Explore the Player’s On Demand Programs

April 2nd, 2010 → 12:15 pm @ // One Comment

On DemandLately, I’ve been exploring the On Demand offerings on the Public Radio Player. I’ve been amazed at the range of topics and diversity of perspectives you get by browsing the hundreds of programs available on the app. It’s well worth your time to try out a few of these shows.

When you open the app, select the “On Demand” button near the bottom of the app and you’ll see our list of featured programs. You can choose to view programs by category or browse the entire list alphabetically.

You’ll find all of these and more in the On Demand section of the Public Radio Player iPhone app. Enjoy, and remember to Keep Antiquing!

Blog &On Demand &Public Radio Player

The Player: A Star of Foreign Press

March 25th, 2010 → 4:30 pm @ // Comments Off

Perusing the internet, I recently came across mentions of the Public Radio Player on a few international blogs. Since my Catalan, German and Italian are all a little rusty; I used Google Translate to decipher these foreign perspectives on the iPhone app. (You can grasp the main points of the articles, but it sometimes feels like Google hired Roberto Benigni to do the translations.) No matter the language, we’re delighted that word is spreading overseas about the Player. Are there any ex-pats out there using the Public Radio Player to stay connected? Let us know!

Phrase Books
[Jay.Tong / cc / Flickr]

From mossegalapoma.cat (Spain)

Listen to NPR is a great way to see the true American way of life while a cultural and linguistic immersion surveying its contents, often chain, with a focus on news, culture and society. If you are interested try applying Public Radio Player…is a comfortable, lightweight and full of searching and listening stations such programming through an application of the expected half million Download and have already exceeded two million! (via Google Translate)

From iPhone Konig (Germany)

The Public Radio Player 2.1 covers from the size of about 500 radio stations and over 1000 radio broadcasts from the United States. This software receives the user hears a lot of information and the best news of the latest music fan guaranteed hits. (via Google Translate)

From iPhone Land (Italy)

Version 2.1 of Public Radio Player allows you to quickly free more than 500 American radio stations live. (via Google Translate)

Overall, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Blog &Version 2.1

Your Wish, Our Command

March 17th, 2010 → 3:54 pm @ // 12 Comments

Throughout the Public Radio Player’s existence, we’ve valued your feedback. And we’ve had a lot over the past year and a half, including all sorts of suggestions for new features and functionality. We’re proud to say that a number of these ideas have made their way into the latest version of the app. Another update to the Player is planned for early Summer, so keep sending us your ideas for improvements.

Suggestion Box
[disrupsean / cc / Flickr]

Here are some of the most popular requests (along with a few odd ones).

Run in the background
Alarm Clock
Sleep Timer
Provide Instructions
Desktop App that recreates the Player
Boxee plugin
Live stream Program Schedule
Display bit rate of streams
Port to Android/Palm/Blackberry
Look at upcoming hours and schedules within program guide
Add the CBC
Add commercial radio stations
Add Cubs games
Allow donations
Allow stations to add local sponsorships
Add games to the PRP so we don’t get bored listening to the radio
When music is played, add song title and artists information
Provide links to iTunes to buy music we hear
Allow us to back up our favorites list
Make it open source
  • Allow the app to run in the background  We’re investigating some workarounds and hoping Apple loosens its current restrictions on third party apps
  • Alarm Clock  Done!
  • Sleep timer  Done!
  • Provide instructions  Done!
  • Desktop App that recreates the Player  We’re planning to introduce a web based version of the Player
  • Make the Player a Boxee plugin
  • Live stream program schedule  Done!
  • Display bit rate of streams   Done!
  • Port to Android/Palm/Blackberry
  • View upcoming hours and schedules within program guide  We need to determine if that data is available
  • Add the CBC
  • Add commercial radio stations
  • Add Cubs games
  • Allow donations  Investigating how to make this happen, but challenging due to Apple’s no donation policy
  • Allow stations to add local sponsorships  Currently testing this with WBUR — check out their livestream page on the app
  • Add CSPAN
  • Add games to the PRP so we don’t get bored listening to the radio
  • When music is played, add song title and artist information
  • Provide links to iTunes to buy songs we hear
  • Allow users to back up their favorites list on their computer
  • Make the code open source
  • Allow playlists for on-demand programs  We’re looking into this feature for the next version
  • Play a program’s on-demand episodes continually   Same as above
  • I want a pony!  At this time, the Public Radio Player can only support rainbows and candy

