Online Won’t Kill The Radio Star

Vivian Schiller, president and chief executive of NPR, talked with Kara Swisher of The Wall Street Journal about the rise of Internet radio, getting programs on Apple Inc.’s iPad and forming partnerships with other nonprofit news organizations.

NPR has an amazing amount of stuff you’re doing digitally compared to public, regular or commercial radio stations. How are you all thinking about this?

SCHILLER: Against the odds and surprising to many people, our audience for just broadcast radio continues to grow. We hit our record ratings number in the last ratings period of almost 34 million people who tune in every week.

However, we’re a public-service organization. We have a mission to provide for an informed citizenry, and we also have a goal of universal access.

And as younger generations are consuming content on their cellphones or on their iPhones or on their iPads or on their Android phones or whatever, we want to make sure that we’re there. So it’s very important for us to be on every platform.

Where do you think your most important audience is going to come from in five years?

SCHILLER: In the next five to 10 years, Internet radio will take [the broadcast tower’s] place, and there’s no reason why we should be fearful about it. In fact we should embrace it, especially on mobile. Mobile is the second coming of radio. It has been a godsend for us, because mobile devices are so easy to take with you, and you can listen to any stream you want.

The great promise and potential in public radio is the combination of the local and the national. To the extent that stations are very strong and very relevant locally, they will survive the loss of the monopoly of the broadcast tower.

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