May, 2013

Radio Downloads Added to iPlayer

The BBC has announced that from 2014, listeners will be able to download radio programmes via the various iPlayer mobile and desktop apps to catch up with offline. As with TV, there’ll be a 7 day catch-up window.
In some respects, it’s really strange that it has taken this long to get. You’d imagine that the TV agreements required are far more complex than for radio. But then perhaps the demand was greater for TV, and that’s where the effort was placed.
But this will be a boon to listeners who want to listen to stack up radio programmes for occasions like long journeys: download some programmes on your mobile device at home via WiFi and then play them back avoiding potentially expensive mobile streaming costs. The 30 day playback window means you have something to listen for all but the very longest of holidays.
It’d be great if commercial radio could do something similar, and of course some operators do make programmes available during a catch-up window to stream. Making programmes available to download is another question though. Because of the requirements to encrypt the audio and give files an expiration date, this is more of a technical challenge (although certainly not insurmountable). But perhaps the biggest issue is seeking agreement with the various copyright bodies – PRS and PPL – to allow a station to do this.
We live in a world where people expect to be able to watch or listen to what they want on their own terms. Making radio programmes, portable and shareable is a key part of this.
While the latest BBC iPlayer data shows that only 16% of requests for radio are for on-demand programming (p14), it’d be foolish to surmise that it’ll always stay this way. I think that the growth of mobile requests (p7) is of key importance here. That’s particularly the case now that there are both iOS and Android apps available.

Following Up This Week’s Media Talk Podcast

Showing the Other Cheek
An otherwise random photo to illustrate this blog
I quite enjoyed this week’s Guardian Media Talk podcast, but there were a couple of things that needed highlighting or explaining a little more.
The BBC has renewed its complaints with Sky about the £5m a year it pays to get on the Sky platform. There was a decent discussion about the whys and wherefores, but I think it was a little misleading in places.
It needs to be made clear that the £5m the BBC is pays is not actually for satellite carriage. That is indeed an open market consideration with a vendors leasing space on satellite and uplink facilities to it. The £5m is in fact for access to the Sky EPG.
Sky publishes the various different fees it charges channels, including some specific fees that channels including the BBC channels must pay on its website. It would argue that these are for development of the platform, costs incurred in delivering the correct regional version of BBC channels to customers and so on. It’s clear too, that the costs are coming down from 2014 (which I think is the drop of £10m to £5m that has been talked about).
Whether or not Sky is right charging the BBC and other public service broadcasters these fees, is a separate question. But this isn’t a market cost, but something that is solely in the gift of Sky.
I’d certainly argue that Sky does benefit strongly from having BBC channels on its platform. If for some reason they came off, then I can easily foresee lots of angry Sky customers unable to do things like record their favourite programmes on their Sky+ boxes. And it’s worth noting that the BBC and Sky worked together last year during the Olympics to make space for all those extra sports channels providing unrivalled coverage of the games. Sky even spent money advertising the fact that these channels would be available.
I’m not altogether sure that all current Sky customers would be able to receive a DTT signal were BBC channels to come off the Sky EPG. While they’d remain on the other satellite service, Freesat, the lack of Freeview reception in remote parts of the country would almost certainly require some viewers in those areas, and others in flats, or with out of date aerials, to buy a new Freesat boxes to continue watching.
And the other thing not mentioned was the fact that US networks including Fox actually charge cable operators to carry their channels. As in the UK, those big networks still have the bulk of programming that viewers want to watch (although they’ve had a torrid time of it this year), and if a cable operator stopped carrying one of the big networks, they might well lose customers.
Sky’s a commercial business, and I’m not surprised that they’re fighting their corner on this one. But that doesn’t make it right.
What else? I too watched the lovely documentary on Belfast’s registry office – Love and Death in City Hall – last week and thought that it was terrific. But I don’t want to see it spun off into a series. That’s all too common these days – My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding started life as a one-off documentary, but then got spun out into a repetitive series that was creatively blank. There’s nothing wrong with one-off documentaries coming along, leaving their mark, and then going. Sure, there are more “stories to tell” but it’s just a ratings grab and rarely adds much. Ditto all the birth programmes and stories of A&E. In general I’m not a fan of this kind of thing, but I much prefer strands like Cutting Edge or the much missed 40 Minutes that give us a chance to be surprised. They won’t always work, but they’re much better creatively.
Sadly too late to make it into the podcast was the news that the BBC has cancelled its massive Digital Media Initiative. I’ve been trying to understand precisely what they were trying to achieve and failing to an extend. While having all its archive material digitised and searchable internally seems eminently sensible, it sounds like it was the efforts to build a bespoke BBC solution from the ground up that was its failing. And it would certainly seem bizarre to be trying to build internal tools that replicate the functionality of commercially available products from Avid, Adobe and Apple et al. £100m is a lot of money to lose on a project. Questions rightly need answering.
Finally, it wasn’t highlighted anywhere, but I really liked this week’s Sky Playhouse – Stage Door Johnnies. While I think that in general the series has had more misses than hits, this was a good one. Some great actors playing the kind of people who hang around theatre stage doors – in this case during a production of Romeo and Juliet starring Suranne Jones and John Nettles.
I miss “plays” of this nature, whether previously called Play for Today, Screen One or Screen Two amongst many others. It seems one-off films have to be much bigger these days, to be rolled out at Christmas. The only issue I have with Sky is that, perhaps understandably, they’re desperate to have star names.
So while I think it’d be much better if new younger writers were given a go (sometimes it seems that the only routes in are writing for the Royal Court Theatre, or the BBC’s Doctors), rather than pandering to big names who fancy “trying their hand” at writing or directing, and manage to cajole their mates along to help them out. If truth be told, I think that’s also the reason that Sky’s comedies haven’t always lifted off. They have the talent, but they’re giving them almost too much freedom.
Anyway, I shouldn’t complain too much, because Sky is finally putting its money where its mouth is and investing in original UK productions aside from sports coverage.
And I’ll leave the discussion about what happens with Global’s situation for the time being. We’re all awaiting the outcome with interest though!

