U.S. public radio stations are looking to thumb-sized, high-tech gadgets to help raise money and make it easier for on-the-go listeners to access their programming.
A small device known as the Radio Bookmark allows listeners to electronically jot down specific news stories, talk-shows, music and other broadcasts for later review over the Internet. They can email links to those broadcasts to their friends.
The radio bookmark, which looks like a car-door remote control, logs the time of the show a user wants to pull up. At home, a search engine accessed through a website checks to see what the station was broadcasting at that time and delivers the audio recording over the Internet.
"It's kinda neat. You just press a button. Then you take it and plug it into your computer and up comes the story," said Mike Steffon, director of marketing for Boston-based public radio station WBUR.
It is useful for somebody tuning in from their car who arrives at their destination in the middle of an interesting broadcast and wants to finish listening to it later. Others use it when they are interrupted while listening at home or at work.
"It's for busy folks who don't have time to listen to a full story. They listen to a little bit of it and bookmark it for later," said Chris Ranck, a producer at Pubic Radio Delmarva in Salisbury, Maryland , who uses it himself.
While each of the 33 public radio stations across the United States that currently offers a radio bookmark sets its own price for the device that fits on a key chain, the stations generally offer it to listeners who make a $120 donation.
That includes a one-year subscription to the Web-based service that links users to the programs they have bookmarked.
Radio Delmarva offers two radio bookmarks for $150.
STATIONS NEED FUNDS
It is important for public radio stations to offer enticing premiums because they would not have enough money to keep broadcasting without support from their listeners.
In particular, the product speaks to a station's most loyal listeners.
"If you're a WBUR or National Public Radio news junkie, it's a great little gadget," Steffon said.
The device, which Lafayette, Indiana-based Sky Blue Technologies started selling last year, stand s out from other items that public radio stations have traditionally offered in exchange for donations — an assortment usually comprised of T-shirts, coffee mugs, books, CDs, DVDs, gift certificates and concert tickets.
Sky Blue was founded by Chris Baker, an entrepreneur and electrical engineer who founded a software company that he sold to Pitney Bowes Inc (PBI.N). After six years with Pitney Bowes, he decided it was time to start up a new company