Introducing the WGBH App

WGBH iPhone appLatest in our growing collection of mobile apps is WGBH, News and Culture for iPhone. This app brings all of the Boston public media station’s offerings from across TV, radio, and web into one elegant experience.

  • Listen live to WGBH radio, their classical, Celtic, and jazz streams, plus WCAI from The Cape and Islands
  • Watch episodes from TV programs including Beat the Press, Basic Black, and High School Quiz Show
  • Get radio and TV programming schedules so you know when to tune in, or catch past episodes in the app itself
  • Read the latest local, national, and world news
  • View recipes from top chefs and other food-related articles
  • See a calendar of upcoming events
  • And much more.

Actually, let’s elaborate on the “more”. There’s Assignments, inviting you to tell WGBH’s newsroom what’s news in your town. With Benefits, WGBH members can browse and redeem local discounts using a virtual member card generated in the app (you have to use it to believe how nifty it is).

Of course, to use those amazing features you’ll have to tear yourself away from WGBH’s wonderful content, from radio mainstays like The Takeaway, The World, and Fresh Air to TV hits like Frontline, NOVA, and American Experience.

Get WGBH, News and Culture for your iPhone now.

The WGBH app is a customized version of the PRX station app codebase, which enables us to streamline development time and costs while giving stations apps that represent their unique identities. We’ve got more iPhone — and Android — station apps on the way. Maybe yours, too? Contact us to learn more.

PRX and The Echo Nest Team Up for Bandito

Here at PRX, we’re developing innovative mobile apps for public media. To do this, we like to try out new technologies. So we partnered with The Echo Nest, based a couple of subway stops away from us in Davis Square, Somerville. The Echo Nest does pioneering work with digital music: Bandito Their “music intelligence” platform scours the Web for music news, analyzes music files, and identifies music trends.

The first product of this partnership is Bandito, a free iPhone/iPod app that scans your iTunes music library and serves up news and reviews about the artists you listen to most, gleaned from a range of online sources. You can also read up on the artists that are hot right now, whether or not they’ve already made it onto your iPod.

Get Bandito now.

Also watch this space for a breakthrough iPad app for a leading public radio music station — developed by PRX and coming soon!

PubRadio: Not So Nerdy, After All

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

There’s no need to be surprised when you see pics of PRXers Matt MacDonald and Rekha Murthy (right) among the likes of Brooke Shields, Darrell Hammond and Dan Savage at the 2011 Webby Awards ceremony last night. That’s just the crowd we roll with these days. No biggie.

The Webby is for our This American Life mobile app, in the category Entertainment – Handheld Devices. Ira Glass accepted the award at the ceremony, after which, Rekha says, he was mobbed both by women with camera phones, and Entourage star Adrian Grenier — who tweeted the photo to his 140,407 followers.

Rekha notes:

Pandora DJ’ed the event, which basically meant a guy in a suit stood behind a table and occasionally hit a button.  It was just too weird that Christiane Amanpour was part of the same event as Antoine Dodson, though Dodson’s performance of Bed Intruder (with the Gregory Brothers) was the highlight of the night for me and Matt. And when the inventor of the cell phone came to the podium, Matt beat him to the punch: ‘Can you hear me now?’

KALW’s Key to Station Greatness (on a Shoestring)

Holly Kernan (image: Knight)

I didn’t need to know about News Director Holly Kernan’s Murrow or Sigma Delta Chi to understand that there is something special going on at KALW News. Week after week, KALW is churning out (and uploading to PRX) oodles of well-crafted stories — stories that may take place in San Francisco, but are captivating no matter where you are. As a curator of Public Radio Remix, I can’t get enough of them. Yet, KALW’s newsroom has a tiny budget and a staff of only nine: Holly, her cohost, two engineers and five producer/editors.

In the following interview, KALW News Director Holly Kernan told me how KALW does (and doesn’t) make it all work.

