BBC (sort of) introduces Playlister, a (kind of) music service

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 10:45am

The marketing is impressive, the collateral design is dazzling, and the product itself is … slightly baffling, at first. BBC Playlister is a new feature woven throughout the BBC online music experience. The top layer is a tagging function, whereby users select songs for addition to a personal playlist. The resulting list is not a playlist in the usual sense -- specifically, you can’t play it. For that, the list must be exported to a real music service. Playlister has launched with three inaugural partners: Spotify, YouTube, and Deezer.

Confusing? Possibly, and the first question might be: Why bother? Spotify itself has been available to the BBC’s primary U.K. audience since 2009. YouTube and Deezer, likewise no problem in the U.K. Is the purpose to indoctrinate American music-lovers to the unique music discoveries of BBC programmers? There is a hint of that strategy in the BBC’s introductory video: “The U.K. is world-renowned for its music. And for 80 years, the BBC has been its beating heart.”

But the reality, as of today, is more mundane. Playlister on the BBC website surfaces the same global hits that all other music services are featuring this morning: Lorde, Katy Perry, et al. Why would any user build an unlistenable playlist, then export it to another platform, when that other platform is performing the same music promotion with native playlisting?

The answer might gain more nuance when the BBC presenters (show hosts) get into Playlister, which they are not as of now. If the BBC is a uniquely astute music curator, it’s the programmers who will deliver brand value to Playlister. (Oddly, the video shows a BBC programmer sitting on the floor surrounded by vinyl LPs, 1970s-style.)

Operationally, everything works without a glitch. It’s a well-executed launch. Registering, browsing, and collecting are woven into an attractive and painless product experience. Exporting to YouTube results in a video playlist, as one would hope for -- and that, at least, is a piece of unique value right from the start. The Playlister app within Spotify (web only for now; mobile promised for later) is ready to go as well, and works fine -- even if, again, carrying a playlist into Spotify from outside seems futile.

Drilling into Spotify’s Playlister app reveals a discovery environment demonstrably superior to the BBC’s website, for listening to BBC channels and programs. It is easier to find shows and presenters without wading through non-music options, losing the navigation menu to promotions, and other distractions foisted by the BBC’s own domain. The Spotify app keeps the experienced focused on listening. Playlister is not woven into the channel and presenter options, though, either in Spotify or on BBC.

BBC Playlister is not exactly a music service in a modern sense. Is BBC missing the boat, or cagily sidestepping the need to build one? From a business perspective, all the stakeholders win: distribution for the BBC, content acquisition for Spotify, and new ad inventory for Google-owned YouTube. More power to each of them. Not much power to the user, yet, but Playlister is worth keeping an eye on. Watch this space for new developments.

Radio 1, looking for a younger audience, goes to where the kids go

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 12:10pm

In an attempt to recapture the attention of younger audiences, BBC Radio 1 is fishing talent from a platform that's been far more successful in that regard: YouTube.

The broadcaster has hired online video sensations Dan Howell and Phil Lester, as "Dan & Phil," to try and reverse the trend of an aging audience. Radio 1 is officially tasked to target the 15-29 demo; it's average listener is now 32 years old.

Howell and Lester feel that commercial television and radio in Britain has abandoned the country's youth to the Internet. "Young people just don’t listen to radio anymore," Howell told the UK's The Independent.

"They are trying to identify a spot where radio becomes a visual and internet-based experience, building on their successes on YouTube, where Howell has amassed 1.7m subscribers for his 'Danisnotonfire' channel," writes the paper. "Lester has more than 900,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel 'AmazingPhil.'"

After less than six months on the air, the two were voted the UK's favorite radio presenters at the industry Sony Awards.

The BBC is not unique for this strategy. After unsuccessfully trying to leverage broadcast content on YouTube, major television networks and film studios are hiring and working with talent "who built their understanding of YouTube from the ground up -- people who have proven their ability to grow and engage with audiences on the platform," reports PaidContent.

