The NPR Media Player

Recently NPR introduced a special media player that many of its programs now employ on their websites.

(Find my more recent and negative thoughts about this here.)

Here are some pros and cons of version 1.2:


  • The player automatically organizes shows into discrete segments. Thus if you click to listen to the entire Wait Wait Don’t Tell me episode the player displays it in labeled subsections, like “Not My Job”. That is really nice, and is just one part of the player’s…
  • There is Jukebox playlist functionality. In addition to dividing shows into useful subsections the player also accumulates individual stories as you click on them. Thus you can browse the NPR website and click on a series of stories which gradually install themselves into the player’s playlist. It’s even easy to delete and re-order items in the playlist.


  • Big Brother. As far as I know the player doesn’t give the listener the choice of downloading the clips for later playback. Downloadable files and podcasts must be provided separately on a show by show basis. Many programs, like “Wait Wait”, do indeed provide such files, but who knows how long that will last? Making media viewable only online is a nefarious trend that eliminates an important feature of the internet, and I don’t like anything that appears to be part of it.
  • Playback problems. I have experienced a number of playback seizures, sometimes lasting several minutes, especially when trying to adjust the play head to hear a section again. Presumably this will improve over time.

Neither pro nor con:

  • Advertisements occur within the playback. Listening is generally prefaced with an ad for, for example, NPR store digital radios. On the other hand the advertisements are far less obtrusive than the station IDs and sponsor messages every twenty minutes that you hear on the radio, not to mention PLEDGE DRIVES (curse them!), so I can’t really call these ads a net negative. On the other hand I can’t tell how often the ads are meant to display. Sometimes they play only before the first selection, sometimes, and I think this is just a bug because it’s far too often, they seem to play between each one.

Overall I think the player is a positive development and long overdue.

Props to the NPR web techs!

8 thoughts on “The NPR Media Player

  1. thanks for this explanation. i’ve just discovered this stinking media player with one of npr’s stories and i am jumping, flipping, flaming, fuming, angry that i was forced to listen to an ad and was unable to block it. i’m about one more angry spasm from uninstalling this stinking adobe flash plugin from my browser so that i’m never tempted to view any flash content ever again. adobe flash plugin is nothing but a spyware, malware infection. it’s bad enough that i need to visit adobe website to delete their local shared object / flash cookie spyware and now i’m forced to view ads. this is nothing but spyware.
    i’m really flaming angry at NPR for using this malware delivery method and i’m gonna let them know i’m angry. i am also considering putting in my hosts file block list.
    webmasters and advertisers really, really need to figure out a way to design a website without trickery and deception if they want me visit. i will not support sponsors, i will simply not return.

  2. This Media Player has been having the “hung on buffering” problem for several months now. The NPR workaround to remove cookies does not fix it for more than one or two segments. I have no problem with Media Player playing me an ad, but this ongoing hanging situation where you get only the first third of a story, then have to intervene to maybe get half, maybe get a fifth next time, is really aggravating. I may have to give up NPR online if this doesn’t get fixed real soon . . . .

  3. The “buffering” issue happens to me all the time. Might be because I’m behind a proxy server, but most videos play just fine so I don’t know why NPR would have such an issue.

  4. @smerball: lighten up, npr has to pay for it’s servers somehow. Listening to a 15 second ad for 45 minutes of content is a small price to pay.

  5. I’ve been having it alot recently too. In particular I have been completely unable to play Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me no matter how many cookies I delete. Meanwhile they tend to be a week late updating their downloadable podcast, so this is a bad thing. As I mentioned in my post, the media player is only good to the extent that it doesn’t displace downloadable versions of the content.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s