Comments Fixed… Perhaps

Just a note to say sorry to anyone who spent time commenting here and then saw their words disappear into a black hole claiming I’d be moderating. Something broke, and to be honest it’s all sticking plasters and Sellotape behind the scenes. Anyway, I think it’s working again. And I’ve put live what comments I’ve got from the last few days. I fear I may have lost a few though.
I should note that I only played with settings because I was getting a torrent of comment spam, most of which was getting posted come what may.
In the medium term I need to work on migrating this blog onto a more up to date blogging platform – and that’s almost certainly WordPress. And then I can also employ a more up to date commenting system.
In the meantime, here’s a photo I took recently.
Trent Park in May-11

Some First Thoughts on the New Flickr

A new look Flickr has been unveiled today (or last night). It seems to be part of Marissa Meyer’s attempt to make Yahoo more relevant. And of course Yahoo has also just paid an awful lot of money for Tumblr. Yahoo is a company without the letter “e”.
What follows is based on some very limited time spent using the new look site, and what immediately comes to mind for someone like me. I should first say that I’ve been a Flickr user since 2005, and currently have upwards of 10,000 photos on the site. That doesn’t represent “all” my photos however. I tend to treat Flickr as a site to show off the photos I want made public or shareable. My own NAS archive has upwards of 100,000 photos to put that in perspective. And there are still many photos and negatives that don’t exist in digital form.
In general I find the new look better. Gone are the white spaces, and every centimetre of monitor space is handed over to photos. Perhaps it’s a tad over-zealous, but it’s better than what we had before, which seemed unchanged since I became a Flickr member.
Photos by default are now on a black background – a lightbox view. This works well with my photos, and I have no objections. However, I do think that users should be able to choose between white and black. If I were an illustrator, or use predominantly light/pale colours in my photos, white might suit them better.
I don’t actually mind too much that descriptions, tags, EXIF and comments are below the fold. Perhaps this will have a knock on effect with the community aspect of Flickr, but I still like the maximised use of space.
In places the new look feels a bit rushed. There are signs of the old website still here and there. If they really did rush this redesign then they’ve done well to make it as smooth as it is. There are some rough edges to be sanded off though. And a bit more flexibility from a user perspective wouldn’t go amiss.
The big thing is that they’ve giving everyone 1TB of space for their photos. There’s no two ways about it. This is a lot. They’ve done what Gmail did when they launched against Hotmail, and blow their rivals out of the water with regard to space. Google had only recently made a big issue about their unified 15GB of space. This is a clear retort to that.
But if everyone gets 1TB, then why would I pay for “unlimited” space? Well the “Pro” account is going. I’ve paid $25 a year for nearly my entire time on Flickr. And my 10,000 photos in JPG format wouldn’t take anything like that amount of space. So in many regards, the space doesn’t really matter because nobody (well, hardly anybody) is going to use it. But free does introduce ads. So Flickr is now offering a $50 option to go ad-free. I believe that I’ll be “grandfathered” on my $25 account – which includes stats as well. But would I pay $50 to remove ads? I’m not sure. And I’m not sure that Flickr would earn anything like that much from me. It feels a bit high, and I’m not sure I understand that part of the model.
I certainly don’t understand their “Doublr” option which gives me 2TB for $500! OK, anybody who needed that amount would clearly have more than 1TB and therefore be in the top 0.05% of users in terms of space used. But $500 is absurd. If you’re using that amount of space then you really shouldn’t be using Flickr for your photographic needs. In any case, there are much better options for that kind of storage in the cloud at much better prices. I can only assume it’s some kind of psychological device to make consumers believe that they’re getting $500 value for free with their first terabyte.
