NPR won't push its podcasts or app on the radio

A missed opportunity?

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NPR is far from oblivious to the growth in podcasting. The organisation puts out a bevy of shows that people can subscribe to, download and stream, like From the Top and Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! So it's all the stranger that upper management has advised local stations against promoting them. In a note titled Guidance on Podcast 'Back Announces', Chris Turpin, VP for news programming and operations, says DJs can mention a podcast "but not in a way that explicitly endorses it."

In practice, a station could say "that was Linda Holmes of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast," but that's about it. Broadcasters have been told not to promote the content of a podcast -- in other words, what a particular show or episode covers -- or how to access them, like through Stitcher or the company's own NPR One app. "Just to repeat: Be creative in how you back announce podcasts, but please avoid outright promotion."

The move seems like a backward step for NPR. It's understandable that some local stations would be fearful of podcasts, given that they potentially eat into their own listenership. But if the organisation has devoted resources to podcasting, it makes sense to cross-promote the two.

"We won't tell people to actively download a podcast or where to find them. No mentions of, iTunes, Stitcher, NPR One, etc."

In a statement to the Washingtonian, NPR spun the move a little differently: "People know how to find podcasts. It's like when we talk of books on air: we mention the title and author, not the bookstore." That might be true, but the analogy is a little off in this instance because NPR owns a so-called "bookstore." It's called NPR One -- a novel mobile app that gives listeners a continuous stream of curated and personalised radio. As Turpin writes: "For now, NPR One will not be promoted on the air."

It's a strange stance. Many people know how to access a podcast, but a large portion of NPR's readership -- especially older listeners -- might be unaware that NPR One exists. To increase the app's user base, wouldn't it make sense to promote the service to NPR listeners? After all, those are the people that are most likely to appreciate and recommend its efforts.