Android Apps

Stitcher’s Election Center offers audio news hub for U.S. prez race, but the technology powering it is the real story

May 2, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka

Entertainment, Multimedia

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Stitcher Smart Radio is a popular Android app for following podcasts and on-demand talk radio. Those forms of media will offer plenty of coverage and commentary for the upcoming U.S. presidential race, so Stitcher has created an Election Center hub where listeners can find a central source for shows covering the election and speaking on the specific topics raised by the candidates.

Don’t think this is just a repository of links to podcasts talking politics; Stitcher has created a hub that let’s users follow trending topics and hone in on the people and moments addressing them. So if the national narrative trends towards discussing energy policies, the hub will highlight that among the top issues being addressed. The interesting part is that a user who is interested in the energy debate can select a show from the trending topics section and skip directly the segment discussing energy – there’s no need to listen to an entire show unless you want to.

Election Center shows official channels from major media sources like Bloomberg, MSNBC, and CBS, as well as official channels from the candidates, organization supporting both sides, and unaffiliated pundits and political shows. There are more than 10,000 news sources tied in, and the trends refresh multiple times a day so the hot topics remain as accurate as possible.

And this is just a taste of what’s to come.

Stitcher told Androinica.com last week that Election Center is the first test of a new feature it hopes to use in other ways in the future. The hubs are centered on a major topic and list of channels identified as being relevant. A transcription technology allows Stitcher to determine what is being said and when. That allows Stitcher to know what is most relevant and popular to feature in the trending topics section.

The same technology that powers the Election Center could be used to develop hubs for other events and issues – the Olympics, entertainment awards season, business and finance, and more. The reason Stitcher chose to first support the U.S. presidential race is because the timing made sense.

“70 percent of Stitcher listeners follow some kind of political content,” Colin Billings, director of product at Stitcher, told me during a briefing last week. “Listenership and focus is going to double in an election year, so Stitcher wanted to create the source for audio followers on a campaign.”

It’s a neat idea that we could see expand to other events and features in the future. Stitcher Radio is available for Android 2.0 and higher. Download the app from Google Play to try it for yourself.