Apple's iTunes Radio has gained a news channel today with the addition of NPR, as first reported by re/code and confirmed on NPR's All Tech Considered blog.
Digital streams of Morning Edition, All Things Considered and hourly newscasts will be available on a new 24-hour streaming NPR channel on iTunes Radio.
"What you hear today is just the start of what's to come," said Zach Brand, NPR's vice president of digital media. Later this spring, the channel will expand to include streams of our member stations from across the country.
iTunes Radio, launched alongside iOS 7 in September, allows users to listen to free, ad-supported streams of songs that are automatically suggested by the service or collected in stations curated by music experts and artists. The new channel, available for streaming on iTunes Radio for iOS 7 devices and computers running iTunes, marks an important milestone for Apple in diversifying the offer of its iTunes Radio service, thus far focused on promoting music content with direct integration with the iTunes Store for purchases -- iTunes Radio is built into Apple's Music and iTunes apps, which have buttons to quickly purchase a song from a stream.
NPR will offer both pre-programmed and live shows; at the moment, it's displayed as a station in iTunes Radio next to music stations created by customers or curated by Apple. Since the launch in September, Apple has been trying various experiments with iTunes Radio for music content: the company regularly hosts "First Play" stations with previews of upcoming albums from popular artists, and it recently launched a special station with audio streams of iTunes Festival at SXSW.
Apple is believed to be considering a dedicated app for iTunes Radio in a future version of iOS, which could give the company more flexibility for separating user-made stations and curated sections, or music content from news, interviews, and other audio content. Currently, the entire iTunes Radio service lives in a dedicated page of the existing Music app for iOS.
Apple's expansion of iTunes Radio could also be particularly interesting for CarPlay, the company's initiative to bring iOS apps and services to car infotainment systems with a dedicated interface and iPhone integration. In initial demos, Apple showed how CarPlay could stream songs off iTunes Radio through an iPhone, but news channels and other audio content could easily fit into the same vision with the unified iTunes Radio service.
NPR's new iTunes Radio channel is available here.