NPR defining new Podcast strategy

I contacted NPR about some of their shows and adding podcasts to them (the job of an evangelist never stops.) However, when I did, I did not expect I would end up getting something that few others are aware of and maybe even a scoop: NPR is not renewing its contract with Audible and is working on a new strategy relating to podcasting. This is pretty big news.

It all started when I emailed them, asking to start podcasting “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, a very funny quiz show. The time at which the show was broadcast on my local station changed, making it more difficult to catch it. As a result, I decided that I should contact them about podcasting it. After all, the local station has been promoting podcasting heavily and I figured that adding one more show would not hurt.

Over the weekend, as I cleaning through the mountain of email I get, I found the following message (emphasis is mine):

We appreciate your interest in the podcasting of NPR programming.

As you might be aware, in 1999, NPR signed a podcasting agreement with Audible when that company was one of the few exploring ways to make audio downloadable and portable. Using Audible’s services at that time was the best way for NPR to explore this new distribution technology, deal with the emerging and complicated rights issues related to download and begin experimenting with how to best serve NPR listeners who are on the go.

In the six years since then, the landscape for content downloading and portability has changed dramatically. Beginning last year, we recognized that new technologies in the marketplace might enable us to better serve NPR listeners.

As we formulate a more comprehensive strategy, we chose not to renew our agreement with Audible when it recently expired.We are now developing a new strategy for making NPR content downloadable and portable. Once the plan is finalized, we will announce it publicly.

NPR is committed to exploring emerging platforms that will best serve listeners and our stations, in ways that will add more value to the NPR experience. This commitment includes a strong online presence with, extensive involvement in satellite radio and leadership in the developing digital radio industry. We look forward to extending that philosophy with a new download and portability strategy.

The first thing of interest here is that NPR did not re-sign with Audible. Considering the rich library of programming NPR is offering, this will, no doubt, be a major blow to the proprietary approach Audible is taking. It may also be a major issue in terms of Audible’s business model: will they survive in the world of podcasting? What happens when Amazon and the iTunes music store start selling books in mp3 format? This is a pretty big set of questions that the Audible management will need to deal with.

The second part here is that NPR is working on a downloadable and portable strategy, which goes against the core of Doug Kaye’s argument that public radio is doomed. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that strategy and I, for one, expect to see great things come out of that new strategy.


Wait, Wait is now in the NPR podcast directory.

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