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NPR will work with a pilot group of a dozen NPR stations to create multimedia local news that will work online and on radio, thanks to new grants from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting ($2 million) and $1 million from the Knight Foundation.

The stations will vie to provide a new model for community news, perhaps competing with, or complementing other local and hyperlocal projects, such as,’s Everyblock, The U.S. News Network and other services.

Details are still being worked out. It isn’t at all clear what the role of online will be. We will undoubtedly hear more about it from NPR SVP Kinsley Wilson when he speaks at BIA/Kelsey’s ILM:09 event in L.A. in early December. But it has been announced that the stations will experiment with an embeddable video player that can import PBS TV content.

The idea of outside support for specific news content was first developed in the early 1990s by The Markle Foundation (an effort that I provided consulting for). Markle provided funds to CNN for various public interest election coverage and election games that would not otherwise be supported by advertising. More recently, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer has embraced the sponsored content model with a special health desk supported by a $3.5 million grant from the Gates Foundation.

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