Radio: Text During the Mid-Day Lull?


NPRWhen considering the future path of radio, National Public Radio (NPR) is well worth watching. Since they are listener-supported, they have a good bit more latitude in experimentation than commercial entities do, and have consistently leveraged that in a very forward thinking way. Now, as the organization plans a fundamental reboot of their flagship website,,  we are about to see another interesting approach debut.

The big change? A massive increase in text content as opposed to audio. Elizabeth Jensen at The New York Times shares the rationale with us:

The Web site changes are part of a strategy meant to increase NPR’s share of the midday audience, between its “Morning Edition” and the late afternoon “All Things Considered,” when listening to NPR stations drops considerably, said Kinsey Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of NPR Digital Media.

Instead of short paragraphs that direct users to click on links to audio reports taken from NPR’s programs, the Web site will now offer fully reported text versions of articles, so users can click from their cubicles. “We think the midday experience is much more text-driven,” Mr. Wilson said.

It’s good logic. There are many people working in offices where playing an audio stream would be disruptive, but would probably be attracted by the ability to read the same content during the breaks or over lunch. I know it is a big jump from the traditional approach to radio, but traditionally, we did not have the tools that the Internet age has provided us.

Additionally, this makes for good companion news to the radio for the blind first tested during this past presidential election. Just as with the social media elements that Internet savvy stations are beginning to use, text is merely another means of bringing the content to the “listener” in the way that they prefer to get it. It could possibly increase listenership on the audio content as well. As any fan of radio knows, there is a big difference between reading transcript and having it delivered by a familiar and entertaining voice. I can see scanning a transcript online and then going back to listen later if it was a distinctive personality like Ira Glass.

Time to watch their progress and consider how that might work in a commercial setting.

Photo: erussell1984 / CC BY 2.0

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