NPR One has become an essential part of my daily routine. I’d say that 40% of my news consumption comes from social media and around 50% comes from NPR One. The app automatically aggregates news stories and podcasts from across NPR affiliate stations. When you open the app, by default you hear the five-minute national newscast that is updated every hour. Then the app detects your location and plays the five-minute newscast from your local NPR station, which you can set in your settings. And so goes the first ten minutes of my every morning workout routine. Then the app guesses what stories and podcasts you’ll be interested in depending on your location and listening history. There are only three ways to interact with the content: you can skip it, you can share it, or you can mark it as interesting to help personalize future listening.
The interface is broken into three simple, minimalistic sections. The default is “listen,” which is the most passive, Pandora-like experience. You just open the app and let it work its magic. A recent addition to the app is the “Explore” section, which lets users follow NPR podcasts like Planet Money, Radiolab, Invisibilia and Hidden Brain — and dozens of others (NPR is adding new podcasts by the week!). The explore tab also lets users listen to curated “deep dives” — stories about a particular issue, like election coverage. Finally, there’s a search section — the most pro-active of the three — where you can listen to stories about whatever tickles your fancy. You could search for news about “hipsters” across all NPR stations, including a recent report on Italian hipsters helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
What makes NPR One so compelling is that it’s a fairly seamless listening experience even though content comes from different stations and podcasts and reporting styles. It manages to come up with the right mix of reportage, commentary, interview and storytelling.
By the end of my 45-minute morning workout routine I feel more informed, yet not overwhelmed.
But Not for Video?
I yearn for the same experience on TV. How is that there is such great original programming on HBO Go, Netflix and Amazon Prime, and yet video-based news is still so sucky? Now that Apple TV, Chrome, Roku and Internet-based TV have become mainstream, isn’t news ripe to be reinvented? There is great video content out there from New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, the AP, Vice (well, sometimes), Reuters and others, and yet I’m still stuck watching the bizarre personality-driven, video-game-sounding broadcast TV of CNN, MSNBC or the broadcast news.
How is it that we’re in 2016 and I can’t go to Netflix and find a 30-minute newscast that doesn’t suck? There must be a better alternative out there that I’m missing, no?