Instant Expectations in the Age of Streaming MPR, WBUR, KQED and MSNBC
Feb 6, 2011
Companion post: Instant Expectations in the Age of Pandora, Netflix, Roku, Sonos, Hulu Plus and Comcast’s Xfinity.
On Friday, with the action hot and heavy in Cairo, I tried to say up to date.
I went to the gym for a noon workout, plugged in as usual. No Onion News or the combo of iPhone music playlists combined with catching up with Romanesko, AllThingsD and PaidContent. MSNBC, on one of the silent TV monitors on the wall, told me that President Obama would be talking Mubarak and taking questions “any moment.”
Ah, but how to get to it? The TV says “88.3″ below, which is great if you have a radio tuner, but I’ve an iPhone4, so that doesn’t seem to work (iPhone5 maybe, or is there a way I’m missing?).
So I went to one of my public radio apps — still confused about what’s best there — and surveyed my pre-selected favorite stations. I’ve taken to listening to Boston’s WBUR All Things Considered feed in the middle of my Pacific Time afternoon, and have started sampling the one-hour interview programs — from BUR’s Here & Now, hosted by Robin Young to KPCC’s newer Madeleine Brand shows, both lively and learning hours. They’re available by podcast, but it’s fun to listen live and to be able to pick the public radio station I want to listen to, not being constrained by geography. (Echoes of the death of distance for newspapers, that we’ve talked about for years.)
I started with KAZU, my local Central California Coast station. Science Friday, Talk of the Nation’s Friday edition, played as usual, as it did on KQED, the bigger Northern California station. I tried WBUR. Regular programming.
I turned to MPR, Minnesota Public Radio, and presto, the announcer came on almost immediately, saying, “We’re going to interrupt this program to join a live Presidential news conference on Egypt.” Just what I expected. MPR handled it well, as a few moments later Obama took to the screen.
It was complicated to cover, though. This wasn’t a press conference on Egypt. It was a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Harper, concluding a day of joint talks. What followed were comments by Obama on cooperation with Canadian (love you, northern neighbors) and then finally Egypt. As Harper then spoke, we inexplicably got the French-language stream via NPR, with MPR apparently unable to access anything else. Then, MPR drifted away, back to its BBC NewsHour regular programming, though it did helpfully tell me that it would resume the Obama conference when he went to questions.
Through this time, I could see Obama and Harper on TV, though the disjointed lipsynch was enough to make you uneasy. MSNBC brought us the comments, presumably in English, and the went to its analysts when the French translation picked up.
A few minutes later, MPR brought back the Q and A, really the most informative part of the conference. MSNBC, for some reason, stayed with its analysts, as I heard Obama talking with reporters via NPR and MPR.
That’s just a snapshot, a moment in Internet news time, and one that shows how jumbled things are, circa 2011. Things aren’t aligned and consumers have to do lots of work-arounds to get what’s kind-of, almost there. There are two fixes ahead. One’s technological as programmers’ abilities to offer us what we want how we want it and get better and easier to access.
The other comes down to something old-fashioned: News judgment. MPR had the same access to NPR’s feed of the press conference as other stations, I’d presume. Yet, it was the only one I found (perhaps there were others) that handled the news best and largely smoothly (I even enjoyed the French lessons for a few moments) in the interests of its listeners. That took some planning, thinking and moving on the fly — and isn’t that what we in the news business are supposed to excel at? It’s a challenge and an opportunity for everyone, TV, radio and print people laying plans for the next round of the all-access news revolution.