WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attendees at the 2014 Public Media Summit got a first glimpse Monday of the smartphone app NPR will soon roll out, which will offer a Pandora-like experience for listening to public radio content.
NPR COO Kinsey Wilson showed off the app to an audience at the conference, which is sponsored by the Association of Public Television Stations and ends Tuesday. The app uses geotargeting to combine national and local news and programming into a continuous stream customized to listener preferences. It is slated for release in late spring.
During the demo, conference attendees heard a national NPR newscast item about the Winter Olympics segue into a segment from San Francisco’s KQED about a public-transportation labor dispute. The audio also included a plea for donations to KQED; gifts to stations will be enabled via an “donate” button within the app. And users will be able to buy tickets for station events from their devices.
Wilson did not share mockups of the user interface, which is still under development. He referred to the app as the Infinite Player, a name NPR has used for other listening apps in recent years, but he said it will be branded with a new name by next week.
The app will determine a listener’s location and prompt him or her to select a local station, Wilson said. In the app’s early days, NPR will focus on incorporating local newscasts into the audio stream, Wilson said, and NPR is working with Transom’s Jay Allison to develop interstitials for the app. Some smaller stations lack the capacity to segment and encode longer stories, he said.
Regardless, the app will need local content “or at the end of the day, it won’t be credible,” Wilson said.
“We live in a world in which everything is being unbundled,” Wilson said. “It’s not enough to produce content alone.” NPR should not simply rely on third-party content distributors, such as the audio app Swell. The network received $5.4 million from the Knight Foundation and $3 million from three lay leaders in December to support development of the app, which it has also referred to as Project Carbon.
Wilson also said that NPR is investing up to $1 million per year in development and staff time to secure “deck placement” among the first wave of Internet-enabled vehicles, which gives the network its own icon and distribution center in car interfaces.
Copyright 2014 American University