KCRW targets streaming listeners on mobile with new website

Listeners of Santa Monica’s KCRW have another option now for listening to its famous music programming and NPR shows: inside a mobile browser.

The new KCRW.com has a persistent audio player, meaning it continues to play even as visitors navigate from page to page on the site. KCRW has ditched its old Flash-based player, so it works on mobile browsers now, too.

KCRW general manager Jennifer Ferro told Poynter via phone that streaming listeners historically have gravitated toward the KCRW apps, while on-demand listeners tend to download podcasts. The new browser-based, mobile-friendly player makes it easier for newcomers to listen, particularly if they arrive via social media. As Ferro put it, “the app requires an extra step if you don’t already have the app.”

But the multitasking enabled by the “always on top” media player has its limits. While audio continues to play on mobile phones even if users switch browser tabs or leave the browser altogether, it’s more complicated on social. Listening to an hour-long show inside your in-app Twitter browser isn’t the best experience because you can’t just close the window and jump back into your Twitter stream, but KCRW does offer shorter snippets of shows that are better for sharing.

The ability to navigate a radio site without cutting off a live stream would be a bigger advantage if KCRW had more text-based content. “You listen with your ears, but with your eyes you want to multitask,” Ferro told me, but KCRW focuses almost completely on audio and video — and you can only listen to one piece at a time.

Radio stations with original text news, like WBEZ in Chicago, WAMU in Washington, D.C., and WNYC in New York would stand to benefit more from a persistent player like KCRW’s because visitors could listen while they read, all in one window. Currently those sites have pop-out players, which are easily buried by other tabs, windows and apps. KCRW sets a nice example for the country’s other major public radio stations.

(NPR.org has a handy live stream built into its homepage, but it cuts off if you click around to news stories at NPR’s various blogs.)

Hard Candy Shell is the firm behind the KCRW redesign.


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  • G T

    No perspective in the article, previously the online kcrw media player allowed it to operate in its own window and was very functional, this new web based browser is very clunky. Where you could once see a program in the player with a summary of the entire show, you now have to dig down two pages to find out what other subjects are covered in each show….usually 3 segments.

    All this was done with no announcements, suddenly the media player links were dead and no pages explaining the changes….but then, KCRW is becoming known as the “change is hard” station, ie Harry Shearer.