Working on Radioplayer with Ford SYNC AppLink

Radioplayer Ford EcoSportLast month I traveled to the HQ of Ford Europe to work with Radioplayer and Create Soho on a video shoot of a product we’ve been working on at All In Media.

At work I’ve been shouting into a black box that sits on my desk, and resembles something like the dashboard in a Ford car (like the one in the photo).

Together with Iain, our developer in Leeds, we’ve been working on getting the Android Radioplayer app working with the Ford SYNC system, so that drivers can control it without looking at their mobile phones.

The app allows drivers to use voice commands like ‘Favourites’ and ‘Recommended’, which will scan through trending and recommend stations and help users discover new stations around them. The commands on the steering wheel and central column emulate a ‘normal’ radio experience, which should feel familiar to most people.

It’s been really exciting working on this project, as it’s something a bit different and I don’t think AIM has done something like this before. It’s also had some trying times; like when the test unit doesn’t like the sound of my voice or simply wants to do something else other than what I want it to!

Today at the Go Digital Conference, Michael Hill (UK Radioplayer Managing Director) demonstrated the app with the video below. During the shoot I assisted with the technical setup of the phone and the connecting it to the Ford SYNC system in the new Ford EcoSport.

You can find out more about Radioplayer at their website, www.radioplayer.co.uk

Radioplayer Tablet Apps Launch

Radioplayer-iPad-PortraitSince starting my job as Quality Assurance Engineer at All In Media, one of the big clients we’ve been working with has been Radioplayer.

I’ve blogged a couple of times about Radioplayer, so I was very excited to be working with Mike and Leo again.

Radioplayer launched their desktop app in 2011, followed by their mobile apps last summer. So the next step was of course tablets.

As far as we can tell, people in the UK currently do between 10-15% of their web browsing on tablets.  And when they are using their tablets, they tend to linger longer on them, than they do on their PCs or phones. [Source: Radioplayer]

The new apps, for Android and iOS, are all about discovering new stations and getting more from the stations you choose to listen to.

The main highlights are an enlarged station view, columns for all the stations to pick and a supercharged search function.

My job throughout the project was to test the app and ensure that it met the client’s expectations. I even managed the project from our end for a week whilst my boss was away! So after many hours going through a 100+ point test list, the apps are ready to use.

Mike Hill, MD of UK Radioplayer Ltd, has done a short demonstration of the new iPad layout.

Go ahead and download them for Android tablets and iOS (iPhone & iPad).

And if you feel it’s good enough to shout about, why not give it a review in the relevant app stores.

I am very proud to have been part of the team that has brought this app to life and hopefully everyone will appreciate and love what we’ve done.

Reviews & Features

Since the app’s official launch on Wednesday 25th September, The Guardian put the app in their “20 best Android (iPhone and iPad) apps this week” articles! We were even above FIFA 14 in the iOS list! Check them out: iPhone & iPadAndroid

James Cridland, of MediaUK and one of the pre-release testers, wrote a review of the app on his blog: http://www.mediauk.com/article/34460/the-uk-radioplayer-tablet-app

James also spoke to Mike Hill about the mechanics behind the recommendations engine: http://www.mediauk.com/article/34461/under-the-hood-with-the-uk-radioplayer-tablet-app

On Tuesday 1st October, Lucy Hedges gave her review of the Radioplayer app on Lauren Laverne’s BBC 6Music show.

These comments are those of me (Oliver Needham) and not those of my employer, nor the client.

My Thoughts on Radioplayer ‘Online-first’ Slots

Update: Radioplayer has withdrew the slots. Read the update after the main post.

I’ve worked on Radioplayer whilst at Cross Rhythms and even got recognised by the RP team for designing a player which is “a great example of what a small community radio station can do using very little resource“.

However I’m not too sure about the way that Radioplayer is ‘opening up’ their platform to non-Ofcom Licence holding radio stations.

Having met and spoken with Mike Hill, who is the Managing Director of Radioplayer in the UK, several times, I have voiced my opinion on letting Student Radio Association stations on to RP.

Understandably, RP only wants to have stations that have good quality broadcasts and also abide good journalism practices. That is why they initially said only Ofcom licence holders can stream on the platform.

I believe that if a student radio station is part of the SRA then they should have these qualities already. For example, at One Media Radio at Staffordshire University, many of the shows are part of students’ courses so they must be clean and suitable for that, so when they go to air on One Media Radio they are already a reasonable quality.

I suggested to Mike that he speaks to the SRA and sees if there is some arrangement they can come to to get student stations on at a reasonable price. (I’m ignoring all the student radio stations that already hold AM or Community licences for the purpose of this discussion.)

Now RP wants to offer 30 slots on their platform for ‘online-first’ stations.

Looking at this as the Technical Manager of One Media Group (at Staffordshire University), my main concern isn’t the quality of our broadcasting on One Media Radio, but the cost and what appears to be a ‘bidding’ process.

Looking at the guidelines for stations wishing to apply (which can be found here), the following stood out to me:

Lot A – Non-profit community, student and internet radio stations
In addition to the above, your application should cover:

  • How you currently resource (or intend to resource) your station in terms of funding, streaming, and technology provision.
  • Whether you have had any previous broadcast experience eg. run an RSL (restricted service licence). This will help reinforce your case for Ofcom-level compliance.
  • Your proposed annual fee – Radioplayer is not a free product unfortunately, due to the extensive  investment which the BBC and others have put into the service. As a not-for-profit, all fees go straight  back into the product. The minimum guide bid for this category is £200 a year.

As a student radio station, which relies upon the good nature of the Students’ Union which funds us, we watch what we spend our money on very carefully. By putting a bid in at £200 that may hinder our chances as other non-profit, student and internet stations might be able to put more money into the project.

I am not for one moment saying that Radioplayer will just go with those with the most money, as they may not be able to say they’ve been part of an RSL or have a good history of online broadcasting. However it may be the deciding factor if two applicants are very close and one has a higher bid.

As I say, these are just concerns and it’d be good to know what others think of my points above.

By the way, I will be pushing for One Media Radio to apply for one of these slots!

The Radioplayer License Fees in Jan 2011

UPDATE:

A contact at a student station currently on Radioplayer has told me they paid £90 (plus VAT) to join the platform. They went on to say ” if it was double that we’d have to think twice.”

In the Radioplayer Ratecard, which is sent to stations applying, it says:

Year 1 license fees include a setup charge, to take into account the upfront costs of establishing stations on Radioplayer and setting up the central systems.

My contact also commented that they would expect the fees to go down for the next contract, however they have been told to expect it to go up.

Update – 21st November:

Earlier today, RadioToday.co.uk announced that Radioplayer has now had to ‘cancel’ the Online-first slots.

 The not-for-profit organisation initially offered 30 slots in June and invited any radio station which doesn’t meet the usual application criteria to submit their stream.

A spokesperson told RadioToday.co.uk: “Radioplayer is a small, not-for-profit organisation and unfortunately, whilst there were some submissions of high quality, overall, we received neither the scale nor innovation of entries to merit the additional management resources needed to support the project.”

Source: Radioplayer cancels non-Ofcom offerings

I predict that the costs were way too much for online first radio stations. And I’m not exactly sure what they were expecting in the way of applications.

Either way, this means that Radioplayer is very much for those that have an Ofcom licence and the money to put towards such an endeavour as RP.