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NPR Podcasts: The Not-So-Hidden Gem

National Public Radio has been a staple of the AM dial since the 1970s. Never one to sit on their laurels, NPR has always striven to stay forefront of culture and society. In 1990, during the Gulf War, NPR produced Talk of the Nation which paved the way for the news-talk format in public radio. Despite what the name implies, National Public Radio is not just on the radio. In the 21st century, NPR has embraced digital mediums and and is perusing their goal of creating a more informed society not only by radio but, also on the Internet and through mobile phones with the latest apps.

Podcasts are proving to be very effective for NPR. Currently there is no centralized reporting around podcast downloads so it is difficult to compare NPR to other sites offering podcasts of a similar nature. However, NPR does keep track of their own numbers and with 14.7 million podcast downloads every month they can easily be one of the most downloaded podcast providers on the Internet.

One reason NPR is able to generate such strong numbers is the variety of content they host on NPR.org. A quick look at the NPR podcast topics reveals more than 10 broad categories including business, science, health, politics and news. NPR works hand in hand with more than 50 radio stations and producers to keep their podcast directory full of current content.

The music category, for instance, has numerous entries. Some may feature interviews with musicians or industry experts while others will showcase a particular artist or style of music. The NPR podcast directory can also be browsed by provider or title. This is an excellent way to stay current with the programing from a particular region of the country or stay up to date with a favorite show.

Even with these features for organizing and searching NPR podcasts it can be easy to miss something that would be appealing. NPR has an elegant solution for this dilemma and they place it front and center. The landing page for their podcasts asks you to “mix your own podcast.” You can give the podcast a unique title and string several individual podcasts together into a single download. By entering keywords in a search field a list of relevant options is presented. Once a selection is made, the top stories within that selection are presented so you can drill down further. This selection opens a new page with descriptions of the podcasts fitting your choices and you just add the ones you want.

NPR has also made downloading the podcasts more convenient with several options. Most people will be satisfied simply downloading the file to their computer hard drive. For those with special programs that organize and play podcasts, there is a “pod” button for easy syncing. Some programs still require you to add a link to the podcast manually and NPR makes this easy as well. This allows your program to update the podcast feed with new content whenever you are online. There are also buttons for syncing with Zune and iTunes.

NPR's approach to podcasting is simple and effective. Most people already have their favorite NPR programs in mind when they visit NPR.org. Once there, it is easy to realize that there will almost certainly be other programs to delight. NPR has designed the site so it is easy to locate those programs and give them a listen. 15 million podcast downloads a month is just around the corner for NPR and it is only going to get better from there.

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