NPR Web and Mobile Usage Data

August 20th, 2010 → 12:52 pm @ // Comments Off

Go Figure, the blog of NPR’s Audience Insight & Research group, posted some very interesting data showing hour-by-hour audience patterns for visitors to NPR’s online and mobile channels, and compares them with public radio broadcast listening.

The first slides (embedded below) show the number of listeners to NPR member stations side-by-side with visitors to On weekdays, rush hour commuting boosts radio listening and delivers the largest audiences to local stations in the morning and late afternoon. In contrast, visitors to shoot up around 9 AM, after folks get to work and find themselves “occasionally” browsing the web. The visitor numbers stay strong throughout the workday hours.

NOTE: On the NPR blog, they emphasize that the slides with radio and web numbers have two separate axes (red for web, blue for broadcast). Looking closely at the numbers, you can see that NPR broadcasts on local public radio stations remain NPR’s largest source of audience.

Moving forward in the slides, you see the data for NPR’s mobile offerings. The NPR News iPhone app brings in the largest number of visitors and shows a significant peak during the weekday morning commute. You may be surprised to find NPR’s mobile formatted website (, counted separately from here) sits well ahead of the NPR apps for Android smartphones and the iPad. The iPad and Android apps are more recent additions and it will be interesting to see how this data evolves over the next year. And I like how the iPad has a bump in traffic around 10 pm. It looks like many iPads spend the night on the bedside table!

More reaction and analysis to this data from Fortune, TechFlash, and

Blog &Public Radio Player &Research

That which we call a rose…

August 6th, 2010 → 6:44 pm @ // 2 Comments

I’ve been working under the hood of the Public Radio Player this week to organize our database of programs, stations, and streams. In the process, I’ve come across a number of programs with titles that simply jump off the page. By their names alone, I am willing to count myself among their fans.

Here are some of the great ones:

Blog &Public Radio Player &Stations and Programs

The Public Radio Player and iOS4 (cont.)

June 28th, 2010 → 1:09 pm @ // 14 Comments

The good news: we’re not going to tell you that you’re holding the phone the wrong way.

We’re hearing from some folks having trouble with the Public Radio Player after upgrading to the new iOS4. It seems that most cases are associated with the initial launch of the app either after upgrading the OS or installing it for the first time onto your phone.

This is due to a data syncing issue – the app is trying to access new content (stream and episode info, schedules, etc.) from our servers, and that needs a fast internet connection. If you’re having problems on cellular 3G or Edge connections, try relaunching the Player while on a strong wifi connection. It might take a little longer to load, but after that things should work fine on both cellular and wifi.

Why then, you may ask, are some iPod Touch users also having a problem, when their devices *only* work on wifi? Our own tests on the iPod suggest this, too, is a connectivity issue. iPod Touches have a history of problems with some wifi networks, even when the wifi indicator shows full connectivity. If you want to check the speed of your wifi connection, you can download the free app.

And to address the root of this issue — the amount of time it takes for the app to sync — the PRX tech team is working on a fix. Thanks for your patience, and please contact us if the problems persist.

Blog &Public Radio Player

A Kick in the Pants For Your iTunes Library

June 24th, 2010 → 1:49 pm @ // Comments Off

WHRV’s Out of the Box CD of the Week has been the perfect remedy for my severe case of Music Fatigue Syndrome.

You know what I’m talking about!

I used to be up on new artists and their records. Friends’ tastes mixed with mine, and my music collection was a constantly transforming catalog reflecting who I was, where I was going and where I had been.

But then I graduated from college. Somehow in the years since then, my iTunes library has remained pretty much unchanged. I’m listening to the same songs from the same artists over, and over and over again. And I’m tired of them.

That was, until I navigated my way to the On Demand section of the Public Radio Player and found these weekly CD reviews hosted by Paul Shugrue. In four quick minutes, Shugrue gets to the heart of one new album every week, with musical excerpts and excellent commentary. Tune in!

Is “Music Fatigue Syndrome” evidence that your brain is getting old? Hear Robert Krulwich (RadioLab) speak with a neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky about this very phenomenon on All Things Considered.

Blog &Public Radio Player

Using the Player with AT&T’s New Data Limits

June 4th, 2010 → 1:10 pm @ // Comments Off

AT&TAT&T is closing down the all-you-can-eat data buffet. The exclusive U.S. carrier of the iPhone announced Wednesday that it is ditching unlimited data plans in favor of metered billing. New customers will now choose between a 200MB plan for $15/month or a more substantial 2GB plan for $25/month. Customers who exceed these caps are able to add data a la carte.

Long story short: this news sounds scarier than it actually is. Most of us who stream audio via the Public Radio Player will be just fine with the 2GB plan (which costs $5 less than existing unlimited plans). And if you have an existing unlimited data plan, it is grandfathered-in until the contract ends or you upgrade to a new phone.

The new limits apply only to data you download over your Edge/3G connection. If you generally use the Public Radio Player at home or at work over a Wifi network, there’s not much to worry about. But if you’re streaming public radio during that long bus ride to work every day, you may want to start watching your data consumption.

An audio stream’s bit rate will impact how much data you consume while listening to the Player. Bit rate refers to amount of data transferred per second (Read more about the fascinating world of bit rates here). Most streams on the Player range from 32kbps to 128kbps (kilobits per second, often shortened to just “k”). The larger bit rate, the better sound quality on that stream – and consequently, more data to download.

When you select a station on the Public Radio Player, the little icons on the station’s page tell you the connection speed that should work with that stream’s bit rate.

  • If a stream’s bit rate falls under 48k, the app will show icons for EDGE, 3G, & Wifi
  • Above 48k, but under 128k, the app will show only 3G & Wifi
  • 128k will show Wifi only

Most news/talk stations opt for 32 or 64kbps, while many music stations will stream at 128k. A little back-of-the-napkin math shows us that a 64k stream uses twice as much data as a 32k stream, and 128k twice as much as a 64k stream.

