Friday, November 17, 2006

The NPR iPod

Tossed this idea around with a few folks six or seven months ago and figured I'd post it here too.

The NPR iPod. The only iPod with a built in FM radio. Available for sale only through NPR, its member stations, and as pledge drive premiums. NPR and stations can offer logo-driven aftermarket products for sale or as pledge premiums.

A version iTunes available to current members of local public radio stations. It would have prominent positions for NPR podcasts, station podcasts, and public radio programs and programming streams. There would be links to station web site (or maybe it is the member version of the station web site), the NPR web site, the NPR store, etc. A portion of iTunes music or content sales goes to the member station.

If not Apple, maybe one of Apple's competitors would be interested. After all, the public radio audience is significant. I'm sure there are many thorny details but I believe the concept could work. Seems to me that time is running out to leverage something like this.

9 Comments:

Blogger Rob said...

Love it - time is running out I agree and a statement is demanded
Rob

9:59 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

Might consider a sandisk? Already has built-in FM radio and a better bang for the buck than iPod.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Only downside: the new Zune comes with a bulit in FM tuner.
http://www.zunescene.com/comparison

Some tiny company called Microsoft beat you to that part, at least. But, the overall idea is still a great one.

But the real money is going to be NPR ringtones. When does that roll out? I want the Click and Clack laughter when my phone rings.

4:09 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Thanks for the comments folks. Love the ringtone idea.

I think the availability of FM tuners elsewhere make the NPR iPod with FM tuner even more attractive. Apple has demonstrated its willingness to work with others to expand the reach of iPods and iTunes. I've got to believe an exclusive NPR model that financially benefits public radio would be a big hit for both. There’s a lot of existing brand power in the idea. If Apple isn’t interested, then yes, talk to the competition. Just guessing, but public radio could probably move fifty thousand units fairly fast. That’s $7.5 million in retail sales at $150 per unit not including aftermarket and subsequent fee-based downloads.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the multiple posts with the boogered HTML - John, can you delete the first two?

I'm not sure that 50k of iPods would be sufficient to be "worth it" to Apple given the substantial production costs associated with creating a custom model. After all, Apple has sold over 8 million iPods PER QUARTER in 2006. So I'd guess you'd have to present potent sales in the 500k-1mil/yr range to convince Apple.

And to be honest, the idea of an "NPR-branded iPod" seems very elitist. Even though there have been several different branded iPods over the years. I'm not quite sure why...but it's like you've got the mixed with the unbelievably pretentious 'NPR ladies'. Combining the worst attributes of both.

Admittedly I love both those sketches, but you get my point. Maybe it's because the iPods are already overpriced, and he's a really arrogant jerk with his "(you have to) buy a new iPod at least once a year" remark. I guess it just feels like this just another thing with NPR that cuts it off from "the public" more and more.

And how exactly do you determine what content gets the coveted "NPR connection" in this special flavor of iPod/iTunes? Just NPR-specific programming? That cuts out a lot of PRI, APM, Pacifica and independent programming that most listeners consider part of "public radio"; a branding that's largely synonymous with "NPR". Include everything? That can dilute the brand with a lot of clutter? Draw the line somewhere in the middle? Who makes the cut?

Plus, doesn't this "discriminate" against the public radio stations that broadcast on AM radio...such as WNYC and WRNI? I won't get into how usually handheld portable FM radios are pretty horrible tuners.

Besides, Apple has
already had an FM tuner add-on for the iPod for some time now. :-)

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the multiple posts with the boogered HTML - John, can you delete the first two?

I'm not sure that 50k of iPods would be sufficient to be "worth it" to Apple given the substantial production costs associated with creating a custom model. After all, Apple has sold over 8 million iPods PER QUARTER in 2006. So I'd guess you'd have to present potent sales in the 500k-1mil/yr range to convince Apple.

And to be honest, the idea of an "NPR-branded iPod" seems very elitist. Even though there have been several different branded iPods over the years. I'm not quite sure why...but it's like you've got the mixed with the unbelievably pretentious 'NPR ladies'. Combining the worst attributes of both.

Admittedly I love both those sketches, but you get my point. Maybe it's because the iPods are already overpriced, and Steve Jobs revealed he's a really arrogant jerk with his "(you have to) buy a new iPod at least once a year" remark. I guess it just feels like this just another thing with NPR that cuts it off from "the public" more and more.

And how exactly do you determine what content gets the coveted "NPR connection" in this special flavor of iPod/iTunes? Just NPR-specific programming? That cuts out a lot of PRI, APM, Pacifica and independent programming that most listeners consider part of "public radio"; a branding that's largely synonymous with "NPR". Include everything? That can dilute the brand with a lot of clutter? Draw the line somewhere in the middle? Who makes the cut?

Plus, doesn't this "discriminate" against the public radio stations that broadcast on AM radio...such as WNYC and WRNI? I won't get into how usually handheld portable FM radios are pretty horrible tuners.

Besides, Apple has already had an FM tuner add-on for the iPod for some time now. :-)

12:15 AM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Aaron,

Thanks for the iPod sales numbers. Perhaps the public radio sales potential is really not significant; perhaps my estimate is too low. I do know that Apple would not want to lose the public radio listener market. Whether that could be translated into unit sales is a good question.

That's just part of the equation, though. The iTunes piece has significant potential too. As for where lines get drawn, that requires leadership with an abundance mentality. It requires an "all boats rise together" approach to innovation. That's where NPR it was heading during New Realities. Those types of problems get solved with visionary leadership. Just look at how the creation of iTunes changed the conversation about downloadable music. None of what I propose is easy to do and there are tough choices to make. But it can be done.

Finally, yes, I know there is an FM add-on. Radio shouldn't be an afterthought in the technology that requires extra effort.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope it's not too late to get in on this discussion.

It's true that there has been an FM add on for the iPod for some time, but it's lacking two things: AM and HD.

Here in Nashville we have, in essence, three Public Radio stations under one roof: AM/FM/HD-2. Some cities have even more.

Personally, I'm putting my money on HD radio (literally) and from what I've seen the most adventurous alternative efforts on the new channels are coming from Public Radio.

One of the more prolific developers of iPod accessories is here in Nashville, griffintechnology.com, maybe an investment from NPR might get them thinking about this problem.

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I left a response to this thread earlier this morning, under Anonymous. Since then I've figured out how to post under a name, and also refined my thinking on the iPod idea. If you will, delete the previous post, don't put it up and go with this one instead.

How about this: We don't think of the radio as an add-on to the iPod?

I just put a new HD radio in my car and included the iPod interface so the radio runs the iPod which stays tucked away in the glove box. I don't think of the radio as an add-on for the iPod.

Twice a day I walk my dog in a lovely park in Brentwood, Tenn. I wear my trusty Sony headphone radio which is starting to show signs of age and which production has been discontinued by Cousin Sony. I'd like a new headset, I'd also like it to be HD capable. Now that I think of it, I'd like to be able to plug my iPod into my headset radio and listen without those irritating ear buds.

I would not go so far as to say that HD will save terrestrial radio, but then again it might. Until the telcos and cable companies can figure out how to wire a moving automobile or a headset radio, HD offers tremendous improvement over what we now have. And, I must say, I think Public Radio is being the most creative in the new programming offerings for HD.

Supposedly, an HD radio has to have, at a minimum, a 500Mhz CPU. Progress toward a portable version of that system is rapid: http://www.i4u.com/article145.html

So, how about not an NPR iPod, but rather an NPR headset radio (with iPod input)?

7:54 AM  

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