The more stations in the Public Radio Tuner, the better it gets. So we’ve been inviting public radio stations to submit their streams and promote the Tuner. You might understandably think that there’s one central way to do this. But no. Public radio was a decentralized system well before the Internet came around to show us what the word “decentralized” really meant. Of course, the Web has countless sites. But public radio has hundreds – that’s still a lot, given the cost of entry! Once a non-commercial station gets the required government licenses and gets their transmitter up and running, they can become members of networks like NPR, PRI, and APM in order to purchase programming, while also producing their own work or licensing it from places like PRX.
Public radio is a loose confederation. Ever tried communicating with a loose confederation? Not so easy. That’s why we ask you to directly request your station’s stream. That’s also why we’re getting the message out in every public-radio-related blog and mailing list we can think of.
As the Tuner continues to develop, we also are refining and clarifying the purpose of the collaboration that developed it. A recurring conversation in the public radio system is how stations can work together while retaining their own unique identities. In short, we’re expert experimenters. For the long version, here are some thoughts.
CPB funded this collaboration as an experiment in sharing resources, knowledge, and harnessing a beneficial network effect for each station and the public radio system as a whole. Communication is an important part of this. Our only preset idea about the Tuner is that we want to bring public radio to mobile media listeners while promoting station’s unique identities. So station input will truly help shape future releases of the Tuner (next one scheduled for May 2009), as well as how we guide stations on submitting their streams and information.
The Tuner is not meant to supplant individual stations’ — nor the networks’ — mobile efforts. It will support them. We’ll be sharing code and other materials so public broadcasting entities can make their own versions of the app as well. That said, judging from the enthusiasm of the Tuner’s users — nearly all reviews are 4 or 5 stars since the January release! — there is a lot to be said for giving people one portal-style app with which to explore the system. As a former mobile user researcher, the top request of all I interviewed was ‘give me one place to get everything.’ As of Friday, Public Radio Tuner has had 133,213 downloads – that’s more than 30,000 a week.
Does an individual station get lost in this? Not necessarily. The Tuner retains the last station listened to, so it’s only one tap – the launch of the app – to get to a station. The Favorites and Nearby functions also get people to stations quickly. If we hear that stations want more visibility beyond the branded station pages, there are ways to work that in — for example, by putting logos in the directory list, or letting people set a “home” station that opens automatically when the app is launched. We can be creative in striking a balance between familiarity (show the stations I know and love) and discoverability (give me something new). Maybe we let people shake the iPhone and land on a random station (see the Urban Spoon app for an example). The next release will have a ‘What’s On Now’ program guide. If your station is airing what someone wants to hear at that moment, you might get a new listener.
Other plans for the next release include on-demand content (kind of like podcasts) for station and network programs. We’re also exploring the possibility of some sort of call to donate to individual stations.
No one knows yet if individual station apps can bring more listeners than one consolidated app, or if that’s even the goal. That’s another reason the collaborators embarked on this experiment. There has been talk of creating a template for a single-station app, but that of course depends on available resources and level of interest.
Public radio, as we all know, is a loose confederation. Standards generally don’t emerge on their own. This expresses in the app in differing stream formats, connection times, and even searchable metadata. The Tuner uses what the stations provide. Searching by format will usually get you results… but you won’t get every possible result because the metadata isn’t there. The Tuner is a great exercise for revealing these needs. We can then communicate back to stations on how to address them for an optimal mobile experience.
Again, we encourage everyone – stations as well as anyone using the Tuner -to contribute ideas so we can set this app apart from the other iPhone radio tuners. The content already does that. But so can public-radio-specific features… as can the message that there’s a huge and engaged public radio community working to make the app better with each new release. We’re scanning blogs and mailing lists as best we can, but the surest way to get your ideas heard is to post them at PublicRadioTuner.com. Here’s the link for general feedback and discussion: http://www.publicradiotuner.com/?page_id=165 And watch this blog for updates.
The holidays brought an iPod docking radio to our house, and I’ve found it to be the perfect pairing for the Public Radio Tuner. It reminds me of when I was a kid and would stay up late with my shortwave radio trying to fine tune stations from far away lands. Today, all I need to do is pop my iPhone into the dock and launch the Public Radio Tuner, giving me a nationwide choice of public radio stations right at my fingertips. For the inauguration on Tuesday, I launched the stream for KIPO, Hawaii Public Radio to hear how they were covering their native son as he takes the oath of office. The Public Radio Tuner is great for listening to your local station while you’re on the go, but it’s also fun to sample stations from across the country. Have you tried out any new stations or reunited with old favorites using the Public Radio Tuner? Let us know your discoveries in the comments.
We’ve heard from a small number of people having trouble running the updated Public Radio Tuner. In most cases, it’s a result of phones running older versions of the iPhone operating system. You can easily check what version of the operating system is on your iPhone.
Alternatively, when your iPhone is connected to your computer, open iTunes and select the iPhone from the main navigation. The summary page shows you the OS version running on the phone. If you are not running OS 2.2, we recommend you click the update button on the summary page.
