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Radioplayer: A new hope or a phantom menace?

The BBC-backed Radioplayer took its internet bow today, boasting that it launched with 157 stations. The tagline is all radio in one place. Only it’s not.

BBC-backed Radioplayer

A new hope

Radioplayer is being billed as the Hulu, SeeSaw or even Netflix of radio. Streamed content from any station anywhere in the UK.

But looking at the launch array of stations is hardly buzzing with diversity is it? The BBC stations, and the generic national local radio stations like Gold and Smooth, sounds like a new coffee blend. Be still my beating heart (no pun intended).

At the moment we have a nice radio aggregator, it means you don’t have to remember to type XFM Manchester into Google.

Currently it’s easy to see it both as a last throw of the dice by commercial radio to fend off the inexorable rise of Spotify, mflow, Pandora, blip or any of the other streaming music services, and a sop by the BBC to its commercial radio rivals to stop them carping about the licence fee.

But I hope that it doesn’t stay that way, because it does have the potential to be the audio equivalent of the video services mentioned above. It’s easy to sound negative when something launches. Easy to write it off as not worthwhile.

But Radioplayer has potential, especially when you read this section of the Guardian’s story

Initially, only Ofcom-licensed stations will be allowed to join the platform, although it could soon be open to other independent broadcasters.

Now things start to get interesting. Like Vimeo and YouTube have encouraged a flourishing creative community could this help the audio equivalent? Suddenly you have a BBC-backed platform which could provide access to fresh new radio and potentially new radio networks.

We’ve all seen how Leo Laporte and his burgeoning TWiT empire has developed. What if Radioplayer enabled a new set of media entrepreneurs to create similar networks? The platform is there, all it needs is the creative community to provide content. As well as the community projects like Future Radio (which I’m sure will be part pf the new platform) it provides an opportunity to grow a broad audience relatively cheaply, without the need for huge investment in infrastructure.

Maybe a UK version of NPR would be able to flourish with the potential visibility this platform would be able to afford. An opportunity for independent producers like Big Finish to syndicate content?

Radioplayer has the potential to offer something above and beyond podcast platforms than iTunes, it’s mainstream, its visible and searchable. With iTunes it’s easy for content to be buried in the ‘noise’.

Make the API available to developers and it’s not hard to imagine the tools and widgets that could be created to support the platform.

It’s waaaaay to early to suggest that the Radioplayer is a new hope for audible creativity, but similarly it’s too early to dismiss it as the radio equivalent of the Phantom Menace.

  • Feedback and comments for the new service can be found here


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