NPR Mobile Strategy Mixes Text With Live And On-Demand Audio

National Public Radio is already a leader in podcasting. But a free NPR News iPhone app that launched Saturday night opens up a new dimension for the network and its member stations with live and on-demand mobile streaming. It’s also the first app to make reading the news and listening to it equally important, providing full-text coverage along with audio. In addition to NPR’s own programs and those it distributes, the app includes direct access to local shows from more than 600 member stations live and on demand. (Slide show here; shortcut to app download; NPR intro; Scott Simon video demo embedded below.)

And iPhone is just the beginning. NPR already has apps in the pipeline for Symbian and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android. As the NPR team waited for Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) to approve the app, CEO Vivian Schiller and NPR Digital SVP & GM Kinsey Wilson spoke with paidContent about the network’s mobile strategy. It’s all aimed at what Wilson sees as “a unique opportunity in the mobile space” to be the premiere audio news provider.

At the same time, NPR is playing up the combo aspects of the app developed by the NPR Mobile team and Bottle Rocket Apps. Wilson explains: “This is the first app that is both for reading and for listening; our feeling is that people want to do one or another. There are times when reading a story is simply the quickest and most efficient way to get the news you want. There are other times, particularly when you’re engaged in other activities, that listening makes more sense. Where we have both, we’ll certainly present both.”

He adds, “Our emphasis both in mobile and on the web is first and foremost the NPR experience and the depth we’re able to provide in various areas. We need to stay current on the news and that’s an absolute price of admission.” That means a mix of NPR and AP; as NPR’s blogs are integrated into the app, NPR’s content should outweigh AP most of the time.

Member stations: It might have been easier to stick to providing NPR’s own programming but the goal was always to produce the combined experience. Schiller: “If somebody says they love NPR, they may say that but what they mean is they love their listening experience in whatever market they