Higher Quality Podcasts
When we launched the podcast service in 2007, we had only speech-based podcasts, and we felt that 64kbps mono was a nice compromise between sound quality and download time/bandwidth usage. Following deals with the royalties collection organisations in the UK (PPL and PRS/MCPS Alliance), we started to offer podcasts containing short clips (30secs) of clean music [more detail at Radio Labs] - you can browse these at the podcast directory.
We've now had a rethink about what these music-based podcasts sound like (and some of our drama and comedy podcasts which contain background music), and have decided that 128kbps stereo would better suit this type of content. So you can now enjoy the Radio 1 Mini Mix, 1Xtra Drum and Bass Top 10 and Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone - or any of the 32 music podcasts - in decent-sounding stereo. The same goes for The Archers, Silver Street and Friday Night Comedy from Radio 4.
I'd be interested to know what people think of this - has it made a difference?
That's not all. We have also introduced a number of new podcasts taken from Radio 3 output since the initial launch. So you can now subscribe to CD Review - Building a Library, Composer Of The Week and World Routes, all available - among other Radio 3 podcasts - here.
We've just conducted a review of our podcasts which included audience research, an internal quality review, and an external (and therefore possibly more objective) review of both editorial and technical standards. In the main, the results were positive, and where they weren't, we are working hard to improve things - particularly around inconsistent audio levels. The good news is that this will soon mean more choice for podcast lovers, as the total number we offer is likely to rise.
In case you're wondering, we are currently serving about 16 million downloads per month across the entire range. This is fairly impressive, but I can't help thinking that figure is just going to go up as more and more people discover the joy of having high-quality audio snacks on their MP3 player or phone.
Here's my personal list of favourite BBC podcasts:
- Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo's Film Reviews
- Adam & Joe
- Zane Lowe's Hottest Records
- Jazz Library
- 1Xtra Hip Hop Top 10
- Jonathan Ross
What are your favourites?
Chris Kimber is Managing Editor, BBC Audio & Music Interactive. Photo of Chris by Ian Fenn.