Australia has the ABC, the UK has the BBC, Ireland has RTÉ, and America has the venerable NPR. For years, this public broadcaster has thrived, with its own blend of deeply cerebral radio programming, fiercely independent journalism and unshakable integrity.
And whilst traditional media outlets have floundered in this brave new world of the Internet, NPR has thrived, with an award-winning website and a range of lauded podcasts, including the magnificent This American Life, starring Ira Glass. Speaking of which, you can also stream hundreds of hours of This American Life through their website.
Listening To NPR One
When you run NPR One for the first time, you’ll be asked to press play. This then launches an audio clip introducing you to the app, and then it asks for permission to access your microphone so you can give it voice commands, as well as log in, so it does not play you the same radio program twice.
You can log in with either your Facebook, Google or NPR accounts. Once logged in, you’ll get the opportunity to choose your local station from the thousands of broadcasters in NPRs expansive network, after giving NPR One permission to view your location. I’m presently based in the United Kingdom, and as a result I didn’t see any NPR stations:
If you don’t feel like giving the app access to your location, you can search for your favorite station by its call letters or by your zip code.
As you listen to programs and news stories, you’ll be given information about each story. While listening to a news story about the Argentine debt crisis I was shown a headline, along with the radio show to which the news relates to. Ideal for those whose attention ebbs and surges when paying attention to the radio.
You can also mark certain news stories, programs and segments as ‘interesting’, which is useful for a couple of reasons. First, you are able to revisit them at a later date, should you wish to.
Second, it also means that the NPR One app can make appropriate suggestions based upon what you’re interested in. Like a lot of news, but not so much Pop Culture Happy Hour? The app will adjust to ensure that your interests are met by what it feeds you.
You can also search for specific shows. It’s worth noting that when you search for shows, it’ll first make some suggestions for things you might find interesting. You can search for any of NPRs expansive range of programing, such as the awesome Snap Judgement podcast.
And if you hear something you love, you can share it via e-mail, or through Apple’s Airdrop, which lets you share content between certain Apple devices. Is NPR One just a radio app? Not at all. It’s allows you to see a broader context to what you’re listening to, and listen to NPR programming that you’re bound to love.
What’s Not So Good?
There are a couple of noticeable problems with the NPR One app. Firstly, there’s no obvious way to cache content that the app is going to pipe through your ears. It’s constantly pulling from the Internet, which can be problematic if you’ve got a slow Internet connection, or a limited mobile data plan.
NPR One is available for Android (versions 4.0 and up), as well as iOS. I tested the app out on a fourth generation iPad running iOS 7. There is no iPad-specific app at present which means you will have to use the iPhone app, which stretches to fit your iPad’s screen (but it works just fine otherwise).
Should You Download NPR One?
If this is the future of listening to the radio, then I’m excited. Thousands of hours of deep, insightful radio programming are packaged into a beautiful, intuitive app that responds to your tastes and your preferences.
If this doesn’t take your fancy, there are alternatives out there. I use Nobex on my Blackberry 10 smartphone, which allows me to stream a variety of radio stations and subscribe to my favorite programs. For music purposes, my colleague Joel Lee enthuses about Jango Radio, which he feels is a rival to Pandora, and there’s always TuneIn. If music is more your thing, maybe Rdio or Spotify will hit the spot?
Do you listen to NPR? Do you love these apps? Let us know in the comments, below.
Photo Credit: NPR HQ (Mr.TinDC)