A week ago we launched an experiment in personalized listening we've dubbed the Infinite Player. The idea was to create a continuous listening experience similar to radio that also takes into account users' individual tastes.
The audience response has far surpassed anything we'd hoped for and we'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to try it out. We are grateful for your feedback. We've heard from people on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and through the contact form on the player itself. It's even received a little press from Read Write Web and the Nieman Journalism Lab.
While the player is experimental — and still a little buggy — testers' responses have been overwhelmingly positive on the overall direction and experience. We were not sure how the public radio audience would respond to something like this; you've convinced us it is clearly worth developing further.
While we look into next steps for extending the player, here are notes on a few specific questions raised in the initial wave of feedback.
Many people have pointed out a bug in Google Chrome that stops the player from advancing to the next story. For anyone using Chrome, you'll have much better luck if you use the player in its own browser window. The problem occurs when the player is in a tab that's in the background. While we don't yet know the cause, we will try to fix this issue in a future version.
There have been many requests to make the player work in other browsers — particularly Firefox and IE — and to offer a mobile version. The reason it's out first in Chrome and Safari is because both of those browsers have native multimedia support that made it possible to build the player quickly. We'd like to expand the list of supported browsers going forward, including mobile browsers (which doesn't preclude the possibility of an app at some point). The player, unfortunately, does not currently work on mobile Safari (iPhone and iPad). We have had some luck getting it to work on a few Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S II. If you're an Android user you may want to gamble and try it to out.
Some people have expressed concern about the thumbs up / down buttons. The fear is that use of the buttons will so narrow the pool of stories that it will seriously degrade the experience, preventing important news stories, or stories outside a certain range of topics, from appearing in the player.
We've actually worked very hard to prevent this from happening. What we're ultimately going for is an experience that keeps users informed and surfaces stories that are fun to hear based on individual preferences, while also leaving room for serendipitous discovery. You always hear the newscast first, and it repeats hourly (same as on the radio). The stories that follow are influenced heavily by both your ratings and the judgement of editors at NPR. Use of the buttons will improve the player's ability to suggest stories you'll like, without creating an echo chamber.
As we continue working to refine the player, we will take into account the many feature enhancements users have suggested. Some of the most requested so far are social media sharing tools, volume control and access to listening history. We are also working with NPR stations to create more localized versions of the player. We currently have KQED, KPLU, Michigan Radio. In the near future we are hoping to add KPCC, KPBS, OPB and the Northwest News Network.
Thanks again for the the invaluable feedback. Please keep it coming!