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BBC iPlayer Radio: two months on

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Chris Kimber Chris Kimber | 12:30 UK time, Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hi, I'm the Executive Product Manager for BBC iPlayer Radio.

The last two months have been exciting for BBC Radio on digital platforms: in October we launched BBC iPlayer Radio, bringing together all of the BBC's English language radio stations (57 of them!) into one coherent digital product across desktop, tablet and mobile.

We launched our first smartphone application for iOS devices, which has now been downloaded over one million times, easily surpassing our expectations.

We continue to work hard on releasing an app for Android devices which will offer a great experience, and that continues to be our number one priority. More on the mobile app on my colleague James Simcock's blog post.

BBC iPlayer Radio across all platforms now reaches around 6 million UK unique browsers per week, breaking all previous records, which is 30% up compared to October 2011. We are seeing a significant increase (almost one fifth, 18%) in traffic to the product homepage, which receives over a million unique browsers per week, and which in turn is sending higher numbers of people to the individual station sites: Radio 2 saw a 31% increase between September and November, whilst Radio 4 saw a 9% increase.

Generally we are seeing an increase in the proportion of our total visitor traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices, with now almost one quarter (24%) coming from mobiles, and 10% from tablets. This is in part down to the new mobile app, but also people browsing and listening via their phone's browser.

iPlayer Radio on mobile web

Another interesting change we are seeing is an increase in visitors to both Categories and Schedules. The use of Categories has increased by 83% between September and November (although the actual numbers are still relatively low) whilst Schedules increased by 10%. This is partly due to their prominence on the product homepage and the navigation bar which runs across all pages, and partly due to visitors using new ways to find the content they are looking for. Also, perhaps not surprisingly, more people are using the left/right arrows to navigate through the tabs on station homepages than are clicking on the tab names.

iPlayer Radio catagories

Audience Feedback

The majority of the feedback has been great, with constructive suggestions for how we might improve the product in future releases. There are a number of key feedback themes emerging:

1. Some people miss the overview of what is on-air across all stations. This was previously more obvious on the old homepage (although we still have that view here but it is less obvious and visual than before) and being able to listen live directly from this page.

2. Some listeners, especially from Radio 4, have found it harder to find the programmes they love and want to listen to on-demand, whether using the search facility or browsing.

3. A number of people were put off using the "Favourites" feature because initially it only allowed you to add a single episode instead of a whole series to your personalised list of favourite programmes.

What we've done since launch

This feedback has been extremely useful, and has already led to some changes which we have implemented.

1. The new product homepage was certainly a radical change from what went before it, so I wasn't surprised that some listeners missed the previous page. Our thinking was to make a very simple page which allowed users to quickly get to where they wanted to go, without presenting an overload of information.

To address the specific concern around seeing what is on-air now across all the stations, we are looking at making this much more obvious, so expect to see some changes in the new year. We have also made the homepage tabs addressable, meaning you can bookmark or share them. For example: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/.

2. To help listeners find programmes we have made the "Programmes A-Z" link more prominent, added in the key programmes to the programmes drop down in the navigation tool bar, added more categories, and made a significant change to the way our programme search works, meaning you no-longer have to type the exact programme title, and search results show programmes even if they are no longer available to listen to (after 7 days for most programmes).

Programme A - Z

3. To make the product a more simple and personalised experience, you can now follow a programme series rather than just a specific episode. So when you click on Favourites in the toolbar, you see a list of the programmes you are following, not just individual episode which may have expired.

iPlayer Radio Favourites

On top of this, we have now enabled playback of audio clips (sections of whole programmes) so users on smart phones can listen on the move. This is particularly useful for those who want something short to listen to whilst out and about.

Please continue to give us your feedback via our Feedback page and do follow us on Twitter for frequent updates.

Chris Kimber is Executive Product Manager, Programmes and On Demand, BBC Future Media


  • Comment number 1.

    It's great, obviously, but improvements i would like to see to the app:

    - Ability to pause, fast forward, rewind, record.
    - A sleep timer
    - Short audio clips from shows.
    - Updated video clips (R1 constantly has new clips on YouTube, but most of these never get to the iPlayer Radio app)
    - Photo Galleries
    - Live video (eg R2 In Concert, R1 Breakfast interviews etc)
    - Ability to download
    - Station playlists

    All of this would be amazing, then it would knock TuneIn Radio out the water. Currently I still use TIR a lot, even though the look and feel of your app is better, because there app has more functionality (i particularly like the sleep timer and pause/rewind/fast forward).

