NPR, APM join forces with mobile app Swell

By Andrew Lapin

NPR and American Public Media are partnering with a new mobile app that curates talk radio and podcasts according to listener taste.

Swell, which launched June 27, is the latest venture to bring digital radio programs to listeners through digital rather than terrestrial means. Built by Silicon Valley-based startup Concept.io, the free app uses an algorithm similar to Pandora’s to curate a random, continuous stream of audio content, including NPR and APM programs. The app is currently available for iPhone, but its makers plans to add Android support soon.

Swell will need to distinguish itself in this space from Stitcher, a free app for iPhone, iPad, Android and personal computers that stream on-demand podcasts and radio programs. Stitcher was founded in 2008 and has more than 650,000 users plus a library of more than 15,000 podcasts, including many from public radio. Users can build playlists or listen to personalized recommendations generated by the app. Stitcher is also partnering with Ford and General Motors to bring its app to car dashboards.

In addition, the Public Radio Exchange launched a mobile app of its own on Tuesday, allowing users to stream its PRX Remix channel.

“We think custom listening is a great experience that will be enjoyed and sought by many people,” Zach Brand, v.p. of digital media at NPR, said in the release announcing Swell’s launch. “We are excited about our partnership with Swell and in finding more ways to extend the public radio conversation.”

Nancy Cassutt, APM’s managing director for national distribution, sent a memo to stations in advance of Swell’s announcement, explaining why the distributor chose to partner with a direct-to-listener company.

“As a public media company, our mission is to expand public radio audiences, and that means delivering programming how, when and where they desire it,” Cassutt said in the memo, which was posted by the Public Radio Programming Directors blog. “At the same time, we remain committed to your success. Radio is our core platform; it is essential to us and the content we produce.”

Swell’s staff includes “founding audio editor” Aimee Machado, who has previously worked for WNYC, KPCC and KQED.

Questions, comments, tips? lapin@current.org
This article was first published in Current, July 8, 2013.

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