Have an idea for the Public Radio Player? Let us know!


Advertising and the Player

March 10th, 2010 → 3:14 pm @ // 4 Comments

Sample ad in station listings
A sample ad on the app

The latest version of the Public Radio Player will introduce advertising within the app for the first time. We wanted to take a moment and provide you some details about the ads and where the money will go.

First of all, we believe that the Player should remain a free download. But, like public radio itself, an app needs funds to continue to operate. The Public Radio Player project has had two rounds of funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Grant funding has been a great catalyst for this project, but it can’t sustain the app over the longer term. So CPB has explicitly asked us to explore ways to make the app financially self-sustaining.

To that end, national ads will soon appear on the top-level pages of the Public Radio Player. Any revenue from those ads will support further development and maintenance of the app. Like the underwriting credits you hear during a radio program, our goal is to display ads in manner that does not interfere with your enjoyment of the content. Ads on the Public Radio Player will appear as small horizontal banners near the bottom of the page and will disappear after 4 or 5 seconds. At the top of this post, you can see what these ads will look like.

Sample ad on WBUR's page
A sample ad on WBUR’s page

In addition, we will be rolling out a service for local stations who want to sell ads to appear on their own pages in the Player. Revenue raised by ads on station pages will directly support that local station. We’re currently beta testing local ads with WBUR in Boston. (On a related note, PRX is also working with WBUR to build an iPhone app for the station. WBUR is seeking input and ideas for the app from its audience during the planning stages.)

We are also exploring ways to enable users to donate to stations directly through the app. However, this is a complex issue due to Apple’s restrictive policies on donations and stations’ own local systems for processing donations from listeners.

The popularity of the Public Radio Player (and other public radio apps) shows that mobile platforms present a significant growth opportunity for public media. It will be necessary to experiment and identify appropriate revenue models to support mobile efforts and keep all the live streams and on-demand programs available to users of mobile apps. We welcome your thoughts on the subject.

About the Project &Blog &Version 2.1

Today: We’re Part of Mobile Madness

March 9th, 2010 → 11:17 am @ // Comments Off

mobile-madnessPublic Radio Exchange (PRX), which develops the Public Radio Player, will be part of the mobile technology festivities this afternoon at Xconomy’s Mobile Madness event in Cambridge, MA. Jake Shapiro, our executive director, gets a full minute to explain our iPhone development strategy to New England’s business and technology community. In that brief span of time, he’ll introduce the Player and our This American Life app, and talk about plans for future apps, including one for Boston station WBUR.

It’s a good thing he talks fast.

The event is sold out, but if you already got your tickets, come by the PRX table to say hello and maybe score a freebie.

About the Project &Blog

New, Improved Public Radio Player

March 2nd, 2010 → 4:07 pm @ // One Comment

Below is the official press release for the Public Radio Player version 2.1

The Public Radio Player iPhone app: Nearly 500 live station streams. One thousand on-demand programs. Downloaded millions of times.

And now new funding, new features, new opportunities.

We’re excited to announce that CPB has renewed support for the next phase of the Public Radio Player. PRX is leading the project and continues to work with Public Interactive as a source of station schedule data and on-demand programs from the NPR API.

As you may know, the Public Radio Player came out of a CPB-funded collaboration of APM, NPR, PRI, and Public Interactive, led by PRX. That first grant ended last summer, but the Player lives on with thousands of new users downloading the app every day.

new alarm clock
wake up with public radio!

