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I’m at NPR again today for a group discussion of the effect of the Web. I am very lucky.

There was discussion yesterday about whether should become more of a news site. My gut reaction (which usually means “my wrong reaction” — bad guts! Bad bad guts!) was that it shouldn’t. I woke up this morning realizing why I reacted negatively.

NPR’s distinguishing strength in news isn’t coverage. Audio is hard to skim. Besides, there are already lots of news sites, and increasingly we’re pulling in the coverage we care about, rather than going to a source site. Why go to when you can have CNN, The NY Times, Alternet, HuffingtonPost and Ethan Zuckerman come to you in a feed?

But NPR is fantastic at feature stories analyzing and contextualizing the news. Which means faces the same problem every blogger does: Getting word out about the interesting features they generate. NPR has some facilities available to it that we ordinary bloggers don’t, of course, but the challenge is the same. So, I think NPR should think through how they can surface more of their excellent reportage. And I think it comes down to two basic, well-understand things.

First, let us subscribe to people (e.g., the Nina Totenberg feed), topics (e.g., Iraq coverage, book reviews), programs (e.g., “Fresh Air”), and stuff that other people recommend (e.g., a Digg-like facility?). NPR is already good about providing feeds within the limits of the law and the need to maintain a relationship with their member stations.

Second, let us add value to the NPR content by posting our own, posting reactions, engaging in conversation, etc.

So, should become more of a news site? It depends what you mean by news. Coverage? Nah. Features and discussion? Sure.

Straightforward stuff, but hard to get right, and with plenty of room for innovation within these bromides. [Tags: ]

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