You would imagine that even now, Flickr engineers are making it very easy to send photos to Tumblr blogs (there is a Tumblr button already). The marketing message of the “1TB of data” seems to be that we upload every photo we have to Flickr rather than just our selects. Then sharing specific pictures to social media or a Tumblr blog is where we curate? In any case, say you have an interest in steam engines. In amongst your regular photos you probably have a few steam engine specific photos. Sharing those to Tumblr where your steam engine enthusiast friends can see them makes sense.
I must admit I’ve never quite “got” Tumblr. The long lists of people who “like” or “reblogged” things never entirely makes sense. And does “reblogged” mean “steal”? I’ll stick with this blog thanks!
Allied to all this, there’s a very decent upgrade to the Flickr Android app, and overall I’d say that they’re on the right path. I think the service still needs some tweaks and clean-up. But it’s heading in the right direction.
Whether coming weeks and months make me regret anything I’ve said here remains to be seen…
[Update] One more obvious problem is the constantly unclickable footer of the homepage! As you scroll down to click on it, more photos load. It needs to be moved!
And I’m a little confused about the whole “stats” thing. It’s being sold as something “Pros” get. But it’s not mentioned in any of the now available plans. So if I join up today and pay nothing, $50 or $500, it’s not clear that I get any stats. To be honest, I’m not sure that this should be considered that special! I’d expect any site to give me that kind of granularity. You get it on YouTube for example.


Solargraphy Experiment
When I was up in Derby earlier in the year for the Format festival, I ran across Leicester Lo-Fi Photography . They were helping people build their own pinhole cameras. So I made one using an old Coke can.
I put this camera, gaffer-taped to the wall by the window where I sit, and left it for three weeks. This is the result.
That streak across the top is probably some Coke that hadn’t been completely drunk. A bit of a shame, but this truly is a basic camera – photographic paper inside the camera with just a pinhole letting light in. The photo has been inverted and flipped to get the correct perspective.
In the background you can just about make out the BT Tower. Interestingly, in the foreground is a building that started to get clad in scaffolding while the camera was out. But you can barely see that because it was only there for roughly half the time.
Anyway, a very successful first attempt. I need to make some more now!

CNN Pieces

Over the weekend, CNN published an interesting US-focused series entitled “The future of music radio” that looked at the current state of play in US music radio.
While the US is very different market to the UK, it would be very complacent of the UK radio industry to completely write off what’s happening there.
Do you remember rock ‘n’ roll radio? – Takes a pretty broad look at the challenges facing radio, and the changes that have been made.
The kings of the radio: All-time great DJs – “US” is missing from the headline, although this is a US site. But a useful primer of who has gone before in American radio.
Radio’s last stand – Some audio to accompany the other pieces looking at one of the few major market stations that isn’t part of a big group.
Who needs radio? I’ll take the Web – Something nobody in radio wants to read. This isn’t always true for everyone. But it’s true for some.
Clear Channel chief: Technology ‘an opportunity, not a risk’ – An interview with Bob Pitman of Clear Channel.
Photos: A dose of independent radio.
You may agree with some of this. You may disagree. But it’s worth a read anyway.
And while I’m linking to US radio sites, there was also a very interesting piece examining audio meter usage in the US and contrasting it with things like FitBits and Jawbones – those little tracker meters that you carry around to measure your activity. Given that it’s in your own interest to carry the meter to measure your walking and so on, it’s scary how little people truly do carry them. The authors wonder whether this is indicative of how many radio hours are being “missed” with people meters.

