Review: the new UK Radioplayer mobile app
The app's an impressive start for Radioplayer's foray into the mobile world - and offers the most comprehensive way to discover new radio
Radioplayer is a joint venture between the BBC, Global Radio, Real and Smooth, Absolute Radio and the RadioCentre. Its remit is to "serve radio and its audiences by making listening easy", and to date, Radioplayer has replaced most radio station web players with a new, easy-to-use player. They've launched a number of apps based on this (a Chrome app, a downloadable desktop player, and a Facebook service), but this is the first time Radioplayer has moved away from desktop to mobile.
So, at first glance, this is a mobile app which is not too dissimilar from TuneIn. TuneIn is, of course, the radio app to beat; and you might be forgiven for thinking that the Radioplayer app offers little new. But, after a few hours playing with it, you'll realise the benefits that a proper, UK, radio app gives you.
The fact that this is a proper, industry-backed app, means that Radioplayer have access to better data than TuneIn's. Notably, the large amount of catch-up radio held within the app is impressive, and this content is simply accessed from radio stations, from the Catchup section, and within other views. And, unlike TuneIn's rather bizarre notion of 'local' radio (in London, it appears that local radio stations include a community station from Manchester), the app appears to correctly choose local stations based on their editorial coverage area.
The real benefit with the Radioplayer app is serendipitous discovery: finding new radio content to listen to. A central part of this is the recommendation engine. Michael Hill, the Managing Director of UK Radioplayer, was keen to point out at nextrad.io that the product was carefully designed to be based on a set of algorithms, rather than providing any editorial bias. Accordingly, the 'recommended' tab is a fascinating watch. It uses 'trending' information (ie stations seeing a lot of increase of listeners), plus the local information gained from the phone's GPS chip, favourite settings and a few other methods - and the recommendations are uncannily accurate. Using the recommendations, I've seen stuff that I expected to be there (some of my favourite stations and programmes), and unusual things that I have not expected but are very relevant. I'm impressed at how this algorithm works in practice. The 'Recommended' view also shows catchup radio in its list: again, maximising the amount of discovery potential. This is the secret sauce of this app: and is the real reason to go and get it.
More technically, the app uses mobile streams where available (48kbps or below), and will also automatically flick to higher quality streams when in use within a wifi area. (A recent study in the US shows that 68% of mobile use is actually at home, so that part's important). The app therefore contains a subset of the stations that are in the desktop radio player, since some stations don't have a mobile stream.
In summary - this is the app for lovers of UK radio. It's free, and offers a wide range of stations - but, more importantly, offers an amazing amount of discovery of new, great, radio. While it won't replace a station's own app, it will encourage listeners to try new stations, and therefore listen longer to the radio. That's great news for all of us in radio. Go get it.
The new Radioplayer app was designed by TUI Interactive, and built by All In Media. Some of the algorithms have been produced by Unique Interactive. Media UK provided data maintenance services and some algorithm consultancy to UK Radioplayer Ltd for the mobile app, and we work with UK Radioplayer Ltd and Radioplayer Worldwide.
James Cridland is the Managing Director of Media UK, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business.
E-mail James Cridland | Visit James Cridland's website
They say “in a few weeks”.