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NPR Faces the Future With Web Site Revamp, iPhone App

NPR’s always been a kind of hybrid animal existing alongside conventional radio stations in the U.S. But the rise of the Internet has threatened public radio’s future just as much as its commercial brethren. So, like all good wild beasts, it’s evolving.

NPR’s always been a kind of hybrid animal existing alongside conventional radio stations in the U.S. But the rise of the Internet has threatened public radio’s future just as much as its commercial brethren. So, like all good wild beasts, it’s evolving.

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The organization’s new Web site went live today with a subtitle bar that makes for easy access to News, Arts and Life and Music segments, reflecting categories NPR’s traditionally strong in. There’s also a direct link to NPR member stations–you can adjust your preferences to localize the site to suit where you live. NPR News’ Scot Simon gives a good breakdown on the site improvements in this video:

It’s pretty sweet, but NPR’s also taken a bigger step: It’s dropped the fees that were begin charged to access the transcripts to many news pieces and talk shows going back to May 2005. That’s going to be an extremely useful archive of facts for the public and academics, I suspect, and it’s an interesting step in a world where some off-beat media moguls (ahem *Rupert Murdoch*) are suggesting the future is to charge for online content, not give it away for free.

NPR’s management is also facing up to the mobile Internet devices that threaten traditional FM radio by developing an NPR News iPhone app. Using the NPR API, which was launched over a year ago, the app will let users read or listen to NPR news live, organize their audio playlists, and access specific NPR stations live or on-demand. It’s a bold move, but a sensible one. The organization’s own analysis has pointed out that it already serves up more mobile Web pages to iPhone users than to any other device–it’s just a question of carefully tailoring an app to better suit the iPhone itself.

All in all, these moves will likely ensure the continued success of public radio. But before leaving this story, we can’t resist making this observation: NPR’s new Web site, available here, is all very nice and spiffy–but doesn’t it bear just a tiny resemblance to one of your other favorite Web sites?

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