RAJAR Q1 2013 – London

I’ve updated the previous entry, but I thought it was worth giving London an entry of its own because not only have I added back a Motion Chart of the London marketplace, but there’s significantly more data underlying it than I’ve managed for the national chart.
Now you can examine the marketplace in lots of sub-demos including age groups, socio-economic class, sex and digital listening.
That all makes for plenty of interesting trends over time. Examine the growth of digital listening in the capital, with Radio 4 leading the way. Or see how once upon a time, Kiss had 15-24s to itself, but in recent times Radio 1 and Capital have improved in this area, while Kiss has seen its share fall. Or see how Radio 4 is serving more 65+ year olds than ever before (well since Q1 2000 when this data starts).
Lots to play with.

And for a bigger-screen experience, look at the larger version.
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 31 March 2013, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they’re based on work I’ve done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.

RAJAR Q1 2013

It has been a big radio week already with the Sony Radio Academy Awards on Monday. And next week will be big with the final Competition Commission ruling on its attempted takeover of GMG’s radio assets.
But let’s look at the latest RAJAR which is released today.
At first glance this quarter might look less than spectacular with few obvious stories emerging at first glance. But that isn’t quite the case.
First up is Radio 2, a station I recently described as a behemoth. And it continues to be just that, with yet another set of record reach and hours this quarter. Nobody really knows if there’s any way of stopping it. Chris Evans gets increased figures as a result (up 2.9% on the last quarter) and close to one in three UK radio listeners listen to the station at some point during the week. That’s quite scary given the breadth of radio we have on offer in this country.
On the other hand, Radio 1 has had something of a tumble. It’s seen reach fall 7.5% on the quarter and 7.9% on the year, but it’s also seen time spent listening drop 9.1% on the quarter and a massive 20.1% down on the year. It’s one thing if a small station falls to that extent, but Radio 1 is the third most listened to station  in the country, so that kind of swing is very significant. Indeed Radio 4 is now bigger than Radio 1 – something that hasn’t been the case in the past. And that’s not because Radio 4 has grown especially (it’s flat on the quarter and up 4.4% on the year). I’ll return to Radio 1 in a while. 
It may seem self-serving to list my own employer near the top of what I hope is a fairly unbiased report on RAJAR, but it’s true to say that the Absolute Radio Network has had some really good figures seeing its overall listening hours reach a record level, up 9.2% on the quarter and 22.6% on the year. To put that in perspective, you’d have to go back to 2001 to find a time when the team at One Golden Square (then Virgin Radio of course) had more hours. 
This growth has been driven by its digital stations. Absolute 80s has close to its biggest ever reach and hours, in turn seeing it overtake other large digital commercial stations like The Hits, Smash Hits and Planet Rock. Absolute Radio 90s also has record high figures, and nearly all the other services have contributed. In a week that saw Christian O’Connell pick up two Sony Golds, he’s also had a decent increase at breakfast.
Elsewhere Classic FM has had a good quarter, while Talksport has had a so-so one with reasonable hours, but a reach that has now firmly slipped below three million. 
Radio 3 has had a decent quarter with double digit growth on the year, while Radio 4’s performance has been solid as mentioned above. Five Live has good reach, but time spent listening seems to have fallen off recently. They’ve just had a bit of a schedule shake-up of course.
6 Music and Radio 4 Extra haven’t managed to maintain their reach momentum, although 6 Music’s hours are at a record high.
Disappointingly, the gap between the BBC and commercial radio has been widened a bit, with the BBC now having 55.7% of listening compared with commercial radio’s 41.9%. 
Across the groups, Global is flat on the quarter in terms of listening, while Bauer at first glance seems to have had a good performance, up 4.5% on Q4 2012. However, this growth is due to its new ownership of Planet Rock, and indeed without it, its share would have slipped a fraction.
In the Midlands, the Orion group has turned in decent quarter on quarter numbers, and Jazz FM will be pleased with its hours.
What about breakfast? Well Chris Evans aside, the attention tends to fall on Nick Grimshaw, and the instant novelty of him taking over has rubbed off a little bit. It’s early days of course, but he’s down just over 900,000 listeners on the previous quarter are 1.3m on Chris Moyles’ numbers this time last year. Time spent listening is particularly bad for him year on year – perhaps a product of the vast amount of speech there used to be in Moyles’ show.
In London, the correct answer to the question “What is the most listened to breakfast show?” should always be the Today Programme on Radio 4. And that remains the case with very nearly twice as many listeners as its next nearest competitor, Radio 1. Dave and Lisa are just behind that, maintaining their advantage in spite of the station’s overall disappointing performance. Heart and Magic have done reasonably, but Kiss is the big faller this time around losing 18% of its audience on the last quarter. Interestingly, Christian O’Connell gets significantly more listening than all his commercial competitors with the exception of Capital despite being further down the table in terms of reach. Those who listen, listen a lot!
Let’s get on to digital. The first quarter each year usually sees a decent upturn in digital listening since DAB radios remain a very popular Christmas gift. And that’s still true with now 34.3% of all listening being digital, up from 33.0% last quarter. What’s more 26 million people or 40% of the population listen to digital radio every week – an increase of 2.6 million on last year.
Last time out, I said that we should keep an eye on internet listening as it jumped up quite a bit. This quarter, for the first time, internet listening has reached 5.0% and is level with digital TV listening. Clearly with lots more smartphone and tablet ownership, along with improved radio apps and streaming services, more and more radio is being delivered over IP.
In London, it hasn’t been an altogether good quarter in commercial radio. While All Radio listening is essentially flat (down 0.3% in listening hours on the previous quarter), listening to commercial radio is down 3.4% on the last quarter and 5.0% on the year. The BBC meanwhile has gained some, but not all, of that listening.
That’s why we’ve seen the big London commercial stations all take hits this quarter with Capital, Heart, Kiss and Magic all seeing declines in listening hours, especially if you look at year on year performances.
Global will be especially worried about Capital and Heart. Both have just over 9m hours, but in each case, that represents the lowest listening figure they’ve ever recorded since the current RAJAR methodology began in 1999. Indeed, in Capital’s case, you probably have to go way back into its 40 year history. There are bright shoots over at Xfm, but it’s not a good picture.
Indeed, the BBC has overtaken commercial radio in the capital in terms of listening share. While this has happened before, traditionally London has always been stronger for commercial services.
(Interestingly, “Other Radio” listening is up 44% on the quarter in the capital. That is listening to non-RAJAR measured stations including community and internet radio services. It’s up on a small base, but “Other Radio” is up from 2.1% of listening to 3.1%)
Let me just return to Radio 1. There’s an issue here with its results, and it’s something I return to all too often. Radio has to work harder to keep younger listeners because it’s losing them. Over the past five years, overall radio listening has stayed essentially flat (up 0.1%), but amongst 15-24 year olds it has fallen 16.9%. And if you look at 15-19 year olds it has fallen further – down 29.4%. The chart below goes back further than 5 years, but you can see the picture.

