I discovered an interesting app today. I haven’t tried it myself, though. It’s not exactly what I’d be interested in, in terms of content. What I find interesting is the monetization behind the app. BBC released an app called BBC Listener (iTunes Link – Official Site). To sum it up, it’s a radio app without the radio channel. Every week, 20 new shows are made available on top of an archive of 400+ shows. You can also download shows for when you’re offline.
Now this is what I found interesting: The app costs 99 cents and offers you 30 days with the service, with a $9.99 subscription lasting 3 months. And what’s really interesting: It’s a BBC Worldwide offering and only available, as of yet, in the US and Canada.
At first, the price might seem silly. I’m pretty sure you can even get most, if not all, of the BBC Radio stations live for free – something I don’t think even this app does. And for that matter, I’ve checked: you can listen to past episodes of one of the BBC Listener shows, Americana, for free online. The app itself seems to be not much more than a fancy curated service of shows the BBC is trying to make a buck off by making non-UK users pay for them… despite offering some for free to desktop users and (as I’ve just found out) having at least the latest episode of some shows, such as BBC Listener’s In Our Time and Desert Island Disks, available as a podcast – for free – on iTunes and thus on iPods and iPhones. On the flip-side, at least one of the BBC Listener shows, Life Story, doesn’t seem to be available online.
It’s kind of infuriating. The only good point I can give for the app is the fact that it does at least curate the content and offer what the BBC believes would interest US and Canadian listeners. But if the fact you make people pay (a subscription, at that) for less or the same amount of content than they get for free – the 400+ archive being possibly this app’s only saving grace – is fairly sad.
But think of this: What if the BBC wasn’t undermining its own pricing model by offering the same content for free? What if it was only available as a paid app? What if the back catalogue actually reflected the back catalogue of the people behind the app (I’m sure the BBC has much more than just 400 shows that it could offer online)? What if we stopped talking about the BBC but instead talk of a smaller, newer media organization?
This simple subscription model the BBC is using might work well to fund a smaller podcasting network that tailors directly and specifically to it’s subscriber’s interests. The less pretty example of this – depending on how you define “pretty” – might be porn but more useful examples might include a service offering shows related to a small community not being well served by a city’s radio station or a service offering video guides for using Mac software (I’m talking about ScreenCastsOnline’s premium service). It’s not a new idea, clearly, but what seems to annoy me about the BBC Listener app is the fact the BBC could have done exactly that: offer an app with new, original shows tailored to a North American audience. The shows and app would be self-funded through a subscription fee and thus not use up UK tax payer’s money on content that probably wouldn’t interest them.
But they appear to have decided to just charge you for some stuff that’s free anyways. I will admit that I haven’t tried it yet and probably won’t seeing how they seem to be charing for new and past BBC radio shows, something I wouldn’t pay for even if there wasn’t a free alternative. If you’ve tried the app and think I’ve gotten the app all wrong, please tell me.