Kara Swisher

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What Do Rush and NPR Have in Common? Internet Talk Radio Hub Stitcher Nabs $6 Million From Benchmark.

Online talk radio aggregator Stitcher nabbed $6 million from Benchmark Capital and will use the money to give radio blabbermouth Rush Limbaugh, as well as the endlessly talking heads of National Public Radio, even more digital distribution.

The San Francisco-based start-up often describes itself as the the Pandora of online talk radio. And like the digital music site, Stitcher lets its users create and customize their own free personalized talk/information/news radio stations.

The site focuses mostly on its apps for a variety of mobile devices, especially increasingly popular smartphones. It offers programs from about a thousand different sources, such as NPR, E! and The Onion.

Stitcher also recommends new programs to users based on their selections.

The infusion of funding in a Series B round led by Benchmark–whose partner, Bob Kagle, will have a seat Stitcher’s board–will allow it to expand its advertising sales force and improve its offerings, said CEO Noah Shanok in an interview with BoomTown last night.

“The hope for everyone in terrestrial radio is to find new audiences, so as we grow, they will too,” said Shanok, who co-founded Stitcher in 2008. “We want to be a part of everyone’s everyday life.”

Shanok said fast-growing usage and engagement–which he declined to give specifics about–was the reason Benchmark was attracted to the company.

The new funding adds to $3 million Stitcher already raised from New Atlantic Ventures and investors Ed Scott and Ron Conway, who also participated in the new round.

While the mobile app on the Apple (AAPL) iPhone is the most popular, Stitcher also offers software for Research in Motion (RIMM) BlackBerry, Palm (PALM) Pre and Google (GOOG) Android devices.

Stitcher is also pushing into other areas, such as being part of Ford’s (F) initiative to make its SYNC-enabled vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing people to connect to the Internet everywhere much more seamlessly in a moving car. They will be available later this year.

Here’s the press release on the funding:

Stitcher Secures $6 Million in Series B Venture Funding

Benchmark Capital Leads New Round to Help Transform the Way We Listen to Talk Radio

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. (April 6, 2010)–Today, Stitcher, a service that allows users to customize talk radio programming on their mobile devices, announced that it has completed its Series B round of financing. Led by Benchmark Capital, with participation from previous investor New Atlantic Ventures and tech veterans including Ed Scott and Ron Conway, the funding will be used to further Stitcher’s product and platform development. Bob Kagle of Benchmark will join Stitcher’s board of directors.

“We know that people prefer listening to news, talk and information programming when they’re on-the-go. The rise of smartphones has finally created an opportunity to give people exactly what they want to hear–on their commute, at the gym, on a road-trip–wherever and whenever they want it and that’s exactly what Stitcher does,” said Noah Shanok, CEO of Stitcher. “Benchmark’s funding, combined with Bob’s guidance, will help us continue to take advantage of the growing market for mobile content distribution.”

Stitcher’s free service allows users to create a personalized audio programming experience. With Stitcher, users can listen to the news and talk radio shows they enjoy whenever and wherever they like, using their mobile devices. Users choose their favorite programs from more than a thousand different sources, and Stitcher then delivers the audio feeds to their phone as a single, regularly updating radio station. Stitcher also helps users discover new content on a variety of topics–including business, sports, politics, entertainment, and current events–by recommending additional programs based on the shows users have in their feeds. A single radio station can include programming as diverse as Fox Headline News, NPR’s Fresh Air, TechCrunch Headlines, Onion Radio News, and E!’s Hollywood Rap Up.

“Stitcher is transforming the way we all consume news, talk radio, pod casts,” said Bob Kagle, general partner at Benchmark Capital. “Noah and his team are building a platform that will deliver the personalized experience consumers currently enjoy for music to the broader world of audio programming. We’re thrilled to join the Stitcher revolution.”


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