Posts Tagged ‘Ira Glass’

This American Life Experiments with Paid iPhone App [Updated]

February 3, 2010

[Many Thanks to @MGallivan over at NPR who corrected my mistake in the original version of this post. I had originally attributed the app development to NPR. As he told me over Twitter: “@radio2020 TAL is actually not NPR. It’s produced by WBEZ & dist. by PRI. A group called PRX made the app w/ BEZ. Enough letters for ya? ;)” Thanks for catching me there! -George]

National Public Radio (NPR) has had a huge lead in working with social media as it applies to radio. Its non-commercial basis has allowed a lot more flexibility in experimenting online, allowing it to act as a sort of crucible for new media. This is important for those of us in commercial radio to keep up with; many of their techniques and concepts are adaptable to our industry as well.

Now one of their most well known programs is pushing further into engaging the world of Internet capable  mobile users. I think it should go on your “things to watch” list. Here’s a synopsis from GigaOm:

“This American Life,” the well-loved personal narrative public radio show, today released a paid iPhone application for on-demand access to its nearly 15-year-old archive. It’s a good fit; the show’s demographic ostensibly overlaps quite well with iPhone owners, and its podcast often tops the iTunes charts. The price of Ira Glass’ dulcet monotones in your pocket? $2.99.

Now there are a few things to note in order to see the big picture:

  • The episodes are free online for several days after they first air.
  • Older episodes are available on iTunes for $0.99 each.
  • This American Life is streamed live online in addition to its syndicated broadcasts across the nation.
  • According to the GigaOm article, the bandwidth needed for all this is quite expensive: “500,000 episode downloads a week at a cost of more than $100,000.”

With an established community behind it,  This American Life has certainly got enough of a foundation to make this forray. I do wonder how the cashflow aspect will play out, though. Even non-commercial radio needs to have operating expenses covered, including the ever-increasing costs of bandwidth. Also, if massive adoption occurs, will it adversely impact the revenue generated by the 99-cent episodes? For an iPhone-using TAL fan, it’s a no brainer: all 15 years of archives for the cost of three old shows I’m sure will be the choice for many.

Another thing to consider is how the established community will react. The Internet has a history of  not being kind most of the time when free services begin to charge. In this regard, having the shows available for a limited time at no cost serves to keep good will even among those that might otherwise object fiercely to paying. To my way of thinking, that is fantastic strategy. I’m very curious to see if it plays out as well as I think it will.

Monetizing radio content on mobile platforms is a high priority in our industry. Each time an experiment is made in this direction, there is something to be learned. Besides, I always love it when I get to report on something like this. I’ve watched palpable advancement on so many fronts  in the past two years of writing this blog and it’s been amazing throughout.

Image: This American Life Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

WNYC’s Greene Space Serves Glass Under Glass

April 24, 2009

Quick Question: When you see the future of radio, is the glass half-empty or half full? Answer: The future of radio is full of Glass. Ira Glass, that is. Host of the popular radio program, This American Life.

Produced in conjunction with Chicago Public Radio, This American Life has been entertaining radio listeners for over a decade. The program features real-life, interesting, quirky people, and is a natural coming from the city of Studs Terkel. Glass’s popularity led to a Showtime television series by the same name.

Last night, Ira Glass performed his radio show, This American Life, in 400 movie theaters around the United States simultaneously. Movie theaters? Alicia Lozano, reporting for the Los Angeles Times, filed this report yesterday:

Radio aficionados will convene around the silver screen tonight when Ira Glass hosts a special two-hour edition of his weekly public-radio series This American Life, which will be beamed via satellite to more than 400 theaters nationwide. It’s the second time the show has been offered in movie theaters by NCM Fathom, a division of National CineMedia. The first was last May.

How fantastic that people will come together and buy tickets to sit in a movie theater and watch a radio show being performed? Certainly, the passion for well-made radio has not disappeared, even though it’s shape-shifting.

Ira Glass will help usher in a new era for radio when venerable New York public radio station, WNYC, inaugurates it’s new performance space later this month. Performance space? Radio station? What gives?

Elizabeth Jensen, on the media desk at The New York Times, enlightens us:

…the space, envisioned as a laboratory in which to rethink public radio as an interactive medium, will also host concerts, audio theater and political debates, many streamed live on thegreenespace.org.

Located in lower Manhattan at the corner of Charlton and Varick, WNYC’s new facility is known simply as “The Greene Space” and formally as The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, after a benefactor. Notice the words “performance space.” The slogan of The Greene Space is “On Air, Online, and On The Street” — a fitting rallying cry for a new kind of radio.

Among the theatrics offered during the facility’s Grand Opening celebration April 28 through May 9 is Radio Lab’s “Audio-Visual Smackdown” featuring — you guessed it — Ira Glass! Right there on street level, under glass, the popular radio/TV show host will referee a face off on which is better, radio or television, between Radio Lab’s co-hosts, Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad. The cage match is set for Wednesday, May 6, at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Who knew radio would have such potential as performance art? Chasing the story for The New York Times, Elizabeth Jensen quotes Greene Space executive producer Indira Etwaroo saying, “We’re trying to reimagine what radio means to a 21st-century audience.”

I’d say they’re doing a pretty good job of it!

Photo courtesy of WNYC Radio.


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