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Think mobile internet is the future for radio? Think again

Posted on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 at 10:44 pm. #

iPhone 3G

We’re the radio industry.

We’re in control of our transmitters. Our masts. Our towers. We own them.

Nothing gets in the way. We transmit our radio station on our transmitters and a receiver gets our signal. There’s nobody in the middle who can stop us: nobody who can make arbitrary decisions about who gets what.

That’s not the case on Sky. We are not in control. While we lease our little spot of satellite transponder, it’s up to Sky whether there’s an arbitrary space on the EPG, and how they list our station on it.

That’s not the case on internet radios. We are not in control. While we pump out our signal online, it’s up to radio listings companies (like vTuner, or PURE, or RadioTime) whether they list us, and how they list our station on their service.

That’s not the case on the web, in fact. We are not in control. Any ISP can block, or interfere with, our internet radio signal: or demand more money for a ‘better’ service. The minister in charge of the media, Ed Vaizey, is recommending a two-tier internet, “favouring broadcasters and other media companies who pay them extra for a faster service”.

And that’s certainly not the case on iPhones. We’re certainly not in control here. Today comes news that Apple are now rejecting single-station radio apps, likening them to spammy ‘fart’ apps. If you want your own simple radio app for your own radio station, it looks like you’re too late. (Or, as Trevor mentions in the comments, maybe you’re not: who knows.)

With broadcast, we own our transmitters, and nobody controls the EPGs, the ESGs, the listings or the apps that enable people to tune in.

If you genuinely think that the future of radio is on the internet, it’s time – once more – to think again. The future of radio is a multi-platform future: which means it’s easier to cope if one of the distribution methods we don’t control decides to change the rules on a whim from Steve Jobs or Rupert Murdoch.

30 comments

Martin Steers
commenting at November 24th, 2010 at 10:53 am

Have we had the Iphone app thing confirmed? I saw that article but could not find any others that discussed it (which weren’t either copies or based on that article) but saw a few forum posts that said it might just be him as a developer because of the copy and paste nature of his apps..

I did see some interesting comments about why would stations want to be on the same app.. which made me think of the radio player and places where we already do it or will be doing it.. Like the I Love Student Radio App http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/i-love-student-radio-player/id361786573?mt=8#

Richard Leeming
commenting at November 24th, 2010 at 11:05 am

Agreed with Martin, before we get too worked up about the Apple announcement let’s have it conformed first. Still has a whiff of fish about it.

Trevor Long
commenting at November 24th, 2010 at 11:55 am

James James James, I do love your passion… but – the bloke in question is pumping out CRAPPY apps, sausage factory style, same app, different logo.

And they are being submitted to Apple under HIS name. This is SILLY on the part of the stations as they then don’t have control of the app, or direct access to stats etc.

I – unlike you:) – have spoken to Apple.

http://yourtechlife.com/2010/11/24/apple-vs-the-radio-industry-not-quite/

We’ve gotta be careful not to just jump on the Apple beating bandwagon for the fun of it. The Apple App store is quality content, not a bunch of wallpaper changing hot girl apps like the Android Market – there are advantages…

Stations should take heed of this, and ensure they are in CONTROL of their app submission, and don’t just spend a few hundred dollars ‘to say they have an app’ – make it worthwhile, make an investment.

Trevor

Adam Bowie
commenting at November 24th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Not having an Apple device, I can’t comment on the quality or otherwise of the business that the company involved here was producing. But if I was a small station with few resources, it probably wouldn’t be surprising that they’ve turned to a third party who could knock out apps cheaply.

The stations who commissioned the apps simply wanted to allow their listeners to hear their station on their phones. Not such a bad thing. If the apps work, then while not all singing and dancing, they do the basic job.

Many of us are seeking to do good and clever things with our apps. But the number one reason people download them tends to be to hear the station. Listeners search the App Store for their favourite station and then download the appropriate app.

Even if there are thousands of identical apps for thousands of stations, you’re only likely to be searching for relevant stations to you.

The concern here is that in an environment like the one Apple has created, they can just breeze in and stop something should they want to.

I’m sure you’re right in everything you say about what they’re doing now. But they have control, so what happens in the future?

In time there will be millions and millions of apps, so the good stuff will rise to the surface based on reviews and ratings. But just because an obscure jazz track isn’t as popular as the latest from Lady Gaga, Apple doesn’t prevent me from digging it out of the iTunes music store. Why shouldn’t the same be true in the App Store?

I completely agree that the Android market is a mess. Yet it’s not putting controls over who can place what app on the market, it’s putting a good wrapper on the market that only displays quality products unless you look harder.

