In conversation with Rina Espiritu, product manager for our CBC Listen app
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In conversation with Rina Espiritu, product manager for our CBC Listen app


(music) Hi, this is Alison Vicrobeck. And you’re to In conversation with… The podcast that takes you behind the scenes of your public broadcaster. Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Rina Espiritu. She’s the product manager for our Listen apps, and our digital products team. Rina is one of the many passionate creators behind the new CBC Listen app that was launched in October of 2019. And I’m especially interested in hearing what prompted CBC to develop this digital service for Canadians. And together, we’ll also find out how new users can customize their experience. So this podcast follows a simple format — five questions in five minutes. And stay tuned to hear about the unexpected way in which she celebrated the launch of this new app. Hi Rina. Rina Espiritu: Hello, thanks for having me. Alison Vicrobeck: Yeah, thanks for being here. Very interested in the CBC Listen app. CBC basically merged all of its digital audio content into one application. Similarly to what Radio-Canada did in the fall of 2019, with OHdio. So what can listeners expect out of this app? Rina Espiritu: Well, if we take a step back before CBC listen, we’ll remember that CBC had two main mobile audio app experiences. That’s the CBC Radio app and CBC Music app. But now with CBC Listen, location or region-specific content — whether for Radio One or CBC Music programs — all live in one place. And we also have great user preferences, such as downloadable podcasts for offline listening. So you can take us on the go. You can bookmark your favourite content to listen to later or archive. And you can also take us to bed with the sleep timer. Alison Vicrobeck: That’s an interesting feature. I feel like there’s a lot of very cool things in that application. How do you start when you want to design something like that? Rina Espiritu: Um-hm. Well, CBC Listen app is the younger sibling to the CBC responsive website. So Listen Web first launched in Beta in April 2019. And we took a lot of our cues from the responsive site since it’s inherently mobile compatible. So when designing an app, the product team and stakeholders had to establish who the audience is, the value proposition, the organization’s business requirements, as well as technical capabilities, and any limitations. Alison Vicrobeck: Um-hm. What do you think was your biggest personal takeaway when you were creating this app? Rina Espiritu: At all costs, when creating a timeline of deliverables, build in testing opportunities. This is a fairly new practice at the CBC. The build, measure, learn model. Well, like, we’re building an app for the audience, so we have to connect with an audience and bring them into the process. For example, search within the app — which is based on perception — started out as just text that said all shows, all playlists. And currently, it reads search shows or search playlists because people didn’t know that that meant they could tap on it to search for content. And now we’ve whittled down to a magnifying glass icon because then it can’t be missed. Alison Vicrobeck: Yeah. Everybody knows what it is (laugh) Rina Espiritu: It’s universal, absolutely. Alison Vicrobeck: So you’re really taking us behind the scenes. And obviously, a big moment is when you get to launch the app for the first time. Do you remember how you felt when that happened? Rina Espiritu: That’s a great question. I feel like the Listen app launched three times. So the first time it launched, we went into beta. And there was this big marketing event splash at the CBC Music Festival here in Toronto. We had a booth with the CBC listen t-shirts that festival attendees could spray paint after they downloaded the app. And our Listen team also attended to answer questions from any of the attendees and guests because they’re so proud of their work that they wanted to make sure that it was translating. And the second launch was a soft launch, where we replaced the CBC Radio app with Listen in Google Play and the Apple App Store. Now, that was the most nerve-wracking, truly the point of no return, kind of you hit go, and that’s it. So that’s equal parts exhilarating and scary. And on the very day that we went to market — which was back in October — so that means when all the billboards went up and the commercial started to air, I was actually in bed sick. Alison Vicrobeck: Oh no! [slight chuckle] Rina Espiritu: So friends and family were posting all their CBC Listen sightings, and cheering the team on in Slack or like in my DMs. And that was really special — despite me being at home under the covers. Alison Vicrobeck: Were you having a solo party in bed? Rina Espiritu: Totally toasting with ginger tea and throat spray. [AV and RE quietly laugh a little.] Alison Vicrobeck: Obviously, there are some people who are listening who might not have opened up the app yet. What kind of content do you think would be most surprising to find in that app? Rina Espiritu: Well, I guess that depends on the type of listener. So the CBC Radio app fans will be introduced to the world of music playlists from virtually every genre or every mood. So holiday playlists, workout playlists, classical to country, folk to funk, and Indigenous playlists, and way more. But CBC Music fans will be introduced to CBC Podcasts, and more on-demand content than they’re used to. So previously aired shows like As It happens, The Current, Marvin’s Room, Q, and regional-specific news and human interest segments. But we also have CBC Podcasts which — are super critically acclaimed. So true crime, comedy, contemporary perspectives on Canadian living. So overall, everyone, no matter what type of audio content they love, is getting more than ever all in one place. Alison Vicrobeck: That sounds great. Thank you so much, Rina. Rina Espiritu: Thank you.

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