Public Radio, technology, and you

March 31st, 2009 → 5:30 pm @

The Public Radio Tuner is fast approaching 1.5 million downloads in the iTunes App Store! This week, we’re meeting with local stations to discuss plans for the upcoming release and how to spread the word to public radio fans and get them set up with the Tuner on their iPhones and iPod Touches. 

The enthusiastic reception to the Tuner demonstrates that public radio audiences are willing and eager to embrace new platforms and new ways of enjoying their favorite programs. But when you strip away all the smart phone technology and application development, the Tuner has been a hit for one reason: it delivers the great content you know and love from public radio. Look at the photo above. Is the family gathered around the table because of the fancy radio? Or are they brought together by the story that’s on the radio. It’s the content that leads the way, and the technology plays an important but supporting role.

It got me thinking about a new report from the Center for Social Media about the relationship of technology to public media. The report, “Public Media 2.0”, frames the mission of public radio (and public media generally) as a vital part of the media landscape. More than offering just news and entertainment, public media plays a central role in facilitating our democratic society by creating an informed citizenry and guiding public conversations on important issues and ideas (If you doubt the claim, just think about your own driveway moments, or how many times you find yourself in discussions based on stories heard on public radio). 

When introducing new technologies and platforms to public radio, it becomes important to consider how these channels can reinforce public radio’s core mission and invigorate the relationship with the audience. Technology for technology’s sake is not worth the investment. So whether you’re talking about smart phones or social networking sites, the question for public radio becomes, how can technology allow us to grow the impact of our work?

The Public Media 2.0 report puts a strong emphasis on the role of the audience and their involvement in making public media more public. As opposed to much of commercial media, public radio enjoys a fiercely loyal audience, and one (as we have found here on this blog) that likes to speak its mind. The emergence of social media offers public radio the ability to involve listeners more directly and carry out a more collaborative approach to its work. Under this model, listeners become partners in shaping the work public radio undertakes. We already hear this kind of pro-am collaborations on the radio, with examples like StoryCorps, This I Believe, and MPR’s Public Insight Journalism newsroom. Social media is not the magic bean here; instead it’s a collection of new tools that will allow a preexisting relationship between public radio and its audience to deepen.

Thinking along these lines, the Public Radio Tuner is a first step in this direction, and it places public radio onto one of those powerful emerging platforms. As it stands right now, the Tuner is a one way device. But perhaps, by getting public radio onto mobile devices, the Tuner can inspire public radio stations, producers, and fans to imagine new possibilities. It’s fair to reason that if you can take public radio anywhere via a smart phone, soon the audience will be able and willing to contribute content from anywhere as well; providing immediate feedback to stations and programs, sharing your ideas, opinions, and news tips via text, photos, and video. 

The Public Media 2.0 report lays out an exciting vision of the future of public media, and based on the reception we have seen for the Tuner, I think public radio fans are ready and waiting for new platforms and eager to be a part of the conversation. Take a look at the report, and let us know what you think. Is this the kind of public radio you hope to see in the coming years?


3 Comments → “Public Radio, technology, and you”


  1. Ret

    4 years ago

    I agree; this app would be very much more useful if it would play in the background. Thanks; otherwise seems great.


  2. John from Dorset

    4 years ago

    I agree with Carol. This is brilliant… but I cannot do anything else on my iPhone at the same time!


  3. Carol

    5 years ago

    Public Radio Tuner is a tremendous product, Thank You!!! One problem, I cannot run it & simultaneously use any other iPhone function, such as Notepad. If I click off, it cuts off.
    Is this a fix in the works or am I doing something wrong? I believe I’m using v.1.1.1
    Thank you!!