US public broadcaster National Public Radio has released a new mobile site that allows listeners to stream local, national and international radio pieces over their mobile phones. Available at m.npr.org, I used this service throughout the weekend and am very impressed. It’s simple, powerful and it works.
NPR worked with mobile site developers Crisp to enable handset detection on their mobile site – visitors are able to stream segments through whatever audio software they have on their phones or by calling a dedicated phone number for each story. A general phone number also offers an IVR menu to select stories by voice. All in all, it’s the kind of inclusive service you’d hope NPR would offer. The content is fresh, the audio quality acceptable, the experience good.
Also unsurprising, there’s no ability to comment on the stories. There could be, but like too many other large organizations NPR would rather broadcast to you, give you new options to spread their content through social sites like Del.icio.us or Digg and be done with you. Accepting comments isn’t easy for a large organization to do, and there are doubtless countless people who would use the opportunity to accuse NPR of being too liberal. I find it quite the opposite, personally, witness any story about agriculture for example and you’ll see a complete lack of critical thought regarding an industry that frequently underwrites public broadcasting in the US. That, however, is the price that has to be paid to really leverage new tools on the internet. There’s too much potential value in the comments from big media’s audience to remain satisfied with hearing what these media outlets alone have to say.
Criticisms aside, I’m already becoming a regular user of the NPR mobile service less than a week after it’s launched. Readers interested in other mobile radio services can see Mundo Radio and Melodeo.