Why There’s No Public Radio Player for Android Yet

May 13th, 2011 → 2:00 pm @ // 9 Comments

Empty Android

We know, we know. Android users want the Player, too.

  • “Patiently waiting for bliss…” – Stephenmm
  • “hurry up please. i love your app and i want it on my phone!” – ryan
  • “Enjoyed this on my wifes Iphone but was disappointed to find out it isnt on my new Android device. Ohh How will I survive without it? Please hurry up and release it.” – Ben
  • ” I cannot help but wonder if this project has actually been…gulp…abandoned!” – Dan D

Oh, the drama.

Here’s the deal. PRX wants to develop the Public Radio Player for Android. We know the Android OS dominates in smartphone sales. And I know we’ve been putting out teasers for a while – sorry about that. We made big progress last summer, thanks to the Google Summer of Code. But the app is pretty complex, and there’s a lot left to do. The original grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting did not fund Android – at the time of the grant, Android went from non-existent to fledgling. Meanwhile, PRX expanded our mobile app offerings to public media organizations, including This American Life and several stations. We’re a small team, and we’ve been busy with that.

But that’s not the only reason. Since last summer, we launched the This American Life Android app, with the same design and features as their iPhone app. That was a cautionary learning experience. For one thing, the adoption of the Android app has been less than 10% of the iPhone app. This, despite the reams of requests PRX and This American Life received from desperate Android users right up until launch. That may be an extreme situation, but — and I know all you Android users will not like to hear this — it’s true that app use by Android users is currently lower than Apple iOS users.

Yet it cost no less to develop.

There’s more. The beauty of Android’s openness is also a headache for developers (and it hasn’t changed much since this post last year). It’s many different versions of an OS across thousands of different devices. Despite our best efforts at testing, the This American Life app on Android is, shall we say, challenging for us and our users. As of now, media playback varies widely across devices, and it’s likely we’ll have to build our own solution. Netflix just announced they’re handling Android’s lack of a media playback standard by releasing on only five devices for now. Five, out of hundreds.

Plus, it’s not just about developing an app, it’s about caring for it once it’s in the wild, and caring for you, our *ahem* vocal audience. Audio playback sourced from thousands of station streams and podcasts compounds the issue. That’s true of the iPhone, but it’s even more true of the Android.

Oh wait, there’s even more. We are gearing up for a development sprint on the iPhone soon (watch this blog for an invite to give us ideas). We want to get at bugs and UI pain points, and make improvements for stations and users alike. When we do move forward on Android again, we want it to have the newest version of the iPhone app. So yes, more waiting.

I have an Android phone. A couple of my colleagues do, too. We would love to have the Public Radio Player (I use it on my iPod instead). But for a small, non-profit organization with tons of awesome stuff going on, it’s going to take more time.

Ok, commenters. Let us know what you think. As you can tell from our Give Feedback page, we approve all but the very rude, and we welcome niceness, too.

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How to Think About Your Mobile Strategy

February 3rd, 2011 → 6:13 pm @ // Comments Off

If you’re a media organization trying to figure out where to launch or grow your mobile presence — mobile web or native app? iOS or Android (or BlackBerry or Windows or…)? — we’ve got some thoughts for you.

Now, we’re well aware that the Player is iPhone-only, but we’re also well aware that needs to change. (And it will. Soon. We promise.) PRX, which develops the Player, also develops apps for public radio and TV organizations on iPhone, Android, and iPad.

Rarely, if ever, does someone come to us and say, ‘We need an iPhone/Android/iPad app, let’s move.’ Instead, they say, ‘We want to be on mobile, where should we start?’

After countless such conversations, we think we know a bit about mobile strategy. On the PBS MediaShift blog, PRX’s CEO Jake Shapiro has the first of a two-part series on mobile strategy for media organizations.

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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 NPR.org. 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 NPR.org shoot up around 9 AM, after folks get to work and find themselves “occasionally” browsing the web. The NPR.org 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 (m.npr.org, counted separately from NPR.org 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 Journalists.co.uk.

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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.

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