ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Marketing Dive acquired Mobile Marketer in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out the new Marketing Dive site for the latest marketing news.

NPR encourages mobile listeners to multitask via voice commands

NPR listeners can now use voice commands with a mobile application to seamlessly interact with in-program promotions and other media within the network?s system, increasing engagement with the public radio network?s brand.

After the user is presented with an editorial promo through XAPPMedia, saying ?play next? or clicking on the banner takes him or her to the full piece of content through a deep link into the app. The experience, which can occur whether the app is in foreground, background or lock screen, shows how marketers are grasping the value of providing a seamless experience for users who increasingly enjoy consuming multiple forms of media simultaneously. 

?When we launched XAPP for sponsorship, we wanted to also use this same technology to power a user-centric feature,? said Bryan Moffett, vice president of digital strategy and sponsorship operations at NPR. ?It is our perspective that using this same technology to promote content would increase user engagement with more media within our ecosystem and improve engagement with the XAPP sponsorship.? 

Video demonstration
XAPP?s content promos allow more than 100 million Americans who listen to audio through mobile apps to access content hands- and eyes-free via voice interaction even when engaged in activities such as driving, walking, exercising or working. 

The technology simplifies the user?s experience by providing a convenient way to access content presented by publishers and advertisers. 

Audio listeners can interact with content promo via voice.

A video demonstration of the content promo can be found at

As many as 13 percent of audio listeners interact with individual content promos when exposed to the voice interaction option, XAPP claims. 

NPR is the first radio publisher to employ XAPP Content Promos in its NPR One and NPR News apps to make it easy for users to access their content and programming through voice commands, Mr. Moffett said.

NPR first used the technology in its NPR News Flagship application to promote the hourly newscast. It expanded the functionality to NPR One and that app?s release was on July 28. 

In NPR One, the launch was intended to promote long-form content. The network now is preparing to launch the feature with series and collections of content.  

The technology is especially popular with NPR One listeners, who consume the material on the app while it is in the background. 

?Their phone is in their pocket or they are also engaged with another app during their listening experience,? Mr. Moffett said. ?The XAPP promos allow us to engage with our users without having to open up the app and to have that experience feel simple and unobtrusive. 

?We also have the opportunity to present our users with a variety of content through this technology, by allowing them to make a choice if they want to hear these other types of content,? he said.

NPR has been exploring voice-activated technology for some time.

This spring, it rolled out voice-activated mobile ads to its app that run after news reports. Lumber Liquidator was the first advertiser to sign-on to NPR?s app with a campaign that aimed to drive app downloads.
The ad included a 15-second call-to-action. Consumers were then prompted to speak into a device?s microphone if they wanted to download the app, and a landing page pulled in the app?s content from Apple?s App Store.

Voice-enabled promo for NPR show.

The idea was that a typical radio ad repeats the same call-to-action multiple times, which can be annoying and requires a consumer to take an action later.
NPR also is betting on audio ads to monetize its apps as mobile becomes the primary platform for news consumption.

The addition of audio-based mobile ads is aimed at helping publishers crack into some of the success that music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify have seen with big brands. 

User experience
The XAPP technology has boosted engagement with both NPR?s sponsorship units and the promos.

?I would say that the success of our integration with XAPP is due to the close attention that has been paid to the user experience,? Mr. Moffett said. ?The visual styling of XAPP sponsorship and promos have been made to feel native within the experience. 

?We work hard to ensure that the audio is of the same quality and standards as all of the content that is served within the app experience,? he said. ?For this reason, the promos and sponsorship feel a part of NPR One and not just an addition.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.