Radio is an increasingly perplexing mode of content delivery as we gain access to more and better streaming services with on-demand programming. But the serendipity of radio is still appealing, the ability to turn on and tune in without having to monitor, tweak and pester. That’s why it’s great that NPR is looking to deliver its public programming in a way that combines the benefits of both streaming and traditional terrestrial radio via a new app called NPR One.
The app is separate from their existing offerings for mobile, and available free on the App Store and on Google Play. It uses a combination of streams of NPR’s public news broadcasts, combined with stories that are curated for your specific tastes. You can get regionally relevant content by letting the device have access to your location settings, and you can also search for podcasts and other content to teach the app about what you want and get it instantly. Marking stories as interesting takes a single click, and that will help inform what kind of content appears in your feed in the future.
App design is clean and crisp, and it features nice animations to transition between screens, but also relatively few features or pages to navigate, which is in the interest of making an app that you can launch and forget about. This software is clearly all about serendipity, but it should deliver something a little more in line with experiences streaming audio users have come to expect from things like Spotify and Rdio’s customizable music stations.
Of course, NPR stands to benefit, too. There’s a “donate” link within the app, but I’m talking about the listener data they can collect through continued use of the app. It requires that you log in via FB, Google+ or your own NPR profile so that it doesn’t repeat content, but this also means they’ll be able to research listener habits and gather feedback that will likely influence future program – which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, this is a sign that NPR is very much concerned with what future iterations of public radio (or its online equivalent) will look like, and being able to contribute to that project is no small thing.