New iPhone apps in the works for NPR

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NPR will launch a news-focused iPhone application in July and plans another release for its online music service by September, according to Robert Spier, director of content development for NPR Digital.

During a presentation today at nonCOMMvention, the annual conference for pubradio’s contemporary music-mix stations convened by Philadelphia’s WXPN, Spier presented slides of the iPhone app interfaces. The “landing page” for the iPhone news app will feature text-based content, with icons designating audio-based stories. The app also allows users to access archived NPR shows or live streams of public radio stations. iPhone users who want to interact with NPR content will eventually be able to transfer playlists created on computers to their iPhones, although Spier anticipates this function will be added to the app later this year.

The iPhone app for NPR Music will feature web-only content such as live concerts, blogs, and sharing functions. “There’s lots of discovery content [on NPR Music] that we would like to bring front and center to the iPhone,” Spier said. “We think sharing could be a more vital function on the music app then it will be on the news app.” Launch of the music app is planned for late August or September, although Spier said the initial release won’t be a “full on” version offering all the functions that NPR plans.

iPhone users are the most active segment of the NPR Mobile audience, Spier told nonCOMM attendees. They account for 54 percent of NPR’s mobile web traffic, even though they are but a small segment of all NPR Mobile users. “There not may be many iPhones out there, but this is where all the buzz and most of the consumption is,” Spier said.

Another panelist in the session, Jon Cooper, chief marketing officer for PhindmeMobile, predicted that the demand for mobile web is about to explode from the 50-60 million Americans now actively using it. He presented research showing that nearly half of 272 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S. want mobile web capabilities in their next phones.

With more than 20,000 different mobile web devices on the market, none except the iPhone have become an “object of lust” among consumers, Cooper said. The proliferation of devices and lack of web content that is optimized for mobile uses have inhibited this web platform from taking off, but that will change soon, Cooper said. “Mobile web is the next killer app,” because it is easier to access, cheaper to develop, and works on more devices.