Stitcher Radio Capitalizes on the Presidential Race with an Election Center and New Transcription Technology

By Nathaniel Mott , written on May 2, 2012

From The News Desk

Popular radio app Stitcher is today launching new features that will allow deeper user engagement around the US Presidential campaign. The additions include an Election Center, which collects politically-relevant audio into a central location and a leaderboard that lets listeners isolate and jump to specific soundbites.

San Francisco-based Stitcher, founded by Noah Shanok and Peter deVroede in 2008, is responsible for bringing talk radio into the age of personalized media. Available for iOS, Android, and WebOS, the app lets users curate a list of their favorite radio shows, which are automatically updated as new episodes are pushed out.

Stitcher is hoping to capitalize on the inevitable clamor for coverage that comes with a Presidential race. Its new leaderboards will collect soundbites around a particular topic (like, say, gun control) and store them in a central location, making it easy for listeners to access a survey of current political conversations.

This curation is made possible by the company's new transcription technology, which "listens" to a sample of audio, converts it to text, and then assigns it a category. The sample is then added to the leaderboard, from which users can choose to be taken directly to the relevant clip or begin playback at the start of the show.

Stitcher’s product director, Collin Billings, won’t name the speech-recognition company that helps power the transcription engine. The smart money would be on Nuance, which is known for its industry-leading voice recognition software that powers Apple’s Siri. Stitcher’s curation and audio wizardry is accomplished through a combination of this unnamed company's technologies and a series of tools Stitcher has built on its backend.

Eventually, this feature will be rolled out to all talk shows with which Stitcher has partnered, but initially it will only be used with content partners that are related to the election hub. There are no plans to make the transcriptions available to the public. That’s a shame. I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to “read” a talk show. It’s not always the case that I have time to listen to an entire show, especially if I’m in a place where I don’t (or can’t) have access to my headphones.

Stitcher also runs the risk of enabling comments to be taken out of context – a particularly thorny issue in the dirty world of politics. Billings promises the company will address this challenge, but I suspect that may be easier said than done.

These updates are significant advancements of Stitcher’s core technologies and show the company’s commitment to evolution in this space, but they stop just short of leading Stitcher to uncharted territory. Utilizing the new transcription technology could take Stitcher from a company that focuses only on audio to a complete content hub that brings talk radio to a new audience, but for now that simply isn’t in the cards.