NPR becomes first non-music station on iTunes Radio

Faith Merino · March 24, 2014 · Short URL:

NPR gets its own iTunes Radio station, but will it bring many listeners?

Know-it-all hipsters, rejoice! For now you have one more digital tool for accessing NPR when you want it, where you want it.

NPR announced Monday that it will henceforth be available via iTunes Radio, making it the first news station to break onto the iTunes Radio scene. The station will offer 24 hours of streaming NPR news, plus pre-recorded shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition. (Truly, though, no hipster will be satisfied until the station also includes separate 24-hour streams of Fresh Air with Terry Gross and This American Life.)

Later this spring, the NPR iTunes Radio station will expand to include streams from its member stations across the country.

"What you hear today is just the start of what's to come," said Zach Brand, NPR's VP of digital media, in a statement.

NPR has been available on a wide range of digital fronts, from Web and mobile browsers to various apps. The non-profit also recently unveiled Infinite Player, which has been billed as a Pandora for news radio. Essentially, it’s 24-hour talk radio, but it can be personalized to only play the kinds of items you enjoy—which sounds awesome, because I can’t stand Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and, ironically, Marketplace (it’s not really Marketplace that I don’t like, but rather Ky Ryssdal’s bro-y schtick that just gets on my damn nerves). Like Pandora, you can thumbs-up or thumbs-down stories that you hear, and that fine tunes the algorithm so that if you like a science story, for example, you’ll hear more stories like that.

NPR’s digital listening tools currently attract some 30 million visitors each month, according to a report from Re/, which first reported on the news Monday morning.

Will NPR get much of a listening boost from iTunes Radio? Maybe…not. A study from Edison Research shows that iTunes Radio captured the listening ears of just 8% of the over-12 population last month, compared to 31% for Pandora. That said, brand awareness for iTunes Radio is significantly higher than some of its competitors. Some 47% of people over the age of 12 are aware of iTunes Radio, compared to 28% for Spotify, 24% for Google Play All Access, and just 5% for Songza. By comparison, 70% of the over-12 population is aware of Pandora and 48% is aware of iHeartRadio.

Despite lagging behind Pandora by a pretty wide margin, many analysts believe that iTunes Radio remains Pandora’s biggest threat. I mean, does Pandora have a dedicated NPR station? No? I rest my snooty, elitist case. 


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