How are you pulling it all off?
Oh man, it’s not easy.  We are all overworked and underpaid.  But it’s just that we’ve put together this stunningly creative team here.

We started this newsroom from scratch in 2004 to try to fill the void in local media left by shrinking commercial outlets.  A couple premises were at the center of it.  One was that arts and creativity would be at the center of our news coverage.  Another was that we would strive to have the highest possible quality reporting and production, even though we had no staff — I think we started with me as a half-staff.  So our formula was to have professional editors and a newsroom with community volunteers and student reporters in our training program.  We try to help them skate the creative edge and do really high quality work; and our newsroom ends up looking like the community we serve.

What are you prioritizing in your newsroom? How do you decide what to cover?

“Don’t give me an issue.
Tell me a story.”

Stories, stories, stories! We prioritize those delight and discovery stories that connect us.  We don’t cover all the beats that we’d like to just because of money, but we prioritize stories and topics that other places might be reluctant to cover, like criminal justice and education ­­­­­— because we think that’s part of the mission of public radio.  And because we’re local, we’re trying to tap into the ‘what’s your neighbor doing,’ How can I meet that neighbor through this connective tissue of radio?

One thing that stands out for me is how easy it is to take your stories and rebroadcast them for a national audience.  How are you balancing or framing local vs. national storytelling?
I’m doing the happy dance from what you just said!

My sense is that usually a good local story is a good national story, but frankly we decided not to give a damn about national, because our mission is to report on this local community.  But we are looking for great stories, right! That’s one of the things that we constantly drum into people’s heads: don’t give me an issue.  Tell me a story. Maybe it’s a story that will help me understand an issue or a topic, but I want a story.  And stories are about people doing things, not about issues.  So maybe that’s it.

You guys are doing so much on such a small budget.  Can you talk about how you make your budget work?

“I buy lottery tickets.
I really do buy lottery tickets.”

We don’t! When we started this in 2004, I thought that if we could be successful ­­— and from all of the things you’re telling me and all the awards we’ve gotten, we have been successful — somebody would just drop 5 million bucks on us. I was so naive. That didn’t happen yet.  I buy lottery tickets.  I really do buy lottery tickets.

But really, my priority is paying people.

You must save money by working with students and volunteers, though?

“Our experience is that when you
hold people to high standards,
they meet them.”

Yes.  We have about 20 community volunteers who are rotating through all the time.  We don’t have our volunteers making photocopies and transcribing things, we have them producing for us.  We’ve created this environment that is so fun to be in and it’s such a creative place. People keep coming and coming and wanting to work with us.  A lot of them eventually go on to other places like NPR, KQED (one of the other San Francisco public radio stations), and KPBS (the major public radio station in San Diego).

How do you make sure that what you’re going to get from all of these volunteers is good quality?

Well, we train them for a long time.  We teach them how to get hot tape, and we do heavy, heavy editing.  The quality varies somewhat but our standards are very high — and our experience is that when you hold people to high standards, they meet them. Some people look at student work as less than professional, and our expectation is that you can do professional quality work. We do triple sourcing, and we fact check everything.  And we guarantee broadcast, which also forces us to really be rigorous.

What kind of programming or projects do you dream about doing, regardless of funding, say 5 or 10 years down the road?
You know I’d love to map the cultural and artistic geography of this place: something interactive with an iPhone app, with stories that could pop up anywhere you were.  Where you could touch a screen and hear a story about your local bookstore, or upload your stories. I’d love to be able to collect stories better and then produce them.

And then, to be able to cover public education in a sustained way, with young people leading that coverage.

I could keep going!  If someone has that 5 million, I have some ideas!

What’s brewing at KALW now that we should be looking out for?
We just started a partnership with Youth Radio that we’re really excited about.  We’re hoping to expand our daily show Crosscurrents from a half-hour to an hour, using more local youth radio content.  Also, we’re located inside of a high school and we’re going to start a training program for high school students, having them produce new stories from new perspectives for us.

