Although NPR’s identity will always revolve around “audio,” the introduction of mobile apps has made it more of general news organization that can compete more directly with the NYT, AP and others, CEO Vivian Schiller told Slate Group Chairman Jacob Weisberg in an interview at The Big Money’s Untethered conference. NPR’s free iPad app has already been downloaded about 350,000 times, she noted. Unlike the iPhone and Android apps, the iPad app has made NPR’s offerings more “reader-oriented” as opposed to primarily a listening experience.
Despite the fact that more NPR users are reading and listening, as well as watching some video, Schiller doesn’t want anyone to get the idea that NPR is aiming its sites toward magazines or TV. “Those are two things you won’t see us doing,” she said, noting the videos tend to be tied to music or other sorts of performances. “Radio is where our distinctiveness lies,” Schiller said. “There’s a certain quality, it’s hard to describe it. But you could be visiting another city and turn the radio dial and even if you don’t necessarily hear [Weekend Edition host] Scott Simon’s voice, you just know you’re on an NPR station.”
Schiller added that “over 35 million unduplicated consumers” listen to NPR on one platform or another. “We’re not the first place that will tell you when a plane crashes,” she said. “But we’ve got our niche and we want to expand it in areas where other journalism outlets are stepping away, such as investigations.”