    Incidently do you receive figures as to how many people listen via Tune In Radio?

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    @ Robinho02: thanks for the suggestions. Quite a few of the things you'd like are in the pipeline: short audio clips from shows (available now on mobile browser sites), updated video clips from Radio 1, live video. The app has already has a sleep timer, via the "alarm" button under "Night Mode", although we agree we need to make this simpler to understand.

    When listening to an on-demand show you can pause, and scrub backwards and forwards. We'll look into how we might add pause/rewind for live listening.

    Re. station playlists - we already have programme tracklists for on-demand shows, so I assume you mean, for example, the Radio 1 A, B and C lists? These are available on the mobile browser site for Radio 1 and 1Xtra, and will come to other stations next year.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thanks for the response Chris. Yep I mean A, B and C lists, but I suppose this isn't something that's particularly necessary for the app.

    One thing I would say is the scrubbing can be REALLY fiddly. On a programme of 3 hours I will often want to fast forward say just 3 minutes to skip a particular song, but it's so difficult to get to the exact point you want. Buttons to fast forward/rewind 1 minute and maybe 5 minutes at a time would be really, really helpful.

  • Comment number 5.

    Well, I don't feel so happy.

  • Comment number 6.

    The new radio iplayer is so user-unfriendly it's impossible to use in a sensible way. I want to see my favourites and my last played. That's all I need. The front page is uninspiring, and trying to find a particular item frustrating. It's slow, cumbersome and basically unusable. I have to click on far more places to get initial information. But there, I'm only a user, probably someone got paid a great deal to wreck a usable site.

  • Comment number 7.

    I still don't like the 'new' iPlayer Radio homepage and have to agree with everything Tagginglaong has said.

    Further, with regard to the point 1 in the audience feedback within the main blog. The 'overview' function on the old homepage was much better because it could be edited to show only the radio stations that appealed so show what was 'on now and next' for just those radio stations instead of the list shown on https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/.

    I've managed to restore the 'old' iPlayer Radio homepage, it is superior to the 'new' homepage, and I will stick with it while it still exists, if it ceased to exist I still would NOT use the 'new' homepage.

  • Comment number 8.

    It's still much harder to use than the old site.

    For example: If I want to browse a category to look for (say) the latest Science and Nature programmes, I end up on a page that lists only 5 shows, offering a possible 3191 on further clicks?!?

    To examine just the first 5 shows takes a long scroll. That's a long scroll just to see the first 5 shows! And then a click expands the options to 10 shows. Why can't we see at least 10 shows from the start? Why are the links so large we have to scroll all over two pages just to see 10 options?

    And when the programmes are listed, there aren't dates for half of them, so I've no idea when these were broadcast and how new or old they are.

    So, there remains loads more unnecessary clicking and scrolling, and less information than the old, superior site.

  • Comment number 9.

    Whilst it is great that the archive of episodes for programmes such as The Media Show and Feedback is available, browsing for particular content is impossible when generic tags such as "Steve Hewlett presents a new topical programme about the fast-changing media world" and "Roger Bolton airs listeners' views on BBC radio programmes and policy" are the only describers used.

    Please would you look again at this change?

  • Comment number 10.

    Any chance you could restore the 'email the studio' button so we can interact while a programme is on? I miss that and cn't find it anywhere.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi, I must admit that I do not use the new iplayer radio webpage as it is very frustrating, it takes many (unnecessary) clicks backwards and forwards to browse programs. The radio component of the original iplayer page is much better with a list of categories that can then be expanded to refine selections. Also the old site links episodes together under a the title of the program rather than listing episodes separately, which is much more useful. Please do not turn off the old one! On a side note I do not really understand the need to fragment iplayer, surely a good quality integrated site/app is the way forward.

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

    I will try again, and I am bewildered why the last comment was taken down. Admittedly it was long, but I was trying to get across how long-winded the new system is when you are trying to use it to play a programme. In a nutshell, the new system is convoluted, the old system worked. I daren't say more on the matter.

