Financial news provider Bloomberg has a novel, nicely crafted news app in the iPhone app store this week, leveraging its radio content in an on-demand service. Bloomberg Radio+ is a free app that streams the current Bloomberg radio broadcast directly to the iPhone. At the same time it maintains an on-demand library of recent shows that can be downloaded and saved for later playback.
The app is impressive in its highly usable design and the seamlessness of its on-demand experience. The current live stream provides a guest list of people being interviewed for the show. Relevant charts are also embedded, so you can follow along visually. There is also an instant feedback email link to send in a question or comment.
Users can drop into a one-minute catch-up of the latest news at any time. All the radio programming is thoroughly indexed by show, host guest and even company. A stock ticker crawls along the landscape only screen and it is customizable, letting you add and subtract indexes as well as individual companies.
Bloomberg tells me that for the time being the app is ad-free, although it plans to test ads in the future. The app is an opportunity for the radio brand to extend its reach. Currently it runs in the NY metro area on WBBR 1130, XM and Sirius. Bloomberg says the station has half a million unique listeners a week and has the most affluent audience, tops with business pros making $225,000 or more a year.
For many commuters, watching a video stream is untenable. In order to be used on a regular basis an app has to fall into the normal use cases of a phone on the move. Bloomberg Radio + is made to be used. It is iOS multi-tasking aware, in that the audio will continue playing in background when you go on to do something else on your phone. Like Pandora, which sees a remarkable amount of in-car use, this is an app that can run through a car's audio system. An executive at Pandora told me recently that a surprisingly high percentage of smartphone users of its app were plugging the phone into the car audio jack and using their phone as a primary radio provider.
With all of the focus on mobile video in recent months, it is refreshing to see so much thought and design go into an app that leverages what is arguably the native format of mobile phones: voice. The audio dimension remains an under-utilized aspect of smartphone media. Still, Bloomberg also has video, so expect an app for that format some time soon.