Great new features on the This American Life iPhone app

Here at PRX and there at This American Life, we listened to people’s feedback about the This American Life iPhone app. Generally, it’s been great, and we thank you for that. Naturally, there were requests, some of them ardent. Now, they are a reality:

  • Multitask: Listen while you do other things on your device, like check email and surf the web
  • Multitask without an internet connection: Save an episode for offline listening so you’re *never* bored.
  • Stay organized: Mark as “Heard” the episodes you’ve, um, heard

(I’m sensing a trend… efficiency. Doesn’t anyone ever just listen anymore?)

Ira Glass talks about the new features in more depth here:

Get the app (if you already have it, download the update from the iTunes App Store.)

This American Life new features

WBUR goes even more mobile (with our help)

WBUR iPhone app splash pageWBUR, the powerhouse Boston public radio station, has been mobile for a while, thanks to broadcast, internet streaming, and a great mobile website.

There was more to be done, however, and we’ve done it: We’re proud to announce the launch of the WBUR app for iPhone and iPod, developed by PRX. The app is free. Get it now.

This app has many things going for it, and we list most of them here. There’s the live stream of WBUR’s excellent programming, top-of-the-hour news and weather, a program schedule, and access to past episodes.

But both WBUR and PRX wanted to push the limits of what a public radio mobile app could be. The result are some important new features we hope to see in other station apps in the future: Support, On Assignment, and Benefits.

You may have gathered that we’re passionate about channeling donations from iPhone users to the stations they listen to. It’s not easy, since Apple prohibits direct donations from iPhone apps, but our team got real close with just two buttons: “Call Now to Pledge” and “Remind Me Later”. The former requires the phone number of someone on WBUR’s development staff. The latter doesn’t need anything except the listener’s own email address, since they’re just emailing themselves a reminder with a link to WBUR’s pledge form. We can’t wait to see the impact of these two little buttons.

Call and Remind pledge buttons
Don't they look so inviting and tappable?

On Assignment
This feature brings public radio and its (iPhone toting) audience closer together, letting editors create assignments that anyone with the app can fulfill. A breaking news event is happening in your region? Put out an assignment asking for text, audio, or photos from the scene. Use PRX’s On Assignment curation tool to manage the submissions, then work them into your on-air or online coverage.

Here’s yet another groundbreaker for public radio. The WBUR app provides a list of underwriters offering discounts and other treats to WBUR listeners. Then it maps them. Then it lets you generate a Virtual Member Card right in the app that you can show to the participating business for instant gratification. Anyone involved with station membership and underwriting knows just how amazing this is.

These innovations, and the overall app, could not have been achieved without a true sense of partnership, collaboration, and vision among both WBUR and our own PRX team. We are also grateful to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for support that gave us the ability to explore, experiment, and refine. We look forward to hearing what you think!

Ars Technica on PRX

Nate Anderson’s article on PRX and the Public Radio Player and TAL iPhone apps appeared on the influential tech site Ars Technica this past week:

When Public Radio Exchange (PRX) developed the free Public Radio Player for the iPhone, the nonprofit hoped for 500,000 downloads. It now has 2.5 million. “I’m very happy with that number,” says PRX executive director Jake Shapiro.

He should be. The PRX dev team has already cranked out two great iPhone apps, one for public radio in general and one for the popular show This American Life in particular. Both apps have positioned public radio as a major force when it comes to on-demand mobile applications.

The piece gets into the dynamics of public radio’s transition to digital:

As content becomes portable, stations have to rethink their “unique value propostion as local institutions” and rething their role as mere broadcasters of other people’s work. Tools like the Public Radio Player won’t help small stations that don’t do original material, but they can be a boon to those that do. The player exposes schedules, it allows local stations to stand out by doing local programming, and it allows those looking for such things to find them in a way that was difficult before.

Read the full article on Ars Technica here.

Next up in the App department: WBUR Boston – local public media app done right!

Ira gives you a tour of the TAL app

It’s become de rigeur to offer quick video tours of new iPhone apps – something we also did for the Public Radio Player 2.0 release.