Amazon is full of garbage if you dig deep. It just has good searching facilities to ensure that most of what you see is quality merchandise. If you want a canvas print of a minor celebrity, it’s still buried away in there. You just have to look.

Tom
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 11:30 am

James,
I have often read blogs of yours belittling Apple and their products. I find it odd that as a self promoting futurologist, you are three years behind with your own mobile device. I too had an iPhone 3G, which by today’s standard is slow and cumbersome. But I’ve since had a 3GS and now iPhone 4 which is consistently voted the worlds best portable device. It’s poles ahead of your poxy 3G and it doubtlessly the future of all radio listening. You’ve got this one wrong James, and if you were to put your money where your mouth is, you’ll see that Android has much catch up to play with Apple, who are already testing iPhone 5. It’s your role to be on top of the future, after all.

James Cridland
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 11:39 am

Hi, Tom,

As you’ll notice if you click on the photograph, the photo of my iPhone 3G is dated July 14, 2008: I actually got it on the first day of release.

I now use a Google Nexus One: Android is already outstripping Apple devices, and will continue to do so: and it’s my role as a ‘futurologist’ to ensure that I’m using the same technology as most people are. Apple’s natural place is a minority brand, albeit one that does particularly well with thought-leaders. (I write this on a MacBook Air 11″, incidentally).

I’m not belittling Apple or their products: just pointing out that for radio broadcasters to rely on Steve Jobs’s whim – or that of Rupert Murdoch or any other controlling media mogul – is a risk worthwhile understanding if we believe that the future for radio is placing it on platforms that other people control.

Nick Piggott
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Almost regardless of the details, it’s a good demonstration that the Internet is not “free” – neither free “libre” or free “gratis”. That’s something radio stations probably need to think about in a bit more detail than they may have done up until now.

Tom
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for replying James, but I am still unable to agree. If you were to spend a week using iPhone 4 you’d understand that Android mobile devices are understandably not the future for radio, because they are cheap copies of the iPhone format, and ultimately don’t work as well. Apple is now the largest tech company in the world, ahead of Microsoft. They produce products that actually work, integrate and deliver what they day they do. Unlike DAB, Android and Windows. As a futurologist myself, I predict that iPhones, iPads and Apple televisions (yes, that’s right) will be the listening devices of the future, with cheap far eastern copies constantly playing catch up on inferior copycat devices. Your graphic of a big steaming pile of fail is inaccurate and childish. I’m not Steve Jobbs biggest fan, but I respect Apples desire to deliver a quality product, innovate (they invented the mouse, icons and multitouch) whilst making profit and pushing the industry forward. Radio could do with a similar market leader, considering most commercial output is utter shit. There are products coming that will blow your mind, and with the new Home Sharing feature, everything just works.

James Cridland
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Tom: I note your lack of apology for the accusation you threw around earlier.

I’ve used iPhone 4 and iPads – of course – but I think you’re mistaking what the above thread is about: it’s about a multi-platform future for radio, which doesn’t give ultimate control to Steve Jobs or to Rupert Murdoch as to what radio does or how it continues to innovate. This blog post is not about “Apple phones are shit”.

The “Big steaming pile of fail” comment on the image is actually related to my initial review of the iPhone 3G. My review of the Nexus One was similarly critical, though more positive overall.

In terms of “commercial (radio) output is shit”, please tell that to Londoners: the majority of listening (over 60%) in London is to commercial radio; and in terms of your assertion that Android, DAB and Windows “don’t work” is clearly false – as is your assertion that the whole future of radio rests on premium-priced devices from Cupertino.

Please put the fan-boy Apple anorak away, and understand what this blog post is about, rather than rushing to defend a company that, ultimately, doesn’t care two hoots about the radio industry.

Øyvind
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

As a dedicated, loving Apple Fanboy, with more than 20.000 pounds of Apple gear in my own home, I still love my DAB-radio. It is used approx 10-14 hours every day. You cant replace that with any phone or computer.

Ben
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

@Tom

Pretty sure the Mouse was invented at Xerox, and I’d probably credit the invention of the ‘icon’ with the Egyptians, possibly even the ancient Babylonians.

Michael Schmitt
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Getting back to what Mr. Cridland actually wrote about, evidence from jacAPPS — another mobile developer that builds iOS apps for individual radio stations — suggests DJB Apps’ accusations are false.

Fred Jacobs, president of Jacobs Media and jacAPPS, told RAIN that Apple approved four of their single-station apps in the past two weeks. Time will tell, I suppose.

