Sunday, February 26, 2017

Still Life with Robin: The End of The Driveway Moment

Photo by Navigator84 via Creative Commons
by Peggy Robin

If you are an NPR listener, I’m sure you know all about The Driveway Moment. It usually happens like this: You’re driving along, listening to a segment of, say, This American Life or The Moth or Snap Judgment and you are all caught up in the story, when, before you know it, you have arrived back home in your own driveway. But you don’t want to get out of your car because that will make you miss perhaps the next 30 seconds to a minute of the story while you run into the house, find the nearest radio, and turn it on to resume listening. Yes, you could stop listening and then later go hunting for the podcast, download it to your computer, and pick up where you left off, but that would break the flow, and in many cases, leave you in a frustrated state of suspense. So what do you do? You sit in your parked car and you don’t move till the story is done. And if you’ve got a grocery bag with a pint of ice cream in the back seat – let it melt!

Now there’s a way to listen uninterrupted. I just found out about this yesterday, while sitting in my driveway, waiting to get to the end of the Snap Judgment tale of the two Katie Crouches  -- about two women living in the same city, sharing many other attributes, who kept being mistaken for one another. As soon as the show was over but before I could switch the car radio off, I caught a promo for the NPR One app, which gives the user access to NPR content through a smartphone. Now, I knew (or thought I knew) about this app: I understood it to be a Pandora-like service that steered the user to content presumably in keeping with the user’s tastes, based on the user’s listening history. That held no interest for me; just the opposite – I like to select my own shows and I very much dislike the idea of letting an app send me to whatever IT thinks I will like, based on a computer algorithm. That’s mildly creepy, to my way of thinking.

But that’s not all it does, I learned. It does something much simpler, and far more useful: It lets me listen to my local NPR station live, immediately. So the moment I park the car, I pull out my smartphone, tap on the NPR One app, and tap on “listen” and I’m hearing exactly what NPR is playing, without a break. So I can turn the volume up, stick the phone in my pocket, and unload my groceries, all while the show goes on.

Previously, I had something similar, but more difficult to manage. It was a radio app (TuneIn Radio) that gave me access to all my local stations through my phone. But by offering a choice of all the stations, it slowed down the selection process. By the time you got to the NPR station, you’d missed a bit of the show. The NPR One app avoids that problem by taking you straight to your local NPR station -- no chance of stumbling across something else

I’ve also learned that the NPR One app is not so new. It’s been around for a while – so perhaps I should have known about it before. But like Dorothy in Oz, tapping the heels of her ruby slippers and wishing herself  home, I had no idea I had the power all along. And if I didn’t know, I’m betting lots of others didn’t know this, either….there’s no app like NPR One.

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays (and occasionally on Sundays).  

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