NPR’s “This American Life” becomes endless on TuneIn

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 9:15am

We appreciate TuneIn’s distribution of favorite public radio programs. The ability to timeshift enhances broadcast listening and ensures that nothing is missed.

Speaking of inclusiveness, TuneIn announced the start of a new station devoted to stalwart PRI show “This American Life,” hosted by the endearingly mumbly Ira Glass. The program unlocked its 18-year show archive to create a 24-hour, seven-day stream of endless This American Life. It is available on the web and in both versions of the TuneIn app -- free and Pro. More like a broadcast than a playlist, when you first tune it in, the stream picks up mid-show.

More discriminating fans of the show can sort through old episodes by date or tag at the programs website. (

Interestingly, and only semi-relatedly, it was Ira Glass who publicly criticized the “Car Talk” program's carrier stations for switching into reruns when the show’s hosts retired. (Glass has not retired.) Glass’ point was that the hour should be freed up for rising stars, not fading ones. That worthy sentiment doesn’t apply to the unlimited space of an Internet platform, though, so now the question becomes: Who else? A 24/7 presentation of “Car Talk” seems like a natural -- as does any popular program with a big archive that isn’t hooked to current events. (“Fresh Air,” we’re looking at you.) 

PRX shifts from intermediary to primary distributor with Remix app

Monday, September 30, 2013 - 12:10pm

PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, is a nonprofit open market for public radio programming. Open to any producer, the PRX catalog represents any length, production value, and nearly any topicality. Stations can license programs and series for use, with the PRX clearinghouse acting as a commission-based agent.

As such, PRX has fulfilled a secondary distribution role, helping producers gain programming slots in radio schedules. For most listeners, exposure to public radio content is skewed similarly to the music star system -- they enjoy the hits (e.g. Radiolab, WaitWait Don’t Tell Me, Fresh Air) are are unaware of the longer tail. PRX is moving to change both those issues, increasing attention to its own role as a publishing platform while giving listeners are better sense of available options. The vehicle for accomplishing this is PRX Remix, a straight-to-consumer app featuring PRX shows that you probably haven’t heard on your local NPR station.

Unmodestly, PRX Remix calls itself, “The greatest radio station of all time.” Hyperbole aside, the emulation of radio playing is the app’s drawback. There is no interactivity or searching. There is a play button … that’s it. (Testing for this write-up transpired in the Android version.) the playlist is curated, not arbitrary, with short introductions of each programming piece. As such, PRX Remix proves to be a passable discovery environment, but the hope here is to evolve the app into a directory of PRX programs. Letting users create their own playlists would probably increase time spent with the app, and certainly would expose more long-tail productions.

(First seen in Paul Kamp's Backbone Newsletter.)

NPR unveils new "responsive design" homepage

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 1:20pm

NPR today relaunched its homepage with a fully "responsive design" approach to optimize the site for different device screens.

With what it calls the "Listen drawer" (pictured), NPR offers quick access to the most recent newscast and program, plus links to apps for iPhone, iPad and Android, and podcasts.

"Our online audience is engaging with NPR on a growing number of devices, from small-screen phones to big-screen TVs," said Kinsey Wilson, NPR Chief Content Officer. "With this redesign, we’re able to give the audience the optimum NPR experience no matter where they encounter us."

NPR says the new site increases connection to NPR Member stations by allowing visitors to select a favorite station, then "auto-localizing" as a default.

NPR explains more here and here.

NPR CEO says goal of digital efforts to be "Pandora for news"

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 8:05pm

NPR has long set the pace in radio in this country when it comes to adapting to the new media landscape. Interestingly, in a new Wall Street Journal interview, NPR CEO Gary Knell characterized NPR's online content efforts as trying to be "a Pandora for news."

NPR's website and apps brim with on-demand news, music, photos, and other features. Knell told the paper the idea is "to allow listeners to customize a playlist, available through the cloud, live. We want to have serendipitous listening, not knowing what the next story is..."

Knell verified that that NPR's efforts in digital media have been effective in bringing new, younger listeners into the fold -- as some figures show commercial broadcast radio listening cratering among teens and young adults. While the average age of NPR's on-air listener is 53, that drops to 37 for iPhone listening. The average age of "NPR Music engagers" is 28, he said.

Without the on-demand options and other features enabled by new media technology, Knell fears, listening is lost.

"We're all over this, because if we don't do this we're not going to last," he admitted. NPR has to offer "the option of a la carte listening, or they will turn to other places."

Read interview excerpts in The Wall Street Journal here.

New York Times "Press Play" streaming music premiere service echoes NPR feature

Friday, May 31, 2013 - 12:35pm

Earlier this month The New York Times launched Press Play, an interactive music discovery section on its website the premieres new music chosen by editors, streaming albums set to be released that week. It's an interesting offering for a traditional media outlet via its digital presence -- and demonstrates the power of a curated music experience. brings up the obvious parallel to NPR Music's "First Listen" feature.

"We are getting offered plenty, as you can imagine," Jeremy Egner, a senior staff editor on the Times' culture desk, told Poynter. "We're not having death matches with NPR people over this record or that."

Read more in here.

NPR "responsive design" efforts lead to "mobile first" approach for new sites

Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 9:35am

In the effort to adopt "responsive design" for its digital platforms, NPR is taking a "mobile first" approach, reports NetNewsCheck.

("Responsive design" aims to optimize content viewing and navigation while minimizing the resizing, panning, and scrolling of pages for a wide range of devices like desktop computers and mobile phones.)

NPR recently unveiled its new mobile website interface for IOS and Android devices. The redesign now offers full versions of each story (instead of abridged content) along with easier links to audio, photos and video.

"It’s easier for us to build a coherent, full experience at the small screen level and let it grow up to the big screen rather than try to create something on a big screen and then figure out what things to take away to make it work on a small screen," said Mark Stencel, NPR digital news editor.

Read more in NetNewsCheck here.

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