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Podcasts available for longer

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Mark Friend Mark Friend | 14:00 PM, Thursday, 4 November 2010

A picture of a calendar set in type.

We know that the BBC's podcasts are hugely popular with people who know about them and understand how to get hold of them. A recent example is A History of the World in 100 Objects which has had over 12 million downloads so far, over the course of the series. I like this example, first because it's a big number but also because the content itself is stunning.

I also like this example because we've made every episode of the 100-part series available rather than the normal approach of withdrawing the podcasts 7 days after the original programme was broadcast. This means that if you only discovered the series half-way through its 9-month run, it's easy to download any or all of the previous episodes to listen to whenever it suits you.

In research we've recently conducted listeners have been telling us that we should make more podcast episodes available for longer than seven days. More than 75% of podcast users say they want that.

As a result we're now providing extended availability for all podcasts where it makes editorial sense and where the BBC has the rights. This means that:

  • 30 days availability will become the norm for weekly podcasts
  • Most of Radio 4's podcasts will be available in perpetuity (40 out of the current 60 titles)
  • News and sports podcasts will normally remain available for 7 days only, as topical information goes out of date quickly and there is little evidence of people wanting to subscribe to older programmes
  • Daily podcasts will typically be available for 7 days only
  • Some shows will be available for 7 days only because of rights restrictions: Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4, for instance

We're planning further changes because our research also tells us that many people find it hard to engage with our podcasts. There are too many barriers to trying them out and we want to reach out to the people who don't currently use them by demystifying the whole process. Next on the list are: building podcasts into iPlayer and improving the BBC's podcast pages on non-BBC sites like iTunes and on other platforms.

Mark Friend is Controller of Audio & Music Interactive at the BBC


  • Comment number 1.

    This is nerdy, so sorry in advance...
    The podcast OPML (a list of lists of what's on) seems to leave out some 5 Live programmes - the Kermode vs Mayo Film Review being one. Told you it was nerdy...

  • Comment number 2.

    This is a great move in the direction of 'on demand' content access. But I wonder how long this generosity can be extended to those of us who are BBC Radio 4 addicts but resident outside the United Kingdom.

  • Comment number 3.

    This is good news, but could you also please increase the volume of the podcasts. I have a pretty good quality MP3 player with separately purchased high quality in-ear type headphones yet even at full volume when walking I find it difficult to clearly hear the podcasts. When a car drives past slowly they are completely drowned out! This is in sharp contrast to the Radio 4 programmes that I have recorded myself, which I can hear perfectly clearly even at 60% volume when cars drive past! So, please increase the volume. Thank you.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is great step forward. One question, for those podcasts which will now be available in perpetuity, are you also going to reinstate previous episodes which have since been taken down?

  • Comment number 5.

    Great news, it was really annoying to go on holiday for a couple of weeks, then come back to a list of podcasts I couldn't listen to any more.

  • Comment number 6.

    As I have been suggesting such things for the podcasts for some time, I am happy to hear the word wonderful word perpetuity applied here.

  • Comment number 7.

    bobbin - I wonder what OPML file you're looking at. We have been moving some stuff around recently so you may be accessing an out of date file (that probably should be removed!). If you could post a link here please, I'll check it out.

    Malcolm Thomson - There is no plan to change anything about the service we offer to non-UK residents.

    TerryS - The sound quality of our mp3 files conforms to the BBC standards. That said, as the mp3s are obviously an encoded version of the broadcast audio, the volume levels can vary a bit. We continually monitor and review the sound standards to ensure the best possible quality for everyone which may result in audio being "too quiet" for some folk. Apologies for that, but rest assured your comments have been taken on board.

    lucas42 - I agree that this is a great step forward and we're really pleased it's happening. However, it was never the intention to go back and reinstate old episodes.

    Jim Downie, Audio & Music interactive

  • Comment number 8.

    A couple of questions:

    1) Which rights owner(s) is/are being restrictive over Friday Night Comedy? Surely there can't be common (non-BBC) owners between The News Quiz, The Now Show and other shows in that slot?

    2) Why is this the *only* R4 comedy with a podcast? Who's blocking Just A Minute? Or ISIHAC?

  • Comment number 9.

    Any news on grouped RSS feeds for podcasts under channels and genres and both?

  • Comment number 10.

    This is great news on the availability!
    But I'd still like some clear information on why more programmes are not available at all - Most of the comedy output for instance. Rather than just saying "rights issues" Couldn't we be told an explanation of what these issues are?

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fantastic news! The podcasts are a great way to access these quality programmes. And having them available longer, or for the full series, means I won't miss things again like The Infinite Monkey Cage.

    And don't be embarrassed about adding extra, and perhaps updating more often, the "If you liked this podcast, you may like...". I know some people will moan about this, but when listening to the podcasts you don't hear the radio adverts and can miss out shows, especially one-offs and short series, that you'd love to listen to if you knew about them.

  • Comment number 13.

    Stuart Ian Burns - No news on this I'm afraid.

    As you probably know it was on our wish list to offer listeners a one-stop shop/feed of genres and stations; and possibly a way to slice and dice eg. give me all 5live's football podcasts etc.

    I love the idea and it is on the slate but with resources limited I think you may just have to wait a bit longer unfortunately.

  • Comment number 14.

    Firstly, thanks for extending access to Podcasts.

    Secondly, the BBC has supported the development of technology and standards such as Freeview, Freesat, DAB radio and catch up services. It has not become involved in developing the devices that receive podcasts. I believe that it should, radio is a great national asset, I enjoy listening to what I want to listen to when I want to listen to it.

    On my Nokia phone I have Podcasting but I had to install an OPML directory!!! The BBC should have worked with Nokia and mobile providers to try to get a BBC podcast directory automatically on UK phones with this capability. No one should need to know about OPML, it should work out of the box.

    A small amount of work could reap great rewards.

  • Comment number 15.

  • Comment number 16.

    Went to BBC Homepage Padio link today to find radio 'menus' totally changed and no direct link to iPlayer radio choices direct from Radio 2 homepage. Had to search BBC site for iPlayer links and then navigate through myriad pages to set up each individual programme I want as a 'Favourite'.

    Is it possible to have Favourites automatically update with new shows? For example, can my Ken Bruce show Favourite simply add each new show as it becomes available (and drop off old ones as they expire)?

    What happened to last week's VERY CONVENIENT list of iPlayer shows available by station in schedule order?

    All seems very messy.

  • Comment number 17.

    A continually up to date OPML is now at:

  • Comment number 18.

    So many thanks for the OPML link. Fantastic piece of work!
    Looking forward to a solid evening's listening. I may never leave the house again...

  • Comment number 19.

    Just wondering if the time has come for an OPML explanation page similar to the one you have for RSS:

    That RSS page got me into syndication to the point of not knowing what to do without it. If you could to the same for OPML, it would no longer be our dark little secret and make so much more info available. I could hang up my anorak...

  • Comment number 20.

    Had a go at running the new feed:

    The xmlUrl thingy points to a programme link, not an RSS feed. Is it me?


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