Version 2.1 has just gone live in the iTunes Store, and we’re starting work on version 3.0 coming in June.

For version 2.1, we’ve rewritten the code from scratch to greatly improve performance. We’ve also added top-requested features – a sleep timer, wake-up alarm, and the ability to manage Favorites. We’ve improved the On Demand program player, and integrated Safari so users can browse station websites from within the app.

Version 2.1 will also include national banner ads on top-level pages, but not on station or program pages. CPB has encouraged us to find ways to sustain the project beyond grant support so this is our first foray into mobile advertising. We are working to make it possible for stations to sell local ads on their own Player pages. You can see a pilot of this on WBUR’s Player page now.

Version 3.0 will have additional enhancements and a broader roll-out of local station ad support. While we continue to investigate ways to support donations, membership, and pledging, this is a complex issue due to Apple’s no-donation policy as well as stations’ own systems. Local ads could be a significant revenue opportunity for stations with local underwriters interested in the mobile audience.

No iPhone or iPod Touch but full of curiosity? Watch this demo video of an earlier version.

Over the next few months, we will be reaching out to the public radio community for Player feedback and ideas.

There are several ways to stay up to date with the project and share questions and comments:

  • Visit or subscribe to the project website at http://www.publicradioplayer.org for project updates, station stream submission and management, program schedule updates, an FAQ, promotional badges, and audio promos.
  • Fan us on Facebook
  • Email us with feedback and questions.


Jake Shapiro and the Public Radio Player team @ PRX

About the Project &Blog &Version 2.1

Version 2.1.1 Released

March 1st, 2010 → 1:38 pm @ // 13 Comments

Version 2.1.1 is now live in the iTunes App Store and this patch addresses all the known issues with the 2.1 release. Update notifications should be appearing on your phone’s app manager shortly. Apologies for the inconvenience and we hope you enjoy the 2.1.1 update.

Update: Tom, one of the users who helped us identify the 2.1 bugs, gives version 2.1.1 this endorsement:

2.1.1. seems to be the rock-steady app I knew it could be.

Thanks to Tom and all the Public Radio Player users who helped out over the last few days.

Blog &Public Radio Player

2.1 Update Now Live in iTunes Store

February 26th, 2010 → 10:21 am @ // 13 Comments

Version 2.1 update to the Public Radio Player is now live in the App Store. The PRX tech team has rewritten the code for the app from the ground up, resulting in greatly improved performance. Current users should be receiving an update notice in your app manager on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You can also download the new version from the iTunes App Store.

We’ve got some exciting additions to an already great public radio resource. Here’s what’s new in this version:

For your eyes only
[Padre Denny / cc / Flickr]
  • Alarm clock
  • Sleep Timer
  • Safari integration
  • Faster, more responsive user interface
  • Ability to edit and manage your favorites
  • Video tutorial for new users
  • Addition of advertising on directory pages to support future Public Radio Player
    development efforts

Over the next week, we’ll focus in on some of these features and discuss what they mean for the app. But for now, go and download the 2.1 update of the Public Radio Player and enjoy your weekend with public radio on-the-go.

New Update: Version 2.1.1 is now live in the iTunes store. As with any major upgrade, we have run into a few post release issues. With your help, we have identified the problems and our developers are already working on them. We expect fixes to be made shortly and after testing, we will re-submit to iTunes for a 2.1.1 release.

Here are the known issues for version 2.1 of the Public Radio Player

  • The feedback link on the FAQ page results in a routing error.
  • Streams and On Demand programs with (‘) single quotes in the title are causing breaks in data sync and these streams are not displaying in the directories.
  • The local tab is currently displaying options based off of the stations in the Featured tab rather than searching the entire station directory.
  • The app is prompting for location services to be used when not using the Local tab.
  • Possible loss of Streams and On Demand items in a user’s Favorites list.

