RAIN 11/15: NPR applies "Pandora-like" customization to its radio content

Paul Maloney
November 15, 2011 - 11:00am

National Public Radio today launched what it calls an "experiment" to deliver its audio content to listeners in a new way: Infinite Player. It's a non-stop, "lean-back," listener-influenced stream of NPR content one might liken to "Pandora for spoken word content."NPR Infinite Player

"The explosion of Internet-connected devices has created listening opportunities almost everywhere... vastly expanding the ways people find and listen to audio," NPR writes in a blog entry, introducing the service. "Many of these new use cases lend themselves particularly well, if not exclusively, to this 'distracted' listening model... Audio is playing in the background. You may be listening quite intently. But you're also doing other things."

NPR fans could always simply tune in to a member station, either traditionally or online. NPR also offers a "live" non-stop stream of its programming. In either case, it's "hit a button and go" listening, but neither can be tailored to reflect the listener's taste. It's purely "push" programming. On the other side of the coin, NPR.org offers listeners thousands of hours of on-demand programming, from its most popular shows to the latest news cast, interviews, and in-depth journalism. The listener can hunt and choose for exactly what she wants, or queue stories in a playlist to run consecutively. "All this requires a lot of the user's attention," writes NPR. "That model works very well for some people in some cases; but it's a far cry from the roots of radio in which the listener simply hits a button and listens."

Enter Infinite Player. Launch the stream, and NPR's latest "top of the hour" newscast plays. Then, it automatically begins to stream a series of on-air items ("stories we think you'll like from NPR's three main focus areas, news, arts and life, and music"). The player allows you to skip to the next item, pause, and "30-second rewind" (like you might find on a DVR).

There's also "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons designed to enable the listener to "teach" the player the types of items she likes to hear most (by way of example, NPR specifically mentions Facebook, Zite, Flipboard, Pandora, and YouTube's LeanBack).NPR logo

NPR is also experimenting with special versions of the player that incorporate local, member-station content with its national content (KQED, Michigan Radio, and KPLU).

Read NPR's blog entry on the new Infinite Player here. Give it a try here (You'll have to either register or sign in with an NPR login, or Facebook, Yahoo, or Google ID. Also, it only works in Chrome or Safari at the moment.).

Michael Schmitt
November 15, 2011 - 11:00am

Kurt HansonRAIN editor and AccuRadio founder/CEO Kurt Hanson will moderate the Future of Radio panel at Jacobs Media's Summit 16. The panel will include WTOP VP of News and Programming Jim Farley, radio futuroligist James Cridland and others.

Summit 16 -- "a 360° view of the challenges and opportunities facing the radio industry" -- takes place in Baltimore on December 7 (during the Arbitron Client Conference). You can find out more from Jacobs Media's blog here.

Michael Schmitt
November 15, 2011 - 11:00am

Apple's iTunes Match cloud music serviceYesterday Apple finally launched its cloud music service: iTunes Match.

The $25 per year service "matches" your local music in iTunes with 256kbps AAC cloud versions, only requiring you to upload tracks that iTunes can't find a match for. Your cloud music is then accessible to stream to Apple TVs, or to download on other computers, iPhones, iPod Touches or iPads. All in all, it's more like an online backup or cloud-based sync service than a streaming platform.

Google and Amazon offer competing cloud music services. However, their services require users to upload all their music. Their services also focus more on streaming users' music to mobile devices, rather than simply syncing music as iTunes Match does. Amazon's service is free for up to 5GB of music, than $20 after. Google's service is currently free, though many expect that to change soon.

iTunes Match was first announced in June (RAIN coverage here). Apple notably missed its "by the end of October" deadline to launch iTunes Match.

The L.A. Times has more coverage here, while Lifehacker offers tips on helping you decide if you should sign up (here).

Have you signed up for iTunes Match? What do you think? Got any thoughts on what Apple will do next with its cloud service? Sound off in the comments!

Michael Schmitt
November 15, 2011 - 11:00am

RadioplayerThe UK's all-in-one web radio platform Radioplayer has launched apps for PC, Mac or Linux computers along with a widget for Google's Chrome web browser. 

The apps join Radioplayer's Facebook app (RAIN coverage here). "Radioplayer hopes they will lead to commercial tie-ups with computer manufacturers and retailers to 'pre-install' Radioplayer on to computers," writes MediaWeek (here).

You can find Radioplayer's apps here.