That’s a question occasionally rolling in from users of the Public Radio Tuner (for reference, here’s the current list of participating stations). Our goal is for the Public Radio Tuner to offer each and every public radio station in the country. But the public radio system is a loose confederation of hundreds of stations, and we have made the Public Radio Tuner an opt in project. One reason is that additional listeners from the iPhone may increase bandwidth costs for stations, and we all know money is tight these days. Additionally, the iPhone app can’t handle all audio formats – so a station with a Windows Media stream, for example, won’t be compatible with the Public Radio Tuner. And finally, we’ve been working hard to get the word out to stations about the opportunity to join the project. If you’re a listener and don’t see your favorite station on the app, you can contact the station directly and politely suggest they join the project so you can enjoy their great programming on the iPhone. If you’re at a station and would like to join the Public Radio Tuner, it’s easy to do so – check out our submission guide for stations .
Thanks to everyone who has sent in their comments about the version 1.1. Keep those suggestions coming because the team is already working on new features for version 2.0. This morning, I checked the iTunes store and the Public Radio Tuner has broken the top ten of free music apps. We’ve already seen over 40,000 downloads of version 1.1 this week. And it’s getting great reviews from users on the download page. If you haven’t yet had the chance to try it out, go to the iTunes store and download the new version of the Public Radio Tuner today. We’re currently at #7 on the charts. Let’s bump it up to #1!
January 8th, 2009 → 4:40 pm @ Rekha at PRX // Comments Off
Greetings from the Public Radio Tuner team!
We want to thank the hundreds of you who are participating in this important project. Your streams and promotional efforts have made the Tuner an amazing success: 1.3 million downloads in just a couple of months!
The Public Radio Tuner team would like to invite you to an all-station webinar on Thursday, April 2, at 3pm EST. Click here to register for the Public Radio Tuner webinar
This webinar is open to anyone in the public radio system, particularly stations, whether or not you’re already in the Tuner. Please join us to learn more and contribute feedback and ideas. The webinar service can host 1000 people — we’ve got big hopes for attendance. So forward this email to people at your station who you think should attend.
We strongly encourage stations already in the Tuner to attend, as you need to be aware of several developments planned for the next few months.
As you may know, American Public Media launched the original Public Radio Tuner in December 2008 and has been handling stream submissions ever since. APM joined up with NPR, Public Radio International, Public Interactive, and Public Radio Exchange to develop the version of the Tuner that’s in the iTunes Store today. This unique collaboration of major public radio organizations was conceived of by PRX, which applied for the generous grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that is funding the project through May. PRX is leading this collaboration, which has brought together the talent and resources of all the collaborators to make the Tuner what it is now.
Since the release of the latest version in early January, things have really taken off. The app has consistently been in the top ten free music apps, and has spent significant time as the top free app in the iTunes catalog of over 25,000 other apps. People have expressed their love of (and sometimes confusion about) public radio in App Store reviews as well as comments at publicradiotuner.org. Media coverage has been generally very positive. NPR’s “All Things Considered” was even moved to interview PRX Executive Director Jake Shapiro about public radio’s own new media phenomenon.
But that’s just the half of it.
*An updated version of the Tuner will appear in the iTunes App Store in April, bringing improvements to how the Tuner handles stream connections.
*This version will move from the APM store to the PRX store in iTunes so PRX can more efficiently manage the project.
*The new app location means we won’t be able to automatically “push” an update to current users. Instead, they will need to download what’s effectively a new app in a new store. We have designed a user experience to facilitate this process.
*These changes will position us for a truly major Tuner update scheduled for late May. The May version will be called the Public Radio Player. It will include a dynamic, searchable program schedule and access to select on-demand content.
Leading up to the May release, we are planning a big marketing push that we hope will include testimonials from individual stations. If you’re in the Tuner, we invite you to post your experiences at publicradiotuner.org for inclusion in promotional materials.
You can all promote the Tuner, too. I know some of you are already having fun with this (share what you’ve done at the Tuner site!). We have graphics and suggested copy in the Guide for Stations, and we’ll be adding more soon.
These improvements are intended to further the Tuner’s original and enduring purpose: to grow awareness of public radio and engagement with public radio stations, and to simply reach public radio fans wherever they want us to be. This project has resulted in code, process, and promotion insights that we plan to share with all of you to support your own mobile efforts.
People already using the app are asking for their local stations’ streams. It’s never too late to submit your stream for inclusion in the Tuner (you don’t need to be an APM station to create a login.) We’re continually adding stations.
See you in April,
The Public Radio Tuner project collaborators
This message, announcing the release of Public Radio Tuner version 1.1 (the first results of the collaboration), appeared in a variety of network newsletters and public radio mailing lists. Stations: Feel free to excerpt this for your own promotional efforts.