Read more about Dan & Phil from The Independent here, and more from PaidContent here.

BBC to enable time-limited downloads of radio content via iPlayer on web and apps

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 12:45pm

The BBC has decided to significantly expand radio content downloads via its iPlayer platform on the web and mobile devices, beginning next year. The DRM-protected downloads will make it easier to listen to programming when a connection isn't available (especially important to mobile users).

"This means that listeners will be able to download radio shows for up to seven days after the broadcast and have a 30-day window to open it. Once they’ve 'opened' it, they will then have a further seven days to listen to it. So this essentially extends the listening window from one week to six weeks," reports TheNextWeb here.

This news comes shortly after the company reported continued listening growth via iPlayer Radio -- "a record-breaking 74 million requests, up 3% on March's 72 million requests," writes DigitalSpy here. The company says news of the death and funeral coverage of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher drove increased listening.

BBC recreates old radio sound effects machines using lightweight, open source Web Audio API

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 1:00pm

The BBC's R&D Department has launched a prototype showcase for four web-based simulations of BBC Radiophonic Workshop sound effects machines of old.

"Back in 1958," reports, "the then relatively young medium of radio demanded sound effects like gunshots and new music for a growing line-up of audio programs. To meet the needs of show producers, the BBC launched the Radiophonic Workshop, a sound effects lab where musicians and sound engineers created fake gun shots by slapping rulers on a table, used analog tape loops and built pre-synthesizer sound effects machines."

Now, results similar to what these machines produced can be generated by web applications built without Flash, using the open source Web Audio API (which processes and synthesizes audio in a web browser).

Here's why this is important, according to the ReadWrite: "For the last two or three years, developers have been moving away from clunky, proprietary technologies like Flash and Silverlight and, whenever possible, using HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build complex interfaces and embed multimedia. The result is a smoother experience that works across devices and browsers without the need for extra plugins."

Read more here. Try the effects yourself here (links to the generators are at the bottom). Finally, ReadWrite has a URL for the Web Audio API, but this one seems to work better.

UK RadioPlayer releases mobile app for Apple devices

Monday, October 8, 2012 - 11:25am

RadioPlayer, the online radio platform that aggregates more than 300 UK commercial and BBC stations, has launched its app for the Apple iPhone and iPad.

"Our aim was to create a simple app that showcases the amazing variety of UK radio," said Michael Hill, Managing Director of RadioPlayer. "The fact we’ve built one that’s also beautiful, innovative, and a joy to use, is testament to the power of partnerships." Hill spoke at both our recent RAIN Summit Dallas (here) and at Friday's RAIN Summit Europe in Berlin.

RadioPlayer, which launched in March of last year, reportedly attracts seven million unique listeners a month. The group says an app for Android phones is in the works.

Read more in TheNextWeb here.

New BBC streaming radio service is not rumored Playlister for on-demand music

Monday, October 8, 2012 - 11:25am

The BBC today has launched iPlayer Radio, its dedicated radio streaming service that allows users to listen to 57 BBC radio stations and archived music offerings, live or on-demand. The service is available via either browser-based "web apps" or a new iPhone/iPad app.  

However, this is not the rumored Playlister downloading and on-demand track streaming service hinted at last week in RAIN (here).

"The move to improve the radio experience is long overdue and points to how the BBC may have slightly lost out on capitalizing on a growing audience for digital radio consumption," writes TechCrunch. "It says that year-on-year, monthly iPlayer requests for radio have increased 56% to 2.8m on mobile, and 300% to 1.2m on tablet up to now."

The BBC has a similar service for their television content, launched in 2007, called iPlayer TV. It gives users online access to previously-aired BBC video.

On iPlayer Radio, users can save favorites, watch videos, search, and discover what their friends are listening to via the iPlayer's social integration. The web service is available globally, but the mobile app only works in the UK.

The TechCrunch report is here. There's more in Hypebot here. Read James Cridland's review of the BBC iPlayer Radio here

Syndicate content