NPR may have spent the better part of this year making itself into a leader in digital broadcasting, but with its new dedicated Internet radio, the organization is reaching out to its core audience—baby boomers.
"We had been talking about doing something for our over-50 listeners for a while," says Barbara Sopato, director of NPR's e-commerce and consumer products division. Then, at last year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, she and other NPR representatives came across Jake Sigal's booth in the "Silvers Summit" section. Sigal's company, Livio, introduced a dedicated Pandora Internet radio last year—and now, in time for the holidays, the company is debuting a dedicated NPR radio. (Sigal will be presenting the radio at the AARP @50+ expo in Las Vegas next week).
Steve Jobs may not be interested in dedicated devices like the Kindle, but there's a case to be made for creating products that help less Web-savvy people take advantage of new technology developments, such as online movies and music. Take Roku's dedicated digital video player, which makes online video from Netflix, Major League Baseball, and other providers available on viewers' TVs. Sigal says all his projects start with the question, "How can I get this technology to my parents?" (He invented the first USB turntable for converting vinyl to mp3s). Now he's thrilled to have worked on a project with NPR. "NPR is one of the coolest companies we've ever talked to because they know what their users want," he says.
Sigal and Sopato came to Fast Company's offices recently for a quick demo of the new NPR Internet radio. Like Livio's Pandora radio, the device uses Wi-Fi but comes equipped with an Ethernet cable for customers who don't have wireless Internet. The new radio has some features that should appeal to younger audiences, too: great sound quality, and access to more than 16,000 stations around the world and more than 800 NPR stations. But at $199, this device seems more like something younger consumers would buy for their parents than for themselves. Livio's NPR radio is avialble for preorder at NPR's online store and on Livio's Web site starting today.