May 28, 2009

Sesame honors mayor, Elmo co-hosts the fun

Sesame Workshop presented New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg with the Global Leadership Award at a gala yesterday for the show's 40th anniversary. There were performances by artists including Sheryl Crow, and even a video message from President Barack Obama. Co-hosts were NBC News anchor Brian Williams, and Elmo -- in matching suits.

New iPhone apps in the works for NPR

NPR will launch a news-focused iPhone application in July and plans another release for its online music service by September, according to Robert Spier, director of content development for NPR Digital.

During a presentation today at nonCOMMvention, the annual conference for pubradio's contemporary music-mix stations convened by Philadelphia's WXPN, Spier presented slides of the iPhone app interfaces. The “landing page” for the iPhone news app will feature text-based content, with icons designating audio-based stories. The app also allows users to access archived NPR shows or live streams of public radio stations. iPhone users who want to interact with NPR content will eventually be able to transfer playlists created on computers to their iPhones, although Spier anticipates this function will be added to the app later this year.

The iPhone app for NPR Music will feature web-only content such as live concerts, blogs, and sharing functions. “There’s lots of discovery content [on NPR Music] that we would like to bring front and center to the iPhone,” Spier said. “We think sharing could be a more vital function on the music app then it will be on the news app.” Launch of the music app is planned for late August or September, although Spier said the initial release won’t be a “full on” version offering all the functions that NPR plans.

iPhone users are the most active segment of the NPR Mobile audience, Spier told nonCOMM attendees. They account for 54 percent of NPR’s mobile web traffic, even though they are but a small segment of all NPR Mobile users. “There not may be many iPhones out there, but this is where all the buzz and most of the consumption is,” Spier said.

Another panelist in the session, Jon Cooper, chief marketing officer for PhindmeMobile, predicted that the demand for mobile web is about to explode from the 50-60 million Americans now actively using it. He presented research showing that nearly half of 272 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S. want mobile web capabilities in their next phones.

With more than 20,000 different mobile web devices on the market, none except the iPhone have become an “object of lust” among consumers, Cooper said. The proliferation of devices and lack of web content that is optimized for mobile uses have inhibited this web platform from taking off, but that will change soon, Cooper said. “Mobile web is the next killer app,” because it is easier to access, cheaper to develop, and works on more devices.

Columnist suggests ending WHYY's Delaware presence

Delaware could save "half a million bucks" if it pulled the plug on local studios of WHYY in Wilmington, Del. That's what a News Journal columnist thinks should be done. Why? He feels that "the station's idea of programming was offering day-old sports scores and not to broadcast news, weather or sports on weekends or holidays. That's not a television station." Who knows, he may get his wish: The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that the station has put its Wilmington facility's building on the market for $1.7 million.

Pubcaster's snacks seemingly newsworthy

WETA head Sharon Percy Rockefeller turned out for the annual Party in the Garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York a few nights back. Published reports say she may or may not have noshed on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salad, or lobster.

WHYY breaks ground for Learning Lab

Work on WHYY's $12 million Learning Lab has begun at the station's main facility in Philadelphia. The pubcaster said the focus of the lab will be digital media, audio and new media. Part of the project is the 4,100-square-foot Lincoln Financial Digital Media Education Studio. The lab is set to open in 2010.