First Impressions of NPR’s New Community

I have been listening to National Public Radio (NPR) since 1982, so I was pleased to see that they rolled out a new community for its members, listeners and fans this week.

According to the Inside NPR blog, the community is “is a real thing; it is made up of the people who work here, the people who work at member stations, the people who listen to NPR on the radio, the people who use NPR.org and the people who support NPR”.

The blog post further describes their effort:

Starting now, it will be easier for you to talk to us, for us to talk to you and for you all to talk to each other. We are making it possible for anyone who registers with us to comment on a story and to create a profile page where many interesting things can happen. We are providing a forum for infinite conversations on NPR.org. Our hopes are high. We hope the conversations will be smart and generous of spirit. We hope the adventure is exciting, fun, helpful and informative. This is important for the NPR community.

Because I am a longtime NPR fan and listener, I decided to join the community and set up a profile today.  I even had an email exchange with Andy Carvin (the social media guy at NPR) who helped me solve my issue with putting links in my profile.

NPR Community Homepage

NPR Community Homepage

The community homepage shows the most popular stories in the left column organized by the “Most commented stories”, Most recommended stories” and “Most emailed stories”.

The center column has the “Welcome to the NPR Community” and “Editor’s Picks for Comments on NPR.org”.  The Discussion Rules are very clear and well-written, and the FAQs are complete.

The right column includes your member profile (my profile is here), an unobtrusive NPR ad, a list of active users and recently active staff.  I’m not sure how the active users are selected because the ones I clicked on had not commented yet (so how could they be active users?).

Here is what I like so far:

  • Overall appeal – My overall sense of the community site is that it has a clean, simple and pleasing-to-the-eye interface.  Being a non-profit, they do not have to clutter their site with ads, teasers and “flash” (like the CNN website).
  • Popular stories – I like how the community helps decide the popular stories.  If you trust the community, this is a great place to stop for the top stories without searching through the entire NPR site.
  • Profile – I like how you can create your member profile, but it would be easier with a WYSIWYG editor.  Profiles with pictures really ‘personalize’ virtual communities and make people feel more at home.
  • Recent Activity – I like how my recent comments show up immediately in my profile.  I commented on an article just to make sure it happened.
  • Andy Carvin (the NPR Social Media Guy) – Andy must have been cloned because I saw so many of his comments today.  It’s great to see the community leaders interact with the community, and he makes it easy to follow him on Twitter, read his blog or friend him on Facebook.  The transparency is much appreciated.

Here are a couple of minor issues from my brief review:

  • Clicking on Links –  Clicking on a link launches the link in the same window, so I have to keep hitting te back button if I want to get back to the community homepage.  I would have set a default that all links open in new windows or tabs – or an easier way to get back to the community page.  I can click on my profile name to get back to the community, but it’s not really obvious.  How about a bigger COMMUNITY button on all NPR website pages in the top nav?
  • Searching Members – There is no easy way to search for other members. If you put a tag in your profile (like Social Media or Car Talk), you can then find others who have self-identified with those topics by clicking on that tag.  For example, 70 people have selected Car Talk as one of their favorite programs and 16 people have listed social media as an area of expertise.
  • Sharing and Recommending Stories – It does not look like my shared and recommended stories appear in my Recent Activity – just the comments appear.  It would be nice if these items would show up in my Activity feed.

Overall, I am pretty impressed with this first community effort from NPR.  I like how they are listening to their members and how they admitted that they were “late to this game, to be blunt.” They are more than making up for it with this “turn at the bat.”  Good show Andy and team!

If you are a fan or listener of NPR, I recommend checking out the site and adding it to your bookmarks.

One thought on “First Impressions of NPR’s New Community

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Tom. I’m going to post a blog entry on Inside NPR.org later this morning in response to some of the suggestions we’ve received from members of the public so far, but since I’m hear, let me reply to yours.

    Clicking on links – point taken. Since we’re in the midst of a major site redesign that won’t be ready until next year, we weren’t able to redesign the page templates to optimize them for community tools. That’s why a lot of the links and buttons may seem a little forced into place. Our redesign team has been following our social media rollout closely, so when the new design launches, community-related tools should appear more prominently.

    Searching users. This is the #1 complaint we’ve gotten so far, and we’re definitely working on it. It just wasn’t something we could have ready for this week’s rollout. I’m hoping it’s something we’ll be able to get in place before the end of October. Fingers crossed.

    Sharing. Yeah, this is missing from the software. We’re asking the software developers if this might be feasible at some point.

    Thanks again,
    andy

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