Sound Stories. Sound Voices.

KUOW Public Radio is an NPR member station and the Puget Sound region’s number one radio station for news. It’s mission is to create and serve a more informed public through its vision of broadening conversations and deepening understanding—a goal that is tricky to achieve as listeners increasingly are bypassing their radio signal in favor of streaming NPR (and other new services) directly to their devices.  

KUOW has been working hard to remain relevant for local audiences while expanding the range of people who are attracted to its content, including those who prefer the advantages of digital media. And the website and KUOW mobile apps have proven to be successful vehicles for increasing the station’s listenership. 

The Challenge

While KUOW invested a lot of effort in creating its digital offerings, user engagement once on the website and apps remained low.  Additionally, the various digital products were built and managed independently from each other, creating a time-intensive process for adding and updating content. This proved to be a serious roadblock for reporting the news quickly, and in this industry and digital age, if you can’t get your story out immediately, you are no longer relevant. 

KUOW was locked into using a specific set of online tools to manage and create content for its website, a separate set of tools to manage its mobile apps, and yet another set of tools to manage its pledge drive donations efforts. Not only did these disparate systems require duplicate efforts to maintain, but they did not afford much flexibility in creating diverse content and an enjoyable user experience, requiring KUOW to compromise on its mission and business goals. 

To top things off, KUOW was wrapping up a rebranding initiative as a way to further broaden its appeal to a younger audience and changing Seattle demographic, and they needed all of their digital properties to reflect this new brand look and feel, and voice and tone.  

The Solution

Moby worked with KUOW on a responsive redesign of its suite of digital products, which not only simplified content creation and management, but also streamlined pledge drive efforts, membership management, underwriting/advertising, media players, and analytics insights and reporting. As part of this redesign, Moby also helped to further flesh out the new brand guidelines, which had been focused on marketing and print. 

Moby met with a large number of key KUOW stakeholders and conducted several brainstorms on features that mapped back to business goals, target audience needs, and marketing requirements for the website and the mobile app. Once we had a solid list of prioritized features, Moby conducted research, created and tested detailed wireframes, and brought the newly created KUOW brand to live for the first time in a digital property. The resulting designs and UX allowed for a fresh yet professional presentation that mapped back to KUOW’s changing demographic. 

However, the linchpin in creating an integrated digital ecosystem was a single, comprehensive, and custom content management system along with a robust enterprise API that could grow, flex, and pivot with new opportunities and changing business needs. 

Customized Content Management System

To help authors and editors create stories, content, and services in new and more powerful ways, Moby created a customized and highly extensible content editor. This includes features like future scheduled publishing, draft mode, preview, importing stories from 3rd party APIs, embeds for photo, video, audio, document, pull quote, advertisement, and source code, and more editorial control of home and landing page content.  

The CMS also serves as a single source of approved assets for use in stories and other content. Users can create folders in order to organize images, video, audio, and documents, and search these assets by keyword, or filter by type, date, and tag. Finding the right asset to use for a story when on a tight deadline is made quick and easy.  

Since KUOW is a publicly-funded organization, member donations are critical to maintaining the quality programing offered. The Donation section in the CMS is not only a place to design and create

new donation and pledge drive forms on the frontend website, it is a place where Admins can monitor and report on donations. Additionally, the CMS provides access for Admins to all of KUOW members, whether they are donors or dedicated listeners and need help with their pledge or finding the name of the last podcast they listened to.

Enterprise API

Moby knew that the API it built for the KUOW ecosystem needed to be robust and extremely durable in order to be the centralized suite of services that could power all of KUOW’s digital products. So, Moby created a well-architected and highly structured API that not only keeps current products running smoothly but also allows for the addition of new products easily and quickly. Additionally, the API is a powerhouse that seamlessly ingests and parses out information to third party integrations (e.g. Triton, and APIs (e.g. NPR). 

Responsive Website

After an extensive interview and brainstorming process with KUOW business team leads and other key stakeholders, Moby set forth to create a beautifully responsive public-facing website based on an image-centric design. This expansive website encourages visitors to engage with KUOW by providing easy-to-use mechanisms to read and listen to content, grows the KUOW audience by decreasing barriers to engage and increasing usability, provides robust search function that replicates a  personalized “front desk” experience, converts visitors into sustaining members through an easy-to-use and informative donation platform, and increases advertising opportunities within the site that flow well with the editorial content and conform to users’ context and device. 

Cross-platform Mobile App

The KUOW mobile app needed to be first and foremost an amazing listener app, giving users easier and more intuitive access to the KUOW live stream with fewer clicks to access, as well as improved skimability of stories right from the home screen. Utilizing the same API that powers the KUOW website, CMS, and donation platform, Moby created the KUOW mobile app using a cross-platform development tool, Xamarin, which allowed for the creation of a native app experience for iOS and Android, but with a single, non-web codebase. 

Global and In-line Players

The mechanism by which all of the audio is played, whether on-demand audio, live stream, or advertisements, was dubbed the Global Player. It provides provides an uninterrupted listening experience while maintaining the excellent SEO characteristics of the site. Moby also created an in-line audio and an in-line video player that could be embedded within the body copy of a story, providing editors and producers the ability to add more depth to their reporting. All players were built with leading web technology to provide a rich experience that rivals native applications. 

"Alexa, Play KUOW"
Moby also had the opportunity through the course of our work with KUOW to create KUOW’s Alexa Voice Assistant. Because we already had the enterprise API built and deployed, we were able to create the Alexa skill and bring it to market within a week of being presented with the challenge. This meant that KUOW was one an early adopter of the first generation amazon Alexa skills. The skill is hosted on AWS’s auto-scaling platform with server-less architecture, so maintenance needs are also low.

Communication with Users

The results of the new KUOW digital ecosystem are powerful indicators of an improved user experience and, as a result, user engagement.

  • Website

    • Increased time spent on new site: 2:46 minutes vs. 1:07 minutes
    • Lower bounce rate on new site: 7.49% vs. 70.13% on old site
    • Increased use of the global player on new site: 800k vs. 70k
    • Increased engagement / time spent reading articles on new site: 7:11 minutes vs. 3:34 minutes

  • API

    • 99.997% average up time 
    • 100,000 request per hour
    • 200 millisecond average response time

  • Mobile Apps

    • Grew install base by 30k users
    • 15k - 20k active users a month

  • Alexa Skill

    • 4,700 Alexa sessions per week 
    • 15,000 active mobile app users per month
    • 200,000 mobile app sessions per month
    • 74% higher mobile app retention rate compared to industry average

Download the KUOW App:

Apple App Store Google Play Store

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