    I would also like to point out that my comment was in no way any of the following:

    Are considered likely to disrupt, provoke, attack or offend others
    Are racist, sexist, homophobic, sexually explicit, abusive or otherwise objectionable
    Contain swear words or other language likely to offend.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi, I downloaded and used the app to listen to Radio 4 yesterday on my ipad via our home wireless. All worked well. I wanted to "listen to the radio", not interact heavily, and it was good. I tried setting the alarm, as I like to "wake up to the radio", but that seemed to be in the too hard box, what with ipad volume control, night mode, the effect of the ipad cover etc. I guess it needs more integration with iOS, clearer instructions or something. I'd really appreciate using the alarm feature, but would like to configure as few settings as possible to do so. Oh and the app sometimes didn't rotate when the ipad did (portrait to landscape, using the ipad cover as a stand). One idea I'd like to see is a "hand off" from something like the radio app to a mobile device, so I could listen as I'm leaving the house without interruption and on the way to work. Likewise on coming home, or I'm sat in the car outside the house listening to the end of The Now Show. Hope these comments help. Cheers, Ian

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry, hate it. (Really tired of going to regular favorite websites just to find they've undergone a complete overhaul and it's time to play "hunt for your stuff.") The "old" version worked just fine. Don't know why it was changed with no warning or option to continue using the "old" version. I know we've had the option to try the current version for a while now, but I wasn't aware that it was changing permanently with no option to continue using the previous version. Did I miss something? My bookmark didn't work when I tried to access the site today, just got a blank white page, took a bit of time to find the site again, and when I did, it was very difficult to find any answers to my questions. Don't know why it was changed, don't know why most of my Favorites have disappeared (or are wrong), and don't know how to get them back. Also, find the layout and process of finding shows awkward and time consuming, and it's irritating that I have to spend time trying to do that now. Frankly, I don't see the benefit of the change yet, and it's difficult to go from a smooth experience with the site to a confusing and frustrating one. On a final note, is there any way to choose to go back to the previous version which was easy, clear, familiar and user-friendly?

  • Comment number 16.

    Like others, my usual link to iplayer radio has gone blank. Living in Canada for a year, I greatly enjoy listening via i-player to familiar stations. With 20 mins to spare this morning, I opened the News category to listen as usual. I was met with 10,611 options, 1,062 pages to scroll through to make the selection, and no idea of how they were categorised - certainly not alphabetically. Some were by date, but not all, and even those with the same date seemed randomly assorted (were they according to the time on the scheduling? Do I now need to know that too? ) This isn't how a busy working woman lives! Today, I gave up and listened to a podcast - much less stressful. The old site was so much better. Can I have it back please?

  • Comment number 17.

    After my post yesterday, my old site appeared again and is working fine. Thank you for such a quick response (and if it wasn't a "response" but coincidence, thank you anyway!)

  • Comment number 18.

    HI there
    I am not new to iplayer but am very frustrated since I recently bought a tablet manufactured by Kobo as an er-reader and media player.Iplayer will not work despite loading both that and media player. When I have contacted Kobo I get no where as they say they are not able to comment on third party apps. This means you at the BBC are my only possible salvation and notice you have recently announced Iplayer for Kindle and Kobo competitor.Is any one able to answer the question as to why Kobo may not pay iplayer.All starts as though all was well and then when it comes to start the video the machine just stops with a balnk screen?

  • Comment number 19.

    Understand the need for an upgrade, but am disappointed that I couldn't easily and automatically migrate my old favourites across. (Apologies if it was obvious and I just missed it).

    I am going back to the old site as I don't have time to fiddle around now in order to try and get the old list.

  • Comment number 20.

    How is the Android development of iPlayer Radio coming along? It seems to have been some time since it was announced, and still the largest smartphone userbase seems to be ignored in favour of an increasingly idiosyncratic platform.
    In other words, why so much iPhone and not enough Android?
    Also, the new iPlayer radio web pages are a god awful mess and make me want to claw my eyes out. Please do not remove the old iPlayer radio web pages as they are the only way I can quickly find what I want to listen to.

  • Comment number 21.

    BBC iPlayer Radio: four months on.... Still no sign of an Android App.

  • Comment number 22.

    BBC iPlayer Radio was released for iPhone in October 2012. Where is the Android version???
    Truly appalling BBC. Truly appalling.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hello CTO

    you still offer WMA-Streams. (https://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/playing_radio_progs/real_wma_streams%29 This is great!

    But the URLs of the Streams don't end with ".wma". In addition the URLs of your Stream contain special characters.
    The consequence of these bugs is, that many clients (hardware clients) can't play your streams.

    Please change your URLs in your ASX files

    Thank you!

  • Comment number 24.

    for those of us over seas the 'improved' version really is poor .Listening live is the ONLY option now as the listen again feature is unable to load and one receives a notice saying it isnt working try later .Some progress The answer of the BBC is to clear the cache and reload flash One does it still doesnt work yet hey as they then say .. nobody else has reported this the problem . BBC on phones seems to take priority over anything else .......


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