Grants, donations to NPR support expanded reporting, app for personalized listening

NPR has lined up $17 million in grants and individual gifts to expand two beat-reporting units and to complete development of an app designed to provide a personalized, location-based listening experience of content from NPR and local stations. Most of the funding, about $10 million, supports development of the app, which NPR has referred to internally as Project Carbon. Slated for release by April 2014, the app will enable listeners to hear, read and watch public radio content across digital platforms, providing an experience similar to what Pandora or Spotify offer for music. The app is designed to customize the content it delivers by using geolocation, gathering feedback and tracking when and for how long users listen. Though the app will launch initially for smartphones, NPR plans to expand its capabilities to serve “as many platforms as needed,” said Kinsey Wilson, chief content officer.

Pubcasting’s push into online news delivery has built-in limitations

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – At a forum of leading public media professionals, participants expressed mixed feelings about whether public media can, or should, replace newspapers as primary gatherers of news. At the fourth Public Media Futures forum, held Thursday at Bloomberg’s offices in San Francisco, more than two dozen public media professionals debated whether the industry’s non-broadcast capabilities are robust enough to allow it to fill the role of a daily newspaper. In some respects, public broadcasting websites have already moved into the up-to-the-minute newsgathering space. Kinsey Wilson, executive v.p. and chief content officer at NPR, said NPR.org functions much like a newspaper website, with breaking news, a story flow that shifts multiple times a day and large quantities of original content apart from radio pieces rewritten for the Web.

Listen to audio from last week’s PRPD conference

Audio from last week’s Public Radio Program Directors conference in Las Vegas is now available on PRPD’s website, including the keynote address by June Cohen, executive producer for TED Media; a Q&A with content chiefs Kinsey Wilson of NPR and David Kansas of American Public Media; and the closing address by NPR “founding mother” Linda Wertheimer. Not all of the recordings are freely available, however — only PRPD members can access recordings of the conference’s breakout sessions. PRPD’s David Hollis has also posted photos from PRPD on Flickr. I’m sifting through my notes from the conference and will have a wrap-up coming your way soon, plus additional coverage inspired by conference conversations in weeks to come. If you went to PRPD, what did you take away from the conference?

NPR promotes Wilson to chief content officer, Arnold departs PRI, and more…

NPR President Gary Knell has restructured the news organization’s top ranks, elevating digital chief Kinsey Wilson to executive v.p. and chief content officer and appointing Margaret Low Smith senior v.p. of news, a job she took on an interim basis last year. When Wilson joined NPR as senior v.p. and general manager of digital media in 2008, the position was parallel to the senior news exec post then held by Ellen Weiss. Knell’s restructuring elevates Wilson in NPR’s organization chart to supervise all of NPR’s content areas — news, programming and digital media. “In Kinsey and Margaret, we have two journalists, strategists and leaders with a keen understanding of the craft that distinguishes NPR — and how we continue to innovate and evolve,” Knell said in a news release. The new structure allows for greater coordination of NPR’s news, digital and programming strategies, and a “more seamless integration” of its news operations, according to the release.