A collaboration of APM, NPR, PI, PRI, and PRX
Public radio on the iPhone? Of course! We’re pleased to announce the launch of a new version of the Public Radio Tuner, an iPhone app with a sleek new look and state-of-the-art engineering. Version 1.1 made it into the iTunes Store earlier this week, and is continuing the Tuner’s record of success. Since the app’s initial launch, tens of thousands of people have downloaded it and over 200 stations have added their streams. Best of all, we’re getting overwhelmingly positive feedback, once again demonstrating how much people enjoy and rely on public radio and are eager for us to reach them in new ways.
A new collaboration for a new media platform
The January update came out of a unique collaboration between American Public Media (APM), National Public Radio (NPR), Public Interactive (PI), Public Radio Exchange (PRX), and Public Radio International (PRI). The project is led by PRX and supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. APM, which created the original Tuner, provided the code to the colloboration’s technology team so new features could be added quickly and the existing user base could be maintained. This latest update is the first of several updates funded by the CPB grant. More releases will take place throughout the spring of 2009.
CPB and the collaborators see this project as a way to encourage communication and knowledge sharing in order to harness the collective expertise, talents, and resources of the public radio system. We believe the Public Radio Tuner is an important way to keep pace with our technologically evolving listener base and bring public radio to a whole new set of people. Simply put, our listeners want us wherever they go. A recent study tells us that they have the mobile tools to find us – we just have to be there when they look.
Not just any application, a *public radio* application
The Public Radio Tuner essentially allows anyone with an iPhone or iPod Touch to listen to streams from stations across the country. It has the features iPhone users expect from any “tuner” application – search, a favorites list, and fast loading times. What sets this Tuner apart is how the collaborators’ experience and their direct relationships with stations can create a listening experience custom-made for public radio’s high-quality, diverse content. What does this mean for the listener?
Future plans will make the Tuner even more of an on-demand listening tool, with features such as a “What’s On Now” list of programs, searchable program audio, and more.
Not already part of the Public Radio Tuner? Sign up!
People already using the app are asking for their local stations’ streams. (If you have iTunes, check out the reviews here.) It’s not too late to submit your stream for inclusion in the Tuner. We’re continually adding stations.
Station support services (where you submit and maintain your stream information) are in the process of moving from American Public Media over to Public Interactive. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, visit the Public Radio Tuner page on the APM stations site if you have stream-related questions (you can create a login if you don’t have one already). Please visit the project Web site and blog at www.publicradiotuner.com to stay up to date on the project and contribute your ideas for future versions of the app.
Tell everyone about it
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to broadcast it… Promotion is the key to success. Tell your listeners on air, on your Web site, in your Web streams and podcasts. Your involvement powers the Tuner. We’ll be posting promotional materials and ideas soon at www.publicradiotuner.com; in the meantime, you can get them from the APM stations site.
The Public Radio Tuner project collaborators
We are happy to announce that a major update to the Public Radio Tuner is now available in the iTunes store! Thousands of people have already downloaded the update this morning, and are enjoying mobile streaming from hundreds of public radio stations across the country.
The collaboration of organizations behind the Public Radio Tuner worked their fingers to the bone over these last months to improve the Tuner based on feedback from users.
Here’s what’s new in the new Public Radio Tuner:
iPhone and iPod Touch owners currently using the original application will get an automatic notice about the update. These new features, along with a healthy marketing push, will significantly grow the Public Radio Tuner’s reach and expand public radio’s audience (As you may have read yesterday, technology is changing audience expectations).
As always, your feedback is critical to this project. Give us your reviews – love letters and hate mail alike. We’ll be working on this app throughout the spring and plan to roll out more great improvements to the Public Radio Tuner.
The Public Radio Tuner, a free application for the iPhone featuring hundreds of public radio streams, will be the subject of the next Integrated Media Association Webinar on Thursday, January 8, at 3 pm EST. The webinar will outline the features of the Public Radio Tuner and the unique collaboration behind its development. Public Radio Exchange (PRX) coordinated the efforts of American Public Media (APM), National Public Radio (NPR), and Public Radio international (PRI) to build upon the original Tuner offered by APM. The Public Radio Tuner is a pilot project, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was designed to encourage communication and knowledge sharing among the collaborators in order to harness the collective expertise, talents, and resources of the public radio system. The first milestone of the project has been delivered and Matt MacDonald, PRX’s Technical Projects Director, will provide a deep dive into the project details and answer your questions.
The Public Radio Tuner iPhone App Project is a collaborative effort lead by the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in partnership with National Public Radio (NPR), Public Interactive (PI), American Public Media (APM), and Public Radio International (PRI), with participation from Doc Searls and Project VRM at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, additional stations and producers, and in coordination with Apple’s U.S. Education division. The goal is to create the Public Radio Tuner – an application for the iPhone platform using Apple’s recently released software development kit (SDK) and iTunes App Store distribution service. The application will serve end users by initially offering access to local stations’ internet radio streams. Additional versions will offer program/content guides along with a catalog of on-demand audio content from local, independent, and national content providers. Future functionality will enable direct listener contributions to stations and content providers. The project will establish a coordinated approach to the iPhone as a powerful platform for public media, setting standards and shared resources for further application development.