The biggest change for most NPR.org visitors will be the demise of the pop-up player, which previously opened a new window whenever a user listened to audio. An audio player box will now live in the corner of the website and stay in place as users navigate the site. A similar audio player was also deployed in a website redesign at WBEZ in Chicago.
The changes will also “connect users more deeply with their favorite Member stations,” according to a memo to stations by NPR’s Joel Sucherman, senior director of digital products, and Scott Montgomery, managing editor of digital news.
The site continues to feature co-branding with stations, as determined by the user’s location. Users will also have the option to listen to a live stream of the local station’s broadcast in the player box at the site’s top-right corner, also located at the top of a page on mobile. A music section in the audio box will showcase streams from NPR and member stations.
“As always, the stream activity will count toward your station’s streaming,” the memo said. “… When the user plays a station stream, the player will link to the station’s donation page.”
Along with the technical updates, NPR has introduced new opportunities for advertising on its digital audio content. With “Supported Selections,” NPR.org’s audio player and NPR One will feature old NPR stories curated around a sponsor’s theme.
“NPR will hand-curate a selection of audio stories that resonate with NPR.org users and reflect the ideas of the sponsor’s campaign,” NPR said on its sponsorship website.
The sponsor will be recognized in a promo, “throughout the listening experience” and during a 15-second audio message during playback of certain stories, according to Erica Osher, director of NPR’s sponsorship product team, in a post on NPR’s site.
“Bringing storytelling expertise to bear for supporting brands and audiences, these collections are presented to users through an audio promo as they are listening in the new player,” Osher wrote. “Users will have the option to play these stories immediately or to add the stories to their queue.”
(Update: Osher clarified for Current that companies can choose branding themes for the Supported Selections, but they do not select the featured NPR stories, which is handled by the network’s sponsorship team. The players will display the sponsor’s ad during the stories, and sponsor messages play before, between and after the selected pieces.)
NPR is also offering “Supported Podcasts,” sponsorship messages around NPR-produced podcasts in the new audio player and on NPR One. It also includes “branding throughout the listening experience” and “primary mid-roll placement in the podcast.”
New sponsorship on the audio player’s mobile version features a 15-second sponsorship message and a “branded, tappable image,” according to NPR.
NPR said its digital team is working on other improvements to the audio player that will roll out later this spring.
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