Stitcher is a web service that brings together a number of internet radio news podcasts, creates virtual stations by topic, and allows users to customize stations and bookmark favorites, etc. Stitcher is also available on the iPhone.
The principle behind this site is rather simple: bring together a number of quality internet radio news sources in one place, organize them by topic, and allow the users to customize and personalize them. Here are more notes on this service:
- Radio news providers: as of this writing they offer a very respectable list which includes ABC, Associated Press, BBC, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, CNET, CNN, Cosmopolitan, ESPN, Fox, Financial Times, NBC, NPR, The New York Times, PBS, People Magazine, Reuters, TechCrunch, The Onion and The Wall Street Journal.
- Account creation: you can use Stitcher without registering for an account (which requires a valid email); however you will need one in order to customize stations, save favorites, or use it on your iPhone.
- A “social” service: you can give a news item a thumbs (this helps influence the items that Stitcher serves you in the future). You can also bookmark a news item as a favorite or quickly email/share it with a friend.
- Beta release: this service is still in beta and in my opinion the user interface needs to evolve significantly (see the ’playlist’ section in the ’wish list’ below for more).
In a way, you can create something similar to Stitcher using a local podcasting client where you set up and download podcasts from your favorite internet radio news providers, however, there are reasons why you might want to log into Stitcher instead, as follows:
- Browsing by topic: each topic (or “channel”) seems to be organized around a set of “keywords”, and the user is able to edit these or add to them in order to change them or create custom channels. Although having the topics is cool, I am not quite sold on the value off adding keywords to topics, and it is not explained on the site. Also, strangely, it does not seem that you can create your own topics from scratch (am guessing that this is just because it is still in beta?).
- Serendipity: i.e., the possibility of discovering some cool radio show that you wouldn’t necessarily have known about before.
- Search: search across all of Stitcher’s radio news providers for something specific that you are seeking. Very cool, but the results found for some of the searches I attempted where at times underwhelming.
- Iphone support: if you have an iPhone, you can log into your account and access your favorite channels and radio news sources, which is really cool. (Of course it is unlikely that you will be able to stream internet radio fast enough to listen to without interruptions unless you are in range of a WIFI network, but still an exciting service to have for iPhone owners).
Wish list (or how this service can be even better):
- The playlist: in addition to the whatever is currently playing, Stitcher will auto-create a playlist of 5 items that are visible to the user. You have to remove these individually from the playlist in order to have them replaced with other items. It is not clear to me why Stitcher doesn’t show as large a playlist as a user would want. Also, not sure why its not possible to get more info on an item in the playlist (until it gets to the top of the queue).
- Filtering: this is badly needed, because Stitcher will serve news stories which at times are a few days old. I would like to be able to specify that I only want new stories that were created today or in the last 48 hours, etc.
The verdict: if you are addicted to news radio, as I am, and want something to listen to while you work or do other things you will probably like Stitcher. Try it out and see for yourself.
Version Tested: the site as of 8/16/2008.