Why NPR is merging its apps and focusing on ‘digital serendipity’
Future News 79
Amid all the news media razzmatazz of the US White House election, public radio stalwart NPR made a series of important and quiet changes to its app, NPR One. To be exact there are two NPR apps, but the NPR one (not to be confused with ‘NPR One’) is being merged into NPR One (not to be confused with ‘the NPR one’) this year.
The process will bring the “core experience” of the NPR app to NPR One whilst adding personalisation functions to the experience, FN has been told. Emily Barocas, podcast lead for NPR One, also said the team was going to be “really careful” because primarily the independent non-profit outlet is a news organisation, and “we don’t want to put [listeners] in a media bubble”. Instead NPR will be hoping to provide “serendipity moments'' to its 2.6 million monthly active listeners with a mix of on-demand national and local news, stories and podcasts, including Planet Money, Up First and How I Built This.
The editorial team of six behind NPR One (not including the developers), which was launched in 2014, will achieve this by using human curation, editorial judgement and personalisation. It is 2021, so there will be some help from the app’s data, analytics and algorithms.
NPR One also now has a balance of text and audio thanks to a new headline module, something which Barocas described as “unique” and will be coming to iOS devices soon (it’s currently working on Android). There is also the new homescreen experience, enabling listeners to tune into live NPR coverage for the first time, a function that has “lots of interest” apparently.
“We saw our audience make really good use of those opportunities and experiences, which really fed into the idea that we need to meet our listeners and our readers on what they need in any given moment,” Barocas said. The intention is that the homescreen, a one-stop-shop similar to BBC Sounds, is here to stay but there will be improvements down the line.
“NPR has the benefit of member stations all over the country, which get into the news deserts that exist in big cities and rural areas,” Barocas added. “Our vision for a digital future very much involves and highlights that network. We see time and time again that our listeners value the local news sitting alongside the national news. It’s the backbone of public radio in this country. It makes sense for NPR as a network and for listeners.”
As for the election campaign and the night of political drama itself, the app saw some “really strong growth” (although NPR won’t disclose its download figures) at it naturally hit a peak right around 3 November. The outlet has also seen “huge growth” thanks to smart speakers, namely Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa which dominates the market. Initially, the service just provided NPR news briefings, but it can now stream NPR One’s content, substantially pushing average engagement up from around five-minutes (for the briefings) to 30-minutes (for the streaming).
The whole innovation process is about creating more “sticky” and “continuous” listeners, ones which presumably value public service broadcasting, want to be challenged and have a dose of culture alongside their current affairs.
💼 Jobs and business
National World, the news media vehicle run by former top Mirror executive David Montgomery, has acquired JPI Media for just over £10m (£5.2m in cash and a further two payments of £2.5m on 31 March 2022 and on 31 March 2023). The Scotsman, one of the group's “iconic titles”, was sold to Johnston Press back in 2005 for £160m by the Barclay Brothers. Johnston Press’ assets were transferred to JPI Media in 2018 and the company sold the i Paper to Daily Mail publisher DMGT for just under £50m in November 2018. National World said JPI Media has revenues of £85m (£17m or 20% of which are digital) and £6m in earnings. As for what is next for the stable of historic titles, National World’s Annual Report may hold some clues. The company has promised its shareholders to “jettison legacy systems and archaic industrial practices to create efficient dissemination of news and to monetise it by matching content to audience”.
The British Pathé Archive has become a YouTube hit with two million subscribers and it has now uploaded more than 20,000 additional historic newsreels.
Hedge fund Alden Global Capital wants full control of Tribune Publishing.
The latest team behind Politico Playbook have launched Punchbowl News.
A tabloid start-up, The 830 Times, has launched in Del Rio, Texas.
FN’s recap of 2020 and look ahead for the next year.
Nieman Lab’s predictions for 2021.
🛡️ Regulation and moderation
Will Donald Trump lose his blue tick as well as the White House this year? Twitter is re-launching its verification process in 2021 and warning that it may also remove verification from accounts that are “found to be in severe or repeated violation” of its rules.
Amazon-owned Twitch has a new ‘Hateful Conduct and Harassment Policy’ after wanting to take a “more consistent” approach to the issue following a months-long consultation process.
Press regulator Ipso has updated its Editors’ Code of Practice around privacy.
UK broadcast regulator OfCom has expanded its definition of ‘hate speech’.
What to expect from Joe Biden’s Federal Communications Commission.
News Corp Australia’s podcasting arm NewsCast has launched News Feed, a network of daily news podcasts for the company’s state-based mastheads.
Recode Media: Quartz co-founder Zach Seward.
Stories Of Our Times: Cartoonist Peter Brookes.
Another Podcast: What comes next in tech?.
Longform: The Atlantic’s Ed Yong.
Digiday: Top trends for 2021.
🤖 Technology and research
Ohio State University: When using social media to nudge people toward safe and healthy behaviors, it's critical to make sure the words match the pictures.
Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel has claimed that the US faces a “century of strategic challenge” from fast-growing economies like China.
WhatsApp hosted more than 1.4 billion voice and video calls on New Year’s Eve.
How video chat evolved and got a lot better.
NYC Media Lab’s Q1 Tech & Innovation Working Group on Thursday 14 January.
Wikipedia’s birthday on Friday 15 January.
Northeastern University’s Computation + Journalism Symposium on Friday 19 February.
Knight Media Forum between Monday 1 March and Wednesday 3 March.
News Product Alliance Summit between Tuesday 30 March and Wednesday 31 March.
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