NPR One App_Personalizing The News

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 1.44.04 PM

As a person who doesn’t have a car and has a need for visuals – I’m not a big fan of the radio and never tried the NPR One app before. Especially because I don’t have any background or experience with American radio, I’m a novice who can tell honest and objective opinion about the NPR One App. I spent an hour to explore this new app and played with tagging and skipping different stories. When I first downloaded the app on my phone and signed up, NPR immediately noticed my location in Ann Arbor, MI, and provided Michigan Radio as a local station. A short audio file is played to tell how to use this app and gives welcoming messages. The app showed the recommended station, and I also could listen to different random stories or explore various stations based on my interests. After listening to many different stories, there are tools to mark them “interesting” and “share” with people or via social media.


For the first 10 minutes, I stayed on the “LISTEN” tab while skipping some stories to explore different kinds of stories that the NPR One App has. After I moved to the “EXPLORE” tab, my stream became more personalized and more tailored to my interests. This was the list of the stories presented to me:



  1. National Newscast
  2. Local Newscast
  3. How Do You Measure Passion? Figuring The Value of Social Media Follower
  4. National Park Service Launches Search for Next Ansel Adams


  1. I Asked a Computer to Be My Life Coach
  2. So Your Facebook Friend Said Something Racist. Again.
  3. What is Beauty?


I would say the efficacy of the app’s customization is very innovative and useful with customer-based ideas. I think traditional media, including local radio stations, is producer-based and one way to deliver stories; however, I would say the NPR One app is a unspecified1user-based interactive content platform. I really like the article, “NPR One app potential is huge”, which mentioned that the app will become a pioneering platform like Amazon and Netflix. The NPR app delivers not only the traditional news stories, but also combines culture and everyday life to stories. Also, I like the function of “interesting” and “share” the most because they show the NPR One app is a customizable streaming app for public radio, which is designed based on users’ preference and usage. When I like something, I can tag it interesting; I don’t like something, I click the forward triangle to skip to the next story in the queue. The article from NiemanLab called this “skip zones.”

Similar to the Pandora app, users can freely skip and select stories with personal interest and do other things on a phone like listening to music. NPR One’s technological functions are interesting to see as well. Different from the public radio app, NPR can run in the background allowing texting and surfing while listening to it. It successfully targets their main users, who are mobile users, and well analyzes their active users peak during the morning and night commute according to the NiemanLab. Therefore, I would say that the algorithms they use to seed the app with stories work well in delivering recent and relevant information based on customers’ taste and new mobile culture.

The biggest difference with listening to local radio is that NPR One app is categorized with specific topics, and usually has short length stories without any advertisement. Also, the app provides manageable tools, such as Play & Stop and 15-seconds-back buttons, which make listening easier. For example, when I randomly heard the “Local Newscast” channel, I expected boring, long, and typical local news stories – however, it was just 3 minutes. Even though the news story was brief, it was condensed with important and interesting points. It directly addressed the main point of today’s news and ended with weather information, which is an interest of everyone.


I also really like the connectivity of stories because of the absence of ads. Compared to local radio, which is always disconnected by random ads or songs, the NPR One app allows me to get essential local news stories within a short period of time. Also, when I suddenly need to stop playing or miss the story, I can always stop and play back whenever I am available, or going back by 15 seconds. For me, I used the 15-second-back button very usefully because I needed to take notes while I was listening. All of these functions make the NPR One app different from traditional local radio.
I felt the content offered was not fully tailored to my interests. Of course, some local stories and technology stories related to social media definitely fall under the umbrella of topics that interest me. For example, the stories with value of followers (#3) os FB (#6) are very close to familiar topics that I confront in social media in everyday life. I was surprised that the NPR One app has a pretty good variety of stories, including culture, new media, and life style. I would say about 60% of the content is fit into categories that I’m interested in. However, a  story, “National Park Service Launches Search for Next Ansel Adams” and some random political issues do not fit my interests. I remembered that I skipped many of political stories related to Donald Trump and similar local stories about the Flint water crisis. I hope to listen to local stories about cultural events or concerts, and breaking news happening in the campus area.


Even though some stories that are not relevant to my interests often showed randomly, most of the local content offered was interesting both in aspects of informing and delivering. Personally, in the past, the only way to get local stories was subscribing to the Ann Arbor Newspaper page on Facebook. However, those articles are usually long and I have to click another link to stories, so accessibility and readability were relatively low. In contrast, the NPR One app provides short, but condensed and interesting local stories with different audio files. Division of stories into similar topics or effective arrangement within audio files makes users access to local stories easier.

Grading the NPR One app: I would give a B+ in total.

  • Content: A-
    • Diversity of stories in many different fields & topics
    • Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 7.35.23 PMLocal news stories based on users’ location
    • Combined different audio files, interviews, and outside sources
    • Useful sections for content: Up Next/ Recommendations/ Catch Up etc.
    • Interaction with users through audio files
  • Efficacy of customization: B+
    • customizable streaming app for public radio
    • Self managing tools: Interest/Share
    • Similarity to familiar audio apps – ex. Pandora
    • Inaccurate analysis of personal interests
  • Technological function: B+
    • Play & Stop / 15-seconds-back buttons
    • Blocking ads between stories
    • Showing a length of stories
    • Runs in background allowing texting and surfing
    • Unavailability of choosing a specific time within audio files




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