A Spike We Like

Earlier this month PRX launched new sharing options that allow producers and stations to embed PRX audio players in their websites, blogs and elsewhere.  KFAI was one of the first stations to try it all out.  When their acting News Director, Todd Melby, began embedding their pieces on the KFAI homepage and Facebook… this happened:

Do you see the y-axis? Those page views are in the thousands.

Didn’t catch the big news about embeddable players? Read up. Try it out! And then tell us what you think.

Remix is on WREM 88.7FM

Today Public Radio Remix — our 24/7 stream of audio awesomeness — went live on WREM 88.1FM in Canton, NY. WREM is a brand new acquisition of North Country Public Radio, owned and operated by St. Lawrence University. Take a look at their spiffy Remix webpage, which has current and upcoming playlists, links to each story, a feed of the Public Radio Remix blog, and more.

WREM joins KPBZ in Spokane, WA as our second terrestrial station carrying Public Radio Remix.

We want to thank North Country Public Radio Program Director Jackie Sauter, Chief Engineer Bob Sauter and General Manager Ellen Rocco for making this launch as easy as pie. We’re thrilled!

Mobile App Picks from the PRXperts

We’re pretty into our phones over here at PRX. And that’s as it should be, I suppose, as many of us spend our days conceiving, coding and promoting mobile apps for public radio.

A couple months ago Radio Diaries producer Joe Richman — equipped with his first-ever iPhone — asked me what PRX’s favorite apps are. I put the question to my colleagues, and return with the following list of our favorite mobile apps.

First, meet our team of mobile app enthusiasts:

Matt John Robert Rekha Jake Chris Farski Kerri Roman Jones

Our big list of favorite apps:

App Recommended by Description Device
Ad Hoc Helper App Matt The Ad Hoc Helper allows developers to create a special version of their apps that can be run on anyone’s iPhone outside of the normal AppStore channels. iPhone
Amazon Kindle John Kindle books on your phone including thousands of free books. Android Robert iPhone
Android API Browser
Chris Not amazing as an app, but the first android app on the market written 100% in Ruby. Android
AnyStop Robert Real-time MBTA bus schedules. Android
Audible John “This free app features the most comprehensive audiobook experience ever, including Wi-Fi delivery of your library.” Android
Beluga & GroupMe
Farski Group texting, even with feature phones. Maybe the best thing ever. 
Bloom Jake, Robert “Part instrument, part composition and part artwork, Bloom’s innovative controls allow anyone to create elaborate patterns and unique melodies by simply tapping the screen.” iPhone
Boston Bus Map
Robert Real-time MBTA bus schedules. Android
Camera (on the device) Matt, Kerri
Catch The Bus Matt, Rekha
More GPS-driven MBTA bus schedules.

I love/Hate this one. – Matt

I feel the same way about it on Android – Rekha
iPhone, Android
Chirp! for iPhone
Rekha Look up birds from any region and play their songs. John (hubby) and I use it to freak out birds from other regions.
Clock/Stopwatch (on the device) Robert
Congress for Android
Chris Indispensable. One reason to be on Android. – Chris

Track elected officials’ activities, read the latest bills and laws…
Cut The Rope Robert A game that’s easy to start and hard to finish. iPhone
doubleTwist AirSync
Chris Keep your music synced without ever plugging in. Android
Dropbox Farski Instant Cloud for photos and files.
Epicurious Rekha, Kerri Great recipes, and it generates a shopping list for you.
Enjoy Sudoku
Robert Has the best Sudoku hint system. iPhone
FIP for iPhone
Rekha Amazing Paris radio station – every song is a winner.
Facebook Kerri, Rekha Socializing without all that nasty human interaction.
iPhone, Android
Flash Player 10.2
Chris Browse the whole web. Android
FlightView John Real time flight info.
Genius Scan
Jake, Kerri Genius Scan turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner, enabling you to quickly scan documents on the go and email the scans as JPEG or PDF. iPhone
Roman Space shooter game.
Gigstar – Music Guide
Chris There *are* shows you don’t know you’re missing. Android
Google Latitude
Farski Share your location with friends.
Google Maps (on the device) Kerri, Chris, Rekha The BEST google maps experience ever is the one on Android. Same  deal for GMail. – Chris

