With the Internet rapidly being decoupled from intimidating desktop computers, the opportunity for radio to expand upon its ubiquity is massive. There is the push to get standard FM receivers integrated as a standard feature in cell phones on one hand and the expansion of Internet-based radio delivery to mobiles on the other. Both are important issues, but today I’ll be looking at the latter.
As radio expands into the mobile Internet space, bandwidth is far from the only issue faced. In the age of 3G (and upcoming 4G) networks, the speed is there when you’ve got a solid signal. As we all know, those cute little bars that show our signal strength can go up and down like a pair of kangaroos in the mating season.
Amy Gahran, a media consultant in Boulder, Colorado, and a contributor to Poynter Online, recently wrote a terrific post about radio accessibility on mobile phones. NPR was her shining example of how to do it right.
You see, for Ms. Gahran, as with most of the mobile users I know (including myself), speed and ease of use are paramount. In this regard, NPR continues to point the way with options that should be making radio people sit up and take notice.Some of her most pertinent points are:
- Automatic redirect to the mobile version of the website: No wasting time while a standard website takes forever to load on your phone, the simple measure of using an autodetect gets you to the site and stream most suited to your connection. This is a massive time and battery saver, two issues that are near and dear to every mobile listener’s heart.
- Useful and intuitive layout- placing a link to hourly news at the top of the page saves the majority of users from excess scrolling. A minimalist approach to layout and graphics provides the rapid load times mobile users desire regardless of connection.
- Localism- If you denote your local station on the website, it will remember for next time. Again, a time-saving process essential for the immediacy of the mobile world.
While I think we are all aware of the essential need to engage cell phone users, I think that she is dead on when she comments:
As I wrote last month, far more people own cell phones than will ever have access to Internet-enabled computers. Cell phones — whether fancy “smart phones” or simple models with stripped-down Web browsers — are valuable and vastly underutilized news platforms.
People want news where they are, and often their cell phone is all they’ve got. Also, they may sometimes only have a couple of bars of cell network connection. It’s up to news organizations to work with those constraints to help build loyalty with this huge market. NPR sets a great example on this front.
The era of the real time web combined with the instant access of mobile is changing the equation daily. Just as with social media, the radio industry needs to meet our listeners on their terms and on their preferred platforms. This is especially true now, when smart phones are bringing those who have no interest in computers per se onto the Internet where our streams and websites are now pertinent to them.