Look at the same chart for Radio 1 listeners. Over the same last five years, Radio 1 has seen listening fall by 38.1% amongst 15-24s and 40.9% amongst 15-19s.

By the way, I’m certain that both BBC, and indeed commercial groups that have stations that target this demographic, are doing what they can to stem the flow. It’s in their interests after all. But we can’t pretend that YouTube, Spotify, Rdio and now Google, aren’t all having some kind of effect on radio listening. We need to try harder as an industry.
Finally, let’s get back to my usual Google Motion Chart which I’ve updated again.
The first is the national picture. Although I’ve now increased the space on this blog which allows these charts to be bigger, I’d still recommend that you play with the larger version of the chart.

[Update] I’ve added back a London version of this bubble chart. You may find it easier to use the larger version, but it’s worth noting that there are a few more demographics in the London version of the chart including ages and digital listening! So do play with the different variables available and don’t just stick with the default state which usefully displays Reach v Reach %.

For more on RAJAR visit:
The official RAJAR site
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Media UK for lots of numbers and charts
One Golden Square for more Absolute Radio details
Paul Easton for analysis
Media Guardian for more news
Matt Deegan usually has plenty to say

And there are always RAJAR Smilies
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 31 March 2013, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they’re based on work I’ve done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.
[Amended to correct a fact about Absolute 80s]


Woods from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

Shot as an excuse to try that tracking feature you can do in After Effects. Music chosen because I saw Philip Glass play later that evening. The tracking was done with a Mobislyder, and the video on a Sony RX100. If there’s one thing I’m coming to realise about the Mobislyder, it’s that a cool hand and plenty of attempts are required to get good motion. That’s particularly the case if you’re focusing closely. It’s also hard to get the speed right.