Saturday, April 03, 2010

Public Radio and the iPad

I stopped in my local Apple store to see the iPad today. It's a pretty slick device. In the hands, it feels like an iTouch on steroids. The larger display is a sight for sore, or at least older, eyes.

What stands out most, however, is that the iPad is designed for interaction. It's not all that special as an audio-only device. The speaker is louder than the iTouch, but the quality isn't as good as the speakers on most computers or as standard iPod headphones. Given the size of the iTouch, it's not something most users will want to be tethered to with a pair of headphones.

I'm sure public radio will develop some terrific apps to take advantage of the iPad's interactive features. It would also be a mistake to think that the iPad and similar technology is the key to public radio's future.

Public radio, particularly NPR, excels at delivering content via audio. Our industry might very well have the greatest concentration of worthwhile audio content in the world.

Our audio is our competitive advantage in the new media marketplace. Public radio is valuable not only for the content it delivers but also because it makes efficient use of listeners' time. A listener can learn or laugh and have good companionship all while doing something else like driving, cooking, cleaning, doing the bills, or gardening. Multi-tasking is not a new concept to radio listeners!

Public radio can't afford to lose sight of this competitive advantage as it seeks to serve listeners on new platforms such as the iPad. While there will be opportunities to serve listeners with print, images, video, and social media, public radio doesn't want to compromise what it does best -- audio. Give that up and we accomplish nothing more than making ourselves like everyone else.

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