As more people -- especially those in younger generations -- listen to programming on mobile devices and in Internet-connected cars, the public radio institution is trying to improve its digital listening experience, and it's collaborating with some of its biggest local affiliate stations to do so.
To help fund the effort, NPR has raised $17 million from foundations and individual donors. It will also use the money to deepen its journalistic coverage of key subjects, the
Grants came from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wallace Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
"NPR is responding to the increased demand by audiences for flexibility in consuming content seamlessly across various digital platforms," said Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation at the Knight Foundation, in a statement.
The radio organization said it's working with member stations, including KPCC-FM (89.3) in Pasadena, to create better ways for people to listen to national and local programming with the same app.
That means public radio listeners will be able to create personal playlists to include NPR favorites, like Terry Gross' "Fresh Air," with local shows, such as KPCC's "AirTalk" with Larry Mantle -- as well as programming from stations in San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and New York, along with Minnesota Public Radio.
Of the $17 million, nearly $10 million is going to the digital push, while the rest will fund expanded coverage of education and global development and health, along with its Code Switch initiative to cover race, ethnicity and culture.
This infusion of funding comes after budgetary constraints led NPR to introduce efforts to reduce its staff by 10% this year. In September, Paul Haaga took the post of acting chief executive after Gary Knell resigned as CEO to head the National Geographic Society.
Haaga and his wife, Heather, contributed $1 million to the mobile overhaul.