I think what this episode does show is that apps may not be radio’s future. We don’t control app stores. But what’s stopping radio stations from building excellent, mobile-optimized websites in the near future?

Tom
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 6:29 pm

My goodness, some strong reactions! Maybe James, the old photo of your iPhone 3G is to blame for this entire misunderstanding? I don’t like to read inaccurate criticism of technology, or public opinion. Yes I am an Apple customer, and have written at length about the relationship between Apple consumers and their kit. It’s a spiritual connection, born of aspirational lifestyle – unlike Windows or Android which dont facilitate those emotions. My comments regarding commercial radio are too born of analysis. Just because a programme draws an audience does not guarantee it’s quality. Toby Anstis delivering More Music Variety is a case in point.

James Cridland
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Tom: Toby Anstis broadcasts on Heart, which is regularly among the top three stations in London, and is the 4th most popular radio station in the UK. Keep working on that dislike of “inaccurate criticism”, eh?

Steve Martin
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 10:48 pm

I don’t know enough about phones to enter the apps debate, let alone do battle with those kneeling to pray in the chapel of Apple but one thing’s clear:

Even with free-to-air radio transmissions from our own transmitters there are some limitations to our control.

Licensing and site rental spring to mind.

The only difference between these hurdles and those put in place by Apple or Sky is the nature of the agreement governing them and the legislation which permits such an agreement.

Is there anything stopping a long-term contract being in place between Apple and a broadcaster if both parties want it, as there is typically between a national regulator and a broadcaster?

Frankie Roberto – iOS and the commodification of media
commenting at November 25th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

[...] Similarly, there’s no in-built way on the iPhone or iPad for listening to radio stations, and so many radio stations have published stand-alone applications allowing you to listen to them, something Apple has apparently now banned from submissions to the App Store. [...]

Tom
commenting at November 26th, 2010 at 12:17 am

OMG James, you’ve missed it again. My reference to Heart was precisely that. Just because a product is successful doesnt guarentee quality, Heart, Capital etc. And don’t gimme that bull about Rajar. It’s your ears that are the best test. Would you actually listen to that drivel? People consume what they are given, they are not discerning. It’s for industry pros like you to push radio forward, not bow to spin. Apple have it down pat. It’s not just the awesome marketing, packaging and retail, but the product is entirely satisfying. It’s quality, and to the managemet everything matters. Unlike british commercial radio, which is one big compromise.

Drew
commenting at November 26th, 2010 at 12:40 am

I keep re-reading the comment that appears to say the iPhone4 is “doubtlessly the future of all radio listening”.

I’m squinting and frowning like the kid at school who couldn’t find the magic picture that was supposed to jump out from within the pattern of coloured dots.

Michael Cook
commenting at November 26th, 2010 at 9:55 am

In a digital radio future, radio stations often don’t own their own transmitters anyway, do they? Multiplex owners and station owners are not always the same people.

Nick
commenting at November 26th, 2010 at 10:00 am

@Michael – that’s true, but access to digital radio spectrum, and capacity allocation on multiplexes, is a regulated activity overseen by OFCOM (in the UK). That’s not to say it’s perfect, but at least there is oversight intended to protect the consumer and the broadcaster.

Martin Streers
commenting at November 26th, 2010 at 11:02 am

@Michael but isnt that part of the reason that we are having issues with digital radio, as stations are struggling to pay the costs of duel transmission because they dont control the means of distribution of digital radio.

IMHO Digital radio transmitters / multiplexs should either be owned by the government or all commercial radio groups as a co-operation. I suspect the idea was to create a market for digital radio transmission.. but all its doing is increasing pressure on stations.

RadioAssistant.com - Because We Love Radio
commenting at November 26th, 2010 at 11:59 am

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Robin
commenting at November 26th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

@nick – Thats why we have opendigitalradio.org where you can build your own multiplex and DAB transmitter. We do not need strong multiplex owners anymore, as anyone can be an multiplex owner.

Terry Purvis
commenting at November 28th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

A very weak argument James.

Terrestrial broadcasters need a licence – a licence no less, and all licences have conditions attached. A licence can be withdrawn, cancelled or torn up by the authorities at anytime.

And the rules under which terrestrial broadcasters can be changed and altered on the whim of the authorities that issue the licences.

The Internet should not just be lumped together with terrestrial distribution platforms, as if it works in the same way.

If you think the future of radio for terrestrial broadcasters is multi-platform, think again.

The Internet is a different animal and as you’ve just proved very few understand the implications for terrestrial broadcasters.

