Big news today from NPR – the network will start providing digital streams of Morning Edition and All Things Considered on iTunes Radio. Local affiliate stations fought for years to keep NPR from directly distributing its flagship news programs digitally, but it was fairly inevitable that those days were numbered. The local station’s position as the only source for the network’s most-listened-to programs has come to an end.
The NPR announcement says several affiliate stations plan to offer their own iTunes channels soon, but presumably only the largest, richest stations will be able to do that. The rest will have to work even harder to give their audiences a reason to come to them instead of going directly to NPR.
The Answer: Unique Local Content
Stations no longer have the option to ride NPR’s coattails as nothing more than pass-throughs for national programming. They must invest in unique, compelling content that’s specifically relevant to their communities.
For stations that have not made that investment, today’s news will be a wakeup call. I just hope it doesn’t come too late.
The good news, however, is that many of our local stations have been investing – for example, I know of many public media newsrooms across the country that have been adding staff. That’s a hugely positive development. Those stations now must make sure they’re providing enough training and editorial and production support to ensure their new staffers are not just creating any old content but top-notch, high quality programming.
We all saw this day coming from a million miles away. Now it’s here. For anyone who believes in the merits of locally-produced content, today’s announcement is great news. Affiliate stations, this is your time to shine!
Thanks to David Pitman for this comment on Facebook, which could shed more light on how this could play out:
Someone in the Morning Edition hosts group copied and pasted an explanation that clears things up a bit. Here’s the condensed version: “Member Stations that carry Morning Edition and All Things Considered will have an opportunity to submit to Apple links to their own live streams for inclusion in iTunes Radio… NPR estimates that it will take individual stations anywhere from a few days to a few months to convert their streams. … Apple has committed to work with NPR to provide greater visibility for station streams and auto-localization capabilities after launch.”
No doubt this story will continue to evolve as more details emerge …