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Listen to Public Radio on Your Terms with the WNYC Discover App

Listen to Public Radio on Your Terms with the WNYC Discover App

On-demand Internet radio is nothing new, but New York Public Radio hopes to take the concept to the next level by providing theme customized and time-based offline playlists that cater to public radio listeners’ specific preferences. NYPR’s new Discover feature, a part of the organization’s WNCY mobile app, lets listeners choose the topics they’re interested in and how long they’d like to listen, and then creates and downloads a custom playlist of public radio show segments that meet those criteria.

Those with the app will find the new WNYC Discover feature on the app’s home screen. Select it, and you’ll be able to define the topics you’re interested in, such as popular culture, international news, religion, politics, or science.

WNYC Discover

You then tell the app how long you’d like your playlist to be, from a minimum of 20 minutes to a maximum of 3 hours. A primary purpose of the app is to provide access to this playlist offline – during a subway ride or plane flight, for example – so once your choices are made, the app will choose segments from hundreds of public radio shows and podcasts that fit your themes and playlist length, and then download them all to your device.

Once the first segment of your playlist is downloaded, you can tap on it to start listening. Our testing of the Science and Technology themes gave us clips from The Takeaway, The Brian Lehrer Show, and On the Media, ranging from 8 to 24 minutes each.

WNYC Discover

The topics were also spot on with our theme choices, and this article was slightly delayed because we became engrossed in a discussion on the possible implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in two important cellphone search cases, the quest to unmask the creator of Bitcoin, and the push to allow members of the U.S. Congress to vote remotely.

While the time-based playlist is meant for offline play, we found it equally valuable even when a data connection was available. By setting a time limit, listeners can pace their workday, drive, or workout with an appropriate length of audio content, and never have to worry about arriving at a destination only halfway through a discussion on a topic of interest.

One problem, however, is that the three hour maximum may not be long enough. Sure, the playlist will likely last long enough to cover all but the most disastrous subway rides, but on your next flight from JFK to SFO, you’ll run out of pre-downloaded content somewhere over Nebraska. That in mind, we’d like to see options for longer playlists, especially considering that our 3 hour playlist only required about 100MB of space on our iPhone.

We’d also like to see the concept expanded to cover more than WNYC’s normal slate of public radio shows. While our first two playlists were just about perfect, we’d likely run into repeats if we used the app every day, especially if we limited our themes to just one or two areas.

Finally, we also ran into a limitation of the app’s user-customized focus. Each segment is ripped directly from a full episode of its corresponding show, including promos and teasers of upcoming topics, some of which sounded quite interesting. Those future topics, however, likely won’t be in your playlist unless they happen to be in one of your designated themes, as the segment ends once the discussion at hand is complete. While listeners could likely find the entire show on one of the public radio websites, a link in the WNYC app for each segment to “listen to the whole show” would be very useful.

Overall, however, if you’re a fan of public radio, be sure to check out the WNYC Discover feature. It’s completely free and incredibly convenient. The WNYC app is available now for iOS and Android.

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One thought on “Listen to Public Radio on Your Terms with the WNYC Discover App”

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Jim Tanous

Apr 29, 2014

676 Articles Published