I don’t know, I think Google Maps are more usable on iPhone, strangely. – Rekha
iPhone, Android
Google Voice
Farski Phone service with cheap international rates, and helps organize your calls and texts.
Jones Take photos with an analog feel.
Huffington Post
Rekha As much for the decent UI as for the content. Not a lot of great news apps on Android yet.
IMDB Kerri Movie information.
Inception Jake Also from RJDJ, this app plays music based on the ambiet information it receives through the phone’s mic.
Robert Great for finding good Netflix instant streaming movies. iPhone
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Jake “Award-winning Childrens’ app.”
KCRW Radio John Live stream and on demand.
Library Books
Robert Alerts when your books are due. iPhone
Farski Free turn-by-turn navigation and driving directions. iPhone
Jake “Melodica is a revolutionary music application that mixes lights and sounds in a unique way, allowing anyone to compose music intuitively creating amazing visual effects just with the tips of your fingers.” iPhone
Mobile Mouse Matt Remote trackpad.
Mobile Safari (on the device) Matt, Robert iPhone
MotionX GPS
Farski Tracks your path and gives you a bunch of extra data. Great for cycling.
Farski Explore space through videos, images and more.
NPR News for Android NPR News for iPhone
John, Kerri Android, iPhone
NPR Music
Farski, Kerri First listens, interviews with artists, and good lists and mixes iPhone
NYTimes John, Kerri
Netflix Matt, Robert, Kerri, Farski Instantly watch TV shows & movies streaming from Netflix. iPhone
Notes (on the device) Robert iPhone
Osmos Jake, Robert “Asteroids meets a lava-lamp.” iPhone
Pandora Matt, Robert, Kerri, Jones, Farski Personalized radio streams.
Papa Sangre Jake A video game without the video.
Public Radio Player for iPhone
Rekha From PRX! Find your favorite public radio stations and shows, streaming and On-Demand.
RDIO Chris, Robert Mounds of music for $10/month. – Robert Android
RJDJ Roman, Robert Reactive music, the next step in the evolution of music. I did a story about it a couple years back. – Roman iPhone
Remodium Farski Allows you to remotely access Adium on your Mac. iPhone
Shazam Kerri Discover new music through your friends.
Robert Read lyrics while using Pandora or RDIO. Android
Soundcloud Jones Record, listen and share your sounds on the go. iPhone
Speedtest Matt Measure the network speed of your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. iPhone
Square Up Matt Reads credit cards.
SynchStep Robert Automatically finds music to match your pace. iPhone
TestFlight Matt Beta testing on the fly.
The Weather Channel
Robert The weather!
This American Life Kerri, Robert Developed by yours truly!
Tiny Wings Roman, Farski Move over angry birds.
Trace Robert Free, and my 8 year old son enjoys it. iPhone
Twitter Matt, Kerri, Rekha iPhone, Android
Unblock Me
Jake A puzzle-ey block game.
WeatherBug John Get the weather.
WhiteNoise Matt Ambient sounds for sleeping.
Yelp Jones, Rekha Restaurant and other business reviews. Monocle on the iPhone is pretty cool.
iPhone, Android

Saltcast featured on iTunes

We love it when great work gets recognized.  Those of you who happened on the iTunes podcast page today may have noticed Saltcast featured right up top.  The bi-weekly podcast – “The Backstory to Great Radio Storytelling” – is produced by Rob Rosenthal for the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and  Horn tooting definitely in order!

Look closely, and you’ll find another podcast that calls PRX home: BackStory with the American History Guys. Thanks, iTunes!