WNYC’s new feature lets listeners create, download playlists

By Ben Mook

Thomas Hjelm, chief digital officer at New York Public Radio, and the pubcaster's in-house digital released a new feature on WNYC's app that allows for curated playlists of specific times that can be downloaded for listening later.

Thomas Hjelm, chief digital officer at New York Public Radio, and the pubcaster’s in-house digital team released a new feature for WNYC’s app that allows for creation of curated playlists of specific times that can be downloaded for listening later. (Photo: New York Public Radio)

New York Public Radio’s WNYC recently beefed up its mobile app with a personalization feature allowing users to generate playlists of news content that can be downloaded for listening on the subway or places where their phones go offline.

The “Discover” feature of the WNYC mobile app lets listeners curate stories about topics that interest them — such as technology, pop culture or movies — into playlists of lengths ranging from 20 minutes to three hours long. The app pulls both local and national news stories, downloading batches of segments for later listening.

The feature was designed to target the city’s subway riders, said Thomas Hjelm, chief digital officer at New York Public Radio. “It started with the thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app you could use for a 30-minute subway trip?’”, he said.

The Discover feature taps New York Public Radio’s original local and national programs, including Radiolab, Freakonomics Radio, The Brian Lehrer Show and The Takeaway. Stories from NPR’s newsmagazines and weekly series and American Public Media’s Marketplace also feed into the app through NPR’s API.

New York Public Radio’s digital team designed and developed the Discover feature in-house, adding it to a mobile app that was initially released in October. Offered for free on Apple’s iTunes store and Google Play, the WNYC app replaces one that Public Radio Exchange designed for the station in 2011.

Development of the Discover feature has had a ripple effect across the organization by altering the ways that staff view and work with segments created by WNYC’s various production teams, Hjelm said. Show content is tagged and categorized by topic and length instead of simply being posted online as part of full episodes of radio programming.

“It’s a bit of a disruption from how public radio has been handled,” Hjelm said. “We need to think of it as not just a radio show, but a cross-platform thing.”

WNYC’s digital team spent nearly a year developing the Discover feature and will continually refine it post-release, Hjelm said. A $10 million grant from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation supported the app’s development and launch.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT