NPR test-drives personalized Infinite Player

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NPR Digital Services is experimenting with a new personalized streaming interface for public radio listening, the Infinite Player.

“It’s dead simple: you press a button and it plays,” writes Michael Yoch, director of product development. “First you hear the latest NPR newscast. That’s followed by stories we think you’ll like from NPR’s three main focus areas, news, arts and life, and music. The only controls are skip, pause and 30-second rewind.”

“We’re calling it the Infinite Player because it will continue playing stories until you turn it off, just like the radio.” Listeners can use the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons to indicate whether they like a story, and the player will adapt to their preferences.

“The player should deliver the type of serendipitous experience you expect from NPR, with recommendations based on your input, NPR editors’ judgment and story popularity,” Yoch writes.

For the test launch, NPR also developed localized players for three stations — San Francisco’s KQED, Michigan Radio and KPLU in Seattle. The product team is working with stations to create a player that mixes national and local content together.

The player is a product of NPR Digital Service’s “culture of rapid iteration,” writes Andrew Phelps in a review for the Nieman Journalism Lab. NPR Digital chief Kinsey Wilson tells him it’s not a traditional product launch. “It’s not nearly as baked as something we would launch even as a beta project,” Wilson says. “But it’s a way to do some rapid innovation and see if we’re even close to the mark and how people react to it.”

Infinite Player works on recent versions of Google Chrome and Safari browsers.