I recently posted on the availability of the iPhone Public Radio Tuner in the iTunes Apps Store and also posted comments on the app by WTMD GM Steve Yasko. Rekha Murthy of PRX.org has written a response to Steve, which I post below with permission:
Thanks to Steve for such insightful comments on the Public Radio Tuner. I'm a member of the PRX team working with the Tuner collaborators.
CPB funded this collaboration as an experiment in sharing resources, knowledge, and harnessing a beneficial network effect for each station and the public radio system as a whole. Communication is an important part of this. Our only preset ideas about the Tuner is that we want to bring public radio to mobile media listeners while promoting station's unique identities. So your input will truly help shape future releases of the Tuner (next one scheduled for May 2009), as well as how we guide stations on submitting their streams and information.
The Tuner is not meant to supplant individual stations' -- nor the networks' -- mobile efforts. It will support them. We'll be sharing code and other materials so public broadcasting entities can make their own versions of the app as well. That said, judging from the enthusiasm of the Tuner's users -- nearly all reviews are 4 or 5 stars since the January release! -- there is a lot to be said for giving people one portal-style app with which to explore the system. As a former mobile user researcher, the top request of all I interviewed was 'give me one place to get everything.' As of Friday, Public Radio Tuner has had 133, 213 downloads - that's more than 30,000 a week.
Does an individual station get lost in this? Not necessarily. The Tuner retains the last station listened to, so it's only one tap - the launch of the app - to get to a station. The Favorites and Nearby functions also get people to stations quickly. If we hear that stations want more visibility beyond the branded station pages, there are ways to work that in -- for example, by putting logos in the directory list, or letting people set a "home" station that opens automatically when the app is launched. We can be creative in striking a balance between familiarity (show the stations I know and love) and discoverability (give me something new). Maybe we let people shake the iPhone and land on a random station (see the Urban Spoon app for an example). The next release will have a 'What's On Now' program guide. If your station is airing what someone wants to hear at that moment, you might get a new listener.
Other plans for the next release include on-demand content (kind of like podcasts) for station and network programs. We're also exploring the possibility of some sort of call to donate to individual stations.
No one knows yet if individual station apps can bring more listeners than one consolidated app, or if that's the goal (Steve? Others?). That's another reason the collaborators embarked on this experiment. There has been talk of creating a template for a single-station app, but that of course depends on available resources and level of interest.
Public radio, as we all know, is a loose confederation. Standards generally don't emerge on their own. This expresses in the app in differing stream formats, connection times, and even searchable metadata. The Tuner uses what the stations provide. Searching by format will usually get you results... but you won't get every possible result because the metadata isn't there. The Tuner is a great exercise for revealing these needs. We can then communicate back to stations on how to address them for an optimal mobile experience.
Again, we encourage everyone to contribute ideas so we can set this Tuner apart from the other iPhone radio tuners. The content already does that. But so can public-radio-specific features... as can the message that there's a huge and engaged public radio community working to make the app better with each new release. We're scanning blogs and mailing lists as best we can, but the surest way to get your ideas heard is to post them at PublicRadioTuner.com. Here's the link for general feedback and discussion: http://www.publicradiotuner.com/?page_id=165;And watch the blog there for updates.
Public Radio Exchange (PRX)