Futures Lab Update #46: NPR’s Connected Car App, Project Thunderdome, and NewsGuru

    by Reuben Stern
    February 14, 2014
    With NPR's News App, all drivers with GM, Internet-enabled vehicles will be able to stream news and music from more than 900 public radio stations via the free app, which can be installed directly into the car.

    Reported by Reuben Stern and Olga Kyle.

    This week’s RJI Futures Lab shows how NPR got an app into GM’s internet-enabled cars; we check in on Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome, and we take a look at one of the newest tablet news reader apps.

    "I’ll be very surprised if a couple years from now, we’re not talking about virtually every new car not only [having] this technology in their car – some aspect of infotainment – but that it’s going to become an increasing selling point for the auto makers." - Don Grage, NPR Senior Product Manager, Connected Cars


    PART 1: NPR’s app for Internet cars

    NPR soon will offer drivers the ability to stream news and music from more than 900 public radio stations via an app installed directly into GM’s Internet-enabled cars. We learn what it took to make that happen from Don Grage, NPR Senior Product Manager, Connected Cars.
    Reporting by Tatiana Darie, Reuben Stern and Olga Kyle.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    How the app works:

    The NPR News app can be downloaded for free by accessing GM’s AppShop through an icon on the car’s dashboard computer screen. Upon first launch, the app uses a vehicle’s GPS location to automatically find the nearest NPR-affiliate station and assigns it as the primary favorite. It then identifies that station audibly, plays the hourly news, and drops into that station’s live stream.
    Users then can…

    • Tap “Stations” to find other nearby NPR member stations, or search for any other NPR member station from across the country. Set favorite stations, programs and topics.
    • Choose from 25 to 30 on-demand NPR programs for immediate listening, such as “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition” and “Fresh Air.”
    • Pick from a selection of various topics – such as politics, health or technology – to get an automated playlist of news and other stories related to that topic.
    • Choose from more than 80 continuous music streams from NPR and member stations, such as KCRW, WBGO and WXPN. It’s possible to go directly to a particular stream or choose streams from genre-based lists. Genres include Alt Rock, Indie Rock, Roots Rock, Hip-Hop, Eclectic, Classical, Jazz, and more.

    International version key features:

    • Upon first launch, the app plays the latest Hourly Newscast and then begins the international NPR news stream, a never-ending playlist of stories based on listener preferences and location.
    • Users can set favorite programs and topics.
    • The interface supports six languages for all menu items, popups, etc. (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese).

    For more information about connected cars:

    PART 2: Checking in on Project Thunderdome

    In 2012, Digital First Media created Project Thunderdome as an editorial support and content-sharing service for its 75 daily newspapers. We hear from two Project Thunderdome editors who say they are making progress in terms of quality content but that there is still work to be done when it comes to tracking audience metrics across the wide range of newsroom website systems.
    Reporting by Colin Hope and Olga Kyle.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    For more information:

    Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome blog

    Digital First Media Chief Executive Officer John Paton recently outlined the company’s approach to the future in this presentation to the Online Publishers Association. In short, he says news companies need to be investing heavily in becoming real digital operations rather than continuing to build their businesses around the revenue potential of print products.

    PART 3: Discovering content with NewsGuru

    NewsGuru is a news reading app that aggregates text, photo and video content from around the Web and organizes it into themed news streams. Chief Executive Officer Adam Roozen explains how NewsGuru hopes to set itself apart by enabling news streams to be customized and shared.
    Reporting by Teddy Nykiel and Reuben Stern.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    Similar apps:

    NewsGuru will join many news reading apps on the market, including:

    • Flipboard lets users create their own personal “magazine” by aggregating content from various sources across the web and combining that with content from social media platforms, bringing it all together in one space.
    • News360 sorts news based on importance, credibility, balance and a user’s interests.
    • Pulse combines a user’s favorite news sources into a single news feed that the user can customize and change, depending on what the person feels like reading. Users also can connect to LinkedIn within the app to share and read articles.
    • Zite recommends articles based on interests that a user tells it, and continues to learn what type of content a person likes as he or she uses the app. 

    Reuben Stern is the deputy director of the Futures Lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and host and co-producer of the weekly Futures Lab video update.


    The Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab video update features a roundup of fresh ideas, techniques and developments to help spark innovation and change in newsrooms across all media platforms. Visit the RJI website for the full archive of Futures Lab videos, or download the iPad app to watch the show wherever you go. You can also sign up to receive email notification of each new episode. 

    Tagged: aggregation digital first media news readers NewsGuru npr Project Thunderdome

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