Let's say you're NPR and you've got tons of audio content. Heck, you're making new content every hour as you generate an up to the minute news report. How do you distribute it on your mobile website at http://m.npr.org.
Getting Your Content Out There
If you had asked me that yesterday I would have probably suggested that you use some sort of sophisticated streaming protocol that only a subset of Smart Phones can understand. So, Shira's Blackberry will be able to hear you, but my less capable Sidekick Slide will be left out. And, you can just forget about reaching the 2/3 thirds of mobile phones which are pre-paid phones and less capable.
Luckily, NPR didn't ask me. Instead, they came up with a brilliantly simple solution - they make use of Click To Call technology. I tried this on Dave's Blackberry yesterday: when you click the listen link on the NPR mobile website, it asks you if you want to dial a phone number. Say yes, and you'll make a normal outgoing phone call. However, instead of a person picking up, you'll start hearing the news program of your choice.
Give it a try, here's the number to call for the national news:
My Sidekick didn't handle the links on the site elegantly - they ended up with an error. But, I can still dial the phone number provided to hear the content.
What a terrifically simple solution. Now any phone on the planet can be used to slurp in NPR content. For example, if you dial 302-482-8610 you'll hear the report titled The People Behind Your Electronic Toothbrush.
Click To Call - Not just for the big guys
Another cool aspect of this solution is that it's not just for the big guys. When I built ListingClips.com, I made use of a platform offered by IfByPhone.com. IfByPhone provides a developer friendly platform to build phone based apps. These apps can be as simple as what NPR is doing with their dial-a-number-here-a-story type system, or as complicated as an interactive touch tone based app.
One of the coolest aspects of IfByPhone is that they allow you to take input from touch tones or recording, POST the content to a script of your choice, and then return back a dynamic response as to which part of the phone application should be invoked next. In other words, they take care of the phone stuff, and allow you to program your own app the way you want.
IfByPhone also offers some canned applications, such as one that allows you to interact with an RSS feed. So, let's say you wanted to listen to my blog over your phone, you can do so by clicking the icon below:
In many ways, voice based phone apps are the ultimate platform to reach the masses. Sure, plenty of people have computers and lots of people know about SMS - but just think of the number of people you can reach with a good old fashion phone, landline or mobile? And I just love how the NPR solution reminds you that sometimes the best solutions aren't the fanciest.