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NPR’s New Wi-Fi Radio is a Baby Boomer’s Boombox

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.

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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.

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“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.