MICHELE NORRIS, host:
There have been big changes in the media business since the days of Deep Throat. Tired of playing catch-up, a small number of newspapers are embracing the latest digital media. They're producing their own Internet radio shows that people can download onto portable music players such as the Apple iPod. As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, the papers are creating everything from professional-sounding variety shows to the radio equivalent of "Wayne's World."
FRANK LANGFITT reporting:
For newspapers, the news is mostly bad. Circulation is down, competition fierce. Desperate to reach a more mobile audience, some publications are turning to podcasting. More than a half dozen newspapers now offer Internet radio programs that people can download with special subscription software called RSS. They can listen on computers, or they can listen on portable music players wherever and whenever they like.
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LANGFITT: Here are a couple of examples, beginning with a show on video games from The Columbus Dispatch.
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Mr. SHAWN SINES (Co-host, "GameOn"): It's "GameOn."
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Mr. SINES: Welcome to "GameOn," episode 11. I'm one of your hosts, Shawn Sines.
Mr. CHUCK NELSON (Co-host, "GameOn"): And I'm the other, Chuck Nelson.
Mr. SINES: We're talking about two games on the Xbox today.
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Mr. FRANK BURGOS (Host, "Philly Feed"): Welcome to the "Philly Feed," a production of the Philadelphia Daily News. I'm your host Frank Burgos.
Mr. ERIC MAYBERRY: And I'm Eric Mayberry. On today's podcast, how one Daily News writer is planning on spending Mother's Day.
LANGFITT: Newspapers are the latest to adopt podcasting, following thousands of amateur deejays and hosts who produce programs in their basements and living rooms. Some of the newspaper shows have a homemade sound. The Denver Post relies on college students like Ian Neligh who rewrite stories in the middle of the night and then record them on home computers.
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Mr. IAN NELIGH: It's 3:00 in the morning in Denver, and I'm Ian Neligh. I'm a senior at Metro State College, majoring in journalism. And I'm getting up at this hour to begin podcasting for The Denver Post Online. I'm sitting down here at my computer in the living room, and I'm starting to grab several stories from each section of the news as it's posted online. I'm going to be printing out my scripts here, and before I start recording on the microphone, I read everything out loud to warm up my voice. `And now for sports.'
LANGFITT: While The Denver Post offers audio versions of print stories, the Philadelphia Daily News produces a talk show featuring its own reporters. Frank Burgos is the paper's editorial page editor and a driving force behind "Philly Feed." Burgos was frustrated by newspapers' slow embrace of the Internet, so he was determined to jump on podcasting. He records the show in an office above the newsroom with several microphones and a mixing board that cost $150. Given the tiny overhead, Burgos says the Daily News had to podcast.
Mr. BURGOS: The attraction for us, besides keeping ourselves relevant, was the low cost. Anybody can be a podcaster. And if people can do it out of their garages or out of their living rooms or bedrooms, why couldn't we do it here out of the newsroom?
LANGFITT: Burgos thinks podcasts could help the Daily News develop a more personal relationship with its audience through the sound of the human voice. "Philly Feed's" relaxed style contrasts with the formality of some newspapers which Burgos says can alienate some readers.
Mr. BURGOS: Podcasting, done the right kind of way, can sort of reduce that, can make a newspaper sound like a human being, because that's what newspapers are. They're a collection of human beings.
LANGFITT: So far, more than 2,400 people have downloaded "Philly Feed." It has one sponsor, a computer company, and no business model. Media analysts aren't sure whether podcasts will ever make real money, but Rob Runett, who follows electronic media for the Newspaper Association of America, says that's not the point. He says newspapers need to start podcasting just in case it ever takes off.
Mr. ROB RUNETT (Electronic Media Analyst, Newspaper Association of America): Right now, there's so much competition in digital media. Whether it's RSS feeds or blogs or podcasts, media companies need to be there. They need to be experimenting, 'cause if any of these do pick up, they want to have had the experience and the time invested to actually make a go of this.
LANGFITT: Frank Burgos isn't sure where "Philly Feed" is going, but he's glad that newspapers like his are finally ahead of the technological curve instead of behind it. Frank Langfitt, NPR News.
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NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.