hopes of changing the way people buy music.

Consumers obviously have tired of buying shiny $17 discs containing 2 good songs. Many now prefer to cherry-pick songs for ninety-nine cents each at the iTunes Music Store. Now, the music industry is enlisting the company that has enjoyed the most success in music over the last few years to help it reinvent the purchasable music “package” for the digital era.

The UK’s Financial Times reports the project to develop the new interactive digital albums is code-named “Cocktail.” Along with 12 or 15 new songs, the new album package might feature “a new interactive booklet, sleeve notes and other interactive features,” writes the paper. It will likely work with a new portable, tablet-sized computer Apple is developing. The tablet will sport 10-inch diagonal screens and connect to the Internet like an iPod (but with no phone capability). Read more in the Financial Times online here.

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