What’s wrong with RadioPlayer
by Jack Thurston
RadioPlayer was launched today. It’s a collaboration between the BBC, Absolute Radio and a various other media groups and it aims to put all of UK radio in one place. Absolute Radio boss Clive Dickens described it as “the most important development in the 50 year history of UK radio”. My view? It deserves to fail. Here’s why.
1. You can only listen to UK radio stations (currently just 157 stations are offered, this may rise to around 200). Internet radio is global (30,000+ stations).
2. RadioPlayer doesn’t allow ‘listen again’ except for serving up podcasts that are already available. Radioplayer emphasises listening live, when the future of internet radio is on-demand listening.
3. RadioPlayer doesn’t work on an iPhone or an iPad. This is because it relies on Flash, a techology that Apple has chosen not to support on its market-leading smartphone and tablet computer. This is slightly bizarre given that the BBC’s iPlayer, upon which technology the Radioplayer is based, does work on the iPhone and iPad.
4. RadioPlayer attempts to integrate existing browser consoles like the BBC iPlayer with those of commercial radio stations, but preserving each station’s visual branding makes for a disorientating and inconsistent user experience.
5. If stations have to pay to be on RadioPlayer, that will exclude community stations like Resonance FM (which broadcasts my own The Bike Show). My hope is that community stations will be offered free participation.
6. People don’t want to listen to the radio via a web browser. For radio on the internet, the future is all about mobile apps, dedicated WiFi radio tuners or plain old iTunes. There will also be a growing share of listening via internet-enabled TVs.
7. Integration of BBC content on Radioplayer with social media like Twitter and Facebook requires registration for an iBBC user account. This unnecessary barrier that will put people off. Social media plays an increasingly important role of crowdsourced content curation. It should be easy.
8. I suspect much of the BBC content won’t be available outside the UK.
For the moment, much better than RadioPlayer are the various platform-specific TuneIn apps for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. For power users who who want to be able to record radio broadcasts (including setting scheduled recording like an old school VCR), the desktop radio client RadioShift will be worth the $32 price tag. Remember, both these services offer tens of thousands of radio stations, not the couple of hundred that will be offered by RadioPlayer.
BBC and the rest of the British radio establishment got it wrong when they backed crappy DAB as the technology of the future and it looks like they have backed another dud.
RadioPlayer will no doubt boast impressive statistics of the millions of listeners in its first week but this is only because existing browser players are automatically redirecting to Radioplayer. Traditional radio is all about broadcast range and live listening. Internet radio is a global and on-demand. Radioplayer’s limitations make it ill-equipped for this exciting radio future.