We are working to push a fix for these issues as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

Blog &Public Radio Player &Version 2.1

The Power of (our) Suggestions

February 24th, 2010 → 2:37 pm @ // 2 Comments

LadyFromShanghaiOn Monday, we published a chart listing the top 20 streams on the Public Radio Player. As mentioned in that post, we are just beginning to sort through the analytics on how public radio fans are using the iPhone app. We were excited about the data and wanted to share some of it right away. Without reading too much into the specifics, I made some initial inferences based on the results. Well, it turns out I missed one very important piece of the puzzle.

I opened the Public Radio Player yesterday and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The opening page of the app lists a group of featured live streams. That list is almost identical to the Top 20 rankings published on Monday. There is such a large overlap that one must conclude that the presence of a station on the featured list is a major influence on the usage of their stream. That is, the Public Radio Player app is both cause and effect of the top station rankings.

I’m not sure if we should categorize my mistake as a case of reflexivitythe observer effectthe Hawthorne effect, or simply a hall of mirrors. I think I had my nose too deep in spreadsheets of data to see what was right in front of me. I goofed – and I apologize for the error.

But the influence of the featured stations list is an important finding. We initially included a featured stations page as a way to improve the load time of the app and to provide a jumping off point for new users (a list of 400 stations and 1000 on-demand options can be a lot to digest). The role of the featured stations list on the streaming choices of users is larger than we expected. We are making some immediate changes to rotate more stations into the featured list and introduce public radio fans to a greater variety of live streams when opening the app. We will continue to monitor the top streams and watch how the featured list influences stream performance over time.

Again, apologies for the omission of these details in our last post.

About the Project &Blog &Research

Chart Topping Public Radio

February 22nd, 2010 → 12:07 pm @ // 9 Comments

Editor’s Note: Please read our update regarding the data in this post.

The stat we love to throw around is the big top line number: 2.5 million downloads for the Public Radio Player since its debut! Recently, we’ve been digging deeper into the details to learn more about how public radio fans are using the the Player.

We pulled data on the live station streams that are accessed most often by users – and were surprised by some of the results. Many of the popular streams on the Public Radio Player are from stations that don’t normally crack any top 20 lists for terrestrial broadcast audience.

I put together a quick comparison below. On the left are the top 20 stations on the Public Radio Player from October 1 – December 31 of 2009, as ranked by average monthly unique users. On the right are the top 20 terrestrial public radio stations as measured by average weekly cume (a measure of the total number of unique listeners) during the fall quarter, September 17 to December 9 (odd dates because broadcast Arbitron quarters correspond to specific weeks, not months). This data comes from a report published by the Radio Research Consortium.

Disclaimer: Because of differences in methodology, comparing online and broadcast audiences is often a case of apples and oranges. The lists below take two very different approaches to finding a similar type of number. Also, they are not an exact match on dates. Take it all with a grain of salt.
Streams ChartFirst thing to notice is the lack of overlap. By my count, there are only 5 stations among the top broadcast rankings that break the top 20 on the Public Radio Player. It’s great to see local stations that don’t normally enjoy huge broadcast audiences find success on the Public Radio Player.

Also, internet-only streams are making waves on the Player. KCRW Music, Folk Alley, Jazz 24, and Native Voice One are all examples of live streams with no broadcast presence anywhere on the radio dial.

Another takeaway — music stations perform well on the player. KCRW Music,KUT, Jazz 24, WXPN, WFMU, Folk Alley, KCMP, WWOZ, and WTMD all put an emphasis on music in a variety of formats. No surprise here as listening to music has long been a leading mobile activity (and a great way to beat the commuter blues).

Again, please don’t read too much into the charts. We’re just getting started understanding these stats. We’ll be watching the coming months to see if more definite trends and conclusions can be gleaned, and I will continue to highlight interesting finds here on the blog. If you’ve got some thoughts on what you see, please let us know in the comments. Thanks.

About the Project &Blog