To put that in perspective, here are the number of streaming hours it will take to hit the new AT&T data plan caps.

On the $15 200MB data plan
3.6 hours of streaming at 128k
7.2 hours of streaming at 64k
14 hours of streaming at 32k

On the $25 2GB data plan
36 hours of streaming at 128k
72 hours of streaming at 64k
145 hours of streaming at 32k

As you can see, if you plan to use the Public Radio Player over your Edge/3G connection on a regular basis, you should skip the 200MB plan and go with the 2GB plan. 2GB should be plenty of data for most users.

Consider this scenario: you use the Player over a 3G connection 1 hour a day on your commute to and from work and listen to KCRW, a station that streams at 128k. At 22 workdays a month, you’ll blow through a 200MB plan in less than a week. But under the 2GB plan, you’ll still have plenty of room for other data needs (AT&T estimates that 98% of their smartphone customers average less than 2GB a month in data usage).

But you iPhone power users out there will need to keep an eye on your data usage as the month progresses. Between the Public Radio Player, Pandora, and YouTube (not to mention Netflix for iPad users), 2GB will be just the beginning of your data consumption. For a sense of how much data you use, try AT&T’s data calculator.

Blog &Public Radio Player

Unlock the Secrets of the Public Radio Player

May 12th, 2010 → 12:29 pm @ // 3 Comments

On the Give Feedback page, Paul W. mentioned he is having trouble using the small play/pause button that displays when you’re listening to a stream on the Player. I also found this difficult at first. But fear not – the builders of the Public Radio Player did not design this app for Barbie-sized avatars. There’s a little trick for toggling the play/pause switch: Tap anywhere on the black bar with the stream name and a much larger play/pause button appears.

Like Paul, I didn’t even realize this was an option at first. So in the interest of your full enjoyment of our app, here are a few other features of the Public Radio Player you may not know about.

Browse the Internet – While multitasking is not (yet!!) part of the iPhone OS, you can access the web from within the Public Radio Player without interrupting your listening. There are two ways to do this. On most station and program pages in the Player, there is a link to that station’s website. Convenient for finding more info about upcoming programs and other station info. Alternatively, you can select the “More” tab on the main menu, then “Surf the Web”. Note: browsing the web uses the same data connection as the audio streams and there is the potential for more frequent audio buffering when surfing the web. It all depends on your internet connection. It works fine on WiFi, but not recommended for an Edge signal.

Alarm Clock – Wake up with your favorite station by setting the Public Radio Player’s alarm clock. From the main menu, select “More”, then “Alarm Clock”. Once there, just select the time and which station in your favorites list to launch when the rooster crows. There’s also a sleep timer, allowing you to doze off to the sweet sounds of public radio.

Search live streams by program – If you’re undecided about which station live stream to choose, you can browse the programs currently airing. From the main menu, select “Live”from the bottom menu and then the green “Program” tab at the top. You’ll quickly be able to scroll through and see the breadth of great programs broadcasting across the public radio universe.

Favorites – I won’t call favorites a “secret” feature, but it is probably the one that adds the most value to the Public Radio Player experience. With hundreds of stations and thousands of on demand programs, organizing a favorites list will make it quick and easy to listen to what you love. Remember, you can add both live streams and on demand programs to your favorites list. From any station or program page on the app, just tap the star in the upper right corner.

Blog &Public Radio Player

Root, Root for the Public Radio Team

May 3rd, 2010 → 2:40 pm @ // Comments Off

Carl's Fastball
NPR’s Carl Kasell fires a fastball
[Tim Eby / Flickr / cc]

NPR’s Go Figure blog has published an interesting post, The Surprising Side of the Public Radio Audience. It highlights some new research about the demographic makeup of pubradio fans. It turns out we’re not just a monolithic lump of 27 million latte-sipping liberals. There is a delightful diversity in the public radio audience that counters conventional wisdom.

This got me thinking about a similar diversity found among public radio shows. Browsing through the categories in the On Demand section of the Public Radio Player, you’ll find topics you may not immediately associate with public broadcasting. Take sports, for example. On public radio, “sports talk” is quite different from the high-volume AM radio gab-fests. And there is more sports-related content than you may realize. Here are some examples of sports shows you can stream on the Public Radio Player:

These programs, and more, are all available in the On Demand section of the Public Radio Player under the sports category. With baseball season underway, the playoffs heating up in hockey and basketball, and the World Cup just a month away, it’s a great time to try out some of these public radio shows on your iPhone.

Blog &On Demand &Public Radio Player

Hey Biden, Here’s Another Big Deal

April 9th, 2010 → 12:01 pm @ // One Comment

A big deal
Yay Hooray! [White House / Flickr]

Imagine a world where you can stream your favorite public radio stations on your iPhone while you check your inbox, text your bff, and surf the web. Folks, the future is now! (Well, technically…later this year).

Exciting news from Apple yesterday as CEO Steve Jobs previewed the new iPhone operating system, OS 4.0. This new OS will allow the Public Radio Player to run in the background (aka multitasking) while other features and apps on the phone are utilized. This is, by far, the most popular feature request we hear from fans of the Player and a big, big deal for the future evolution of the Public Radio Player.

Ah, but there are a few caveats. First generation iPhones and iPod Touches will not be able to install the new OS. Also, the much desired multitasking feature will only be available on devices 3GS or later (a 4G phone is expected this summer). Apple has released an SDK 4 for developers and the OS is expected to roll out in the Fall (details on You can read more about the Apple announcement on MobileCrunch.

Blog &Public Radio Player

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

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