By Sam Kirkland, Poynter
Text-based journalism has Flipboard and Zite. Music has Pandora. Video has YouTube. Tapping into elements of all these services for a different form of media is Rivet News Radio, the first product from Chicago-based startup HearHere Radio LLC, which launched earlier this month.
The Rivet app — iOS only for now — taps into two of the day’s biggest buzzwords in echoing other new media successes: mobile-friendliness and customizability. It occupies an aural space somewhere between podcasts that you deliberately seek out and radio news that you listen to just because it’s on and you’re trapped in traffic during your commute.
During my visit to Rivet’s tiny downtown Chicago newsroom, just across the street from the Willis Tower, news head Charlie Meyerson explained to me the vision for the service: “Our mission is to provide one riveting experience after another.”
That’s a tall order requiring a deep well of stories considering users can be very specific about which categories of news they want to play and can skip anything that doesn’t interest them. Yet that skippability also frees Rivet reporters — who are all working on a contractor basis for now — to take time with stories when warranted.
One very cool application of radio “freed from the tyranny of the clock,” as Meyerson puts it: an interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, which surfaced on my Rivet feed first as a traditional, short radio segment of highlights. Then, it transitioned into the full, in-depth, unedited conversation with Emanuel. Listeners uninterested in the full interview could simply skip ahead to the next story, but listeners who wanted it all could hear it without needing, for instance, to remember to go online for the rest.
Another example, from Meyerson: When Newtown 911 tapes surfaced, Rivet could air them without worrying about offending listeners. Traditionally, radio journalists would err on the side of caution and not air certain content even if they thought it had news value, or they would warn listeners to turn down the volume if children were in the car or if they preferred not to hear something.
But with the option to skip ahead to the next story, listeners of Rivet could decide for themselves whether to listen to the Newtown tapes. That’s an advantage of adaptable Internet radio that goes beyond simply providing movie news to listeners who like movies, or North Side traffic news to people located on the North Side.