But when you’re developing an app for This American Life, who better to narrate the tour than the host of the show, Ira Glass himself?

Voilà! The TAL App tour by Ira. Evidently it’s hitting its mark, here’s one of the YouTube comments:

Ira, you’re a good salesman. I have had an iPhone for 2 years. This is the very first app that I’ve ever purchased. I began watching the video, saying to myself that if this app wasn’t free, I wouldn’t download it. I ended up buying it while the video was still playing.

This American Life iPhone app: For immediate distribution!

We’re so excited about our latest iPhone production that we came up with a press release about it:

This American Life App, Developed by PRX, Now Available on iTunes
Archives going back to 1995 and exclusive show content for iPhone and iPod touch users

Cambridge, Mass., February 1, 2010 — Those who resolved to listen to more radio in the new decade are in for a treat. This American Life, the hit public radio show from Chicago Public Radio, has collaborated with Public Radio Exchange (PRX) to launch an app for iPhone and iPod touch on the iTunes App Store.

The This American Life App gives unprecedented on-demand access to the This American Lifefull show archive going back to 1995. New episodes are added automatically and users can search by episode or contributor — including David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman, and dozens more. Episodes can be streamed for free or purchased from iTunes for offline listening. Additionally, all episodes of the This American Life television show on Showtime can be downloaded for a fee.

The app also has free cartoons and other bonus content from the This American Life television show. Customizable features include a favorites list, sharing by email, Facebook, and Twitter, and alerts for the live weekly broadcast from WBEZ in Chicago, which can be streamed from within the app. Exclusive content includes behind-the-scenes video with the show’s producers, some of David Sedaris’s and host Ira Glass’s first radio stories (from the early 90s), audio of NPR’s Terry Gross interviewing Ira Glass (and vice versa), clips from live stage events, special staff picks lists, and more.

“We’re excited to provide an app that includes our entire archive of nearly 400 radio episodes, and we’re grateful the talented folks at PRX came to us with this idea,” says Ira Glass, host of This American Life. “We hope lots of people will find unfamiliar episodes they’ll like.”

“This American Life rocks, and we were thrilled to work with Ira and his team to create an app worthy of the groundbreaking show we all know and love,” says Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX, which developed the app. “Fans and new listeners alike are getting an audiovisual feast.”

About the live feed that’s part of the app, WBEZ President Torey Malatia says, “Note, ours is the only app providing a hand-held Geiger counter for the live show that drives interactive media inexorably backwards to 1968.”

The This American Life App is available for $2.99 from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at

This American Life has also engaged PRX to provide the program’s archives for sale in the iTunes Store.

This American Life is a public radio show produced by Chicago Public Radio and distributed to more than 500 stations by Public Radio International (PRI). 1.8 million people listen to the show each week on radio, and another half million download the weekly podcast, making it the most popular podcast in America most weeks. From 2006-2008, a television version of This American Life aired on Showtime, winning three Emmys.

PRX is an award-winning public media network focused on innovation at the intersection of technology and talent. The PRX platform is an open distribution marketplace connecting thousands of producers and local public radio stations, creating public radio’s largest archive of on-demand programs for broadcast and digital use. PRX is also the lead developer of the Public Radio Player App which has been downloaded over 2.5 million times from the iTunes Store.

This American App: PRX and TAL partner to launch This American Life iPhone app

The official press release is coming soon, but we can’t contain ourselves here at PRX now that the This American Life iPhone app is live in the iTunes store!

This American Life iPhone app
This American Life iPhone app

The app is a smorgasbord of TAL – the complete show archive, exclusive audio and video extras, staff lists of favorites and contributors, a link to the live broadcast each Friday night from Chicago Public Radio.

This has been many months in the making, with lots of hard work from the PRX tech team together with Ira Glass and his gang. Congratulations to everyone!

More news and background to come.

PRX staff gathers 'round the laptop for the big moment
PRX staff gathers 'round the laptop for the big moment