Nick
commenting at November 28th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

@Terry I don’t recognise the behaviour with licences you’ve described as one seen in developed countries. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen national broadcasting regulations in any country changed on a “whim”. Change is an outcome of a democratic process, which applies agreed principles equally to all broadcasters. It comes with transparency, consultation and supervision from government.

That’s in contrast to the way a commercial Internet company can behave. They are quite entitled to decide who has access to their network, or indeed, is present on their platforms or devices. There’s no regulation, no oversight, no requirement for Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory behaviour. (Even Sky have to operate their EPG under FRND, in recognition of their market dominant position).

I’ll re-iterate the point I made earlier, because the Internet is often perceived as being “free” – free/gratis and free/libre. It is only so because the commercial companies whose interconnecting networks make up the Internet currently think it’s in their commercial best interest for it to be so, and not because there is a fundamental requirement for it. The debate about “Net Neutrality” makes this situation clear.

Any content provider (including broadcaster) who has “the Internet” as their *sole* distribution strand has (IMHO) a strategic weakness compared to someone who has multiple routes to market, including a route that provides economic universal distribution under government regulation.

Terry Purvis
commenting at November 29th, 2010 at 11:05 am

“I don’t recognise the behaviour with licences you’ve described as one seen in developed countries. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen national broadcasting regulations in any country changed on a “whim”. Change is an outcome of a democratic process, which applies agreed principles equally to all broadcasters. It comes with transparency, consultation and supervision from government.”

@Nick – Such lovely rhetoric about the democratic process et al. All you needed though was the inclusion of the word “stakeholders” and it becomes exactly the same as what’s also trotted out by governments in what I think you would regard as developing countries.

Believe it or not Nick governments use the same words and phrases in both the “developed” and “developing world”, so for me it’s just rhetoric.

This means I have difficulty in equating your defence of how the democratic process in the UK works when one uses the Digital Economy Act 2010 as an example.

As for the Internet, I’ve become convinced over the years that nobody in the media actually gets it, as you all look at it in relation to what you do at the moment. Different animal altogether.

Ben
commenting at December 2nd, 2010 at 4:18 pm

@Terry – you say that media doesn’t get ‘the Internet’ – what exactly don’t they get? and what do you think it would take for them to be deemed to have gotten it?

Andy M
commenting at December 5th, 2010 at 2:27 am

@Robin, You’re missing an important component in your setup. A wireless telegraphy licence. Without it, you can’t transmit. All the setup you describe in your website is good for is experimentation at home. If someone is going to go to the trouble of obtaining and paying for DAB spectrum, they aren’t going to go with some DIY transmission solution, they’ll give Radioscape and Harris or Rohde and Schwarz a ring, or simply pay Arqiva to do it all for them.

With regards to your statement James regarding the station owning their transmitter and aerials and having ultimate power. That’s not always the case, many stations actually lease the equipment from Arqiva as part of managed transmission contracts. Not mention the fact said equipment is either mounted to a mast and/or inside a building that doesn’t belong to them that they have no access to. As a result, you’ll probably find most stations don’t have anyone on staff who’s even remotely conversant with high power RF systems anymore.

If ran a station, I’d be keeping a far closer eye on Arqiva than anyone else. They’re people who genuinely have you by the balls.

RadioAssistant.com - Because We Love Radio
commenting at December 7th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

[...] filter på innholdet gir en ekstra redaktør eller sensur som hindrer demokrati og ytringsfrihet. James Cridland dekker dette aspektet (for radio) på sin [...]

Peter Vautier
commenting at July 5th, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I have been webcasting 24-7 for several years, and there has never been anyone in the way! I don’t get ISP’s asking more money, and I don’t get Ofcom or members of the public scrutinising my content telling me if I play too many ads (I don’t play many ads) or whatever.
I don’t have people nicking my transmitter, or pirate stations hijacking my frequency. I don’t need to be on Pure, as I have my own link, and listeners know how to find me.
iPhones are a pain though, because they don’t like flash, and our players are flash-based (I pay PPL and PRS licenses, which necessitate me to use flash players).

However, if you go the analogue route, you have to get through Ofcom (if a license becomes available – I’m in London, so I won’t hold my breath). If you want to go on DAB, the same applies, but need to throw in a large sum of money too, and it doesn’t work anyway.
If you want to go on RadioPlayer, you have to be approved by Ofcom too (strange!)

In short, I think the internet is the most “free” (in the sense that nobody is controlling your content) way to go on the radio. It should be the future, because it is the future for so many aspects of our lives. And because it is the most positive and democratic thing that has happened in so many ways.

However, I doubt and fear that it won’t be, because there are too many vested interests in keeping things the way they have always been.

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