Bill Virgin's Radio Beat October 11, 2007

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat October 11, 2007

Postby radiofan » Wed Oct 10, 2007 7:06 pm

On Radio: NPR expands its digital presence

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; 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 do?"

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 extension.

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

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat every Thursday in the Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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