After meeting artist Hazel Dooney and journalist Fiona Scott-Norman earlier this week, and learning that they appeared together on ABC local radio talking about female sexuality, I searched for their names on the ABC local radio website hoping to be able to download a podcast of the show. It could have provided some useful background information for my forthcoming review of Hazel’s exhibition PORNO at Mars gallery.

On finding nothing (which is not unusual given the the show was only several days old, and presumably had not been indexed yet), I emailed the ABC and asked what the name of the show was and if a podcast would be released.

I got two responses. The first asked if I knew what the name of the show was. No, I already told you I don’t know…

The second told me the show was not going to be podcast and a transcript would not be made available as they didn’t have the funds to do this. I know that transcription services are expensive, and that is why I did not ask for one, but anyway…

The second response went on to say that I could buy a copy of the recording of the show from Media Monitors: a ‘cassette tape’ (I remember those from my childhood) for $44 and a ‘CD’ for $52.80. Where would I find something to play a cassette tape with? The museum? And a CD for about 10mb worth of audio? A waste of plastic and an inefficient method of distribution.

radio don't believe the ABC hype

So much for the ABC’s much hyped digital media on demand philosophy. In the same week that the ABC launched iView (free TV streamed over the internet) and a new local radio podcast ‘Is it just me‘ by Angela Catterns and Wendy Harmer, it is sending one of its loyal audience members away to obtain ABC content from a private commercial third party at extortionate prices.

Is this how a taxpayer funded public broadcaster should behave? I think not. I think it’s completely inappropriate for two reasons. First, MediaMonitors is a business that provides media monitoring for businesses; it is not somewhere consumers go to for content.

Second, given that it has the infrastructure for podcasting already in place, as well as a commercial arm and established distribution channels through its website and iTunes, it should never be giving its content away to third parties to sell. It also should not be encouraging consumers who have already paid for the content with their taxes to then pay a third party to obtain it.

If anyone is going to sell ABC content, it should be the ABC. We already accept paying for content when we want it after it has been broadcast (such as buying ABC DVDs in shops).

To be fair to the ABC, it cannot upload everything it produces due to the costs involved. It does offer many of the most popular content for free (paid for by our taxes). But it could do a lot more by providing a paid service where consumers can request that a less popular, niche or ‘long tail’ show be made into a podcast and sold through iTunes. Here’s how it could work.

If I want a particular show, I would lodge a request for it through the ABC website. They would process the recording, make the podcast and put it into iTunes. The system would store my request details and send me an email when it is ready (within a week perhaps) with a link to the iTunes store, where I would go and buy the show for a reasonable price, like $1 for audio and $2 for video.

It should also be offering a social networking experience around media consumption, where I can have a profile on their site where I list my favourite show, post comments on the various websites of the shows and interact with other ABC audience members.

Users could view a regularly updated list of new content being provided on the ABC iTunes store driven by the long tail interests of their peers. The ABC could aggregate this data and learn an enormous amount about the popularity of difference shows. It may discover that once a show is made available, many people want to view it or listen to it. Using Amazon style social recommendations would also expose people to content they were not previously aware of.

As the first person to request that a content item be made into a podcast, I would be effectively recommending it to my peers. I could then earn status points within the social network based on how many other people buy or favourite the content I introduced into the system. The most successful people at this game could become the ABC’s trend spotters and could influence future program development. The audience is a prediction engine.

I generally love the ABC. They seem to be getting the technical side of new media right, but are lacking in the social marketing area. The audience is organising itself on Whirlpool and MediaSpy because the ABC does not provide a social environment. I’ve said it previously with relation to Qantas; if you don’t cater to the needs of your audience they will talk amongst themselves elsewhere and you will lose the ability to communicate with them.

Radio does not suffer from pirating, unlike music and video. But many of us no longer listen to radio. It’s so inconvenient. The best things are on at the worst times. Podcasting has saved radio from extinction, and only a continuing expansion of podcasting will keep it alive.

The ABC could be the leader in long tail media sales in Australia, but no. The ABC does not want my $1. It wants me to spend $50 elsewhere. Given its current attitude, it’s possible that the ABC may soon experience the  audience hatred and disinterest caused by such arbitrary, inconsistent and audience unfriendly policies that the commerical networks are already experiencing.

don’t believe the ABC hype

One thought on “don’t believe the ABC hype

  • 2 August 2008 at 9:02 am

    it should never be giving its content away to third parties to sell

    You are joking, right? The ABC broadcasts free-to-air, and media-monitoring companies tape the broadcast. There’s no cooperation between media outlets and monitors. It takes a lot of resources to tape/scan a vast majority of broadcast and printed media, thus the cost – and believe me, businesses (and government, and until recently – thanks to the pressures of the Howard government and its panic about left-wing bias – the ABC itself) are happy to pay that cost.

    If you identified yourself as a journalist in search of research materials, I can see why the response offered you such an option – they’re suggesting the only feasible access to the material available. I’m surprised that they mentioned the firm by name but since MM bought out its only competitor several years ago, it makes some sense. The ABC is not supposed to endorse or promote any commercial entity, so it sounds as though the person who wrote to you was going out of their way to help you out.

    I’m not that familiar with the ABC’s charter but I’m pretty sure it would be unable to charge for content made with taxpayer funds, unless that material were repackaged in a plastic form (book, DVD etc) and sold through ABC Commercial.

    The resources to record all broadcast material (do you have any idea how many metropolitan and regional radio stations the ABC broadcasts?) and then off it via podcast is utterly unfeasible, given that very few people would access it. I don’t doubt that the ABC is expanding its podcast offerings but I doubt any of the non-national programs would be on that list. Radio is an ephemeral medium and while you might find it boring, it plays an important role in the lives of many people, particularly those in regional areas and in older demographics.

    Note: I do not and have never worked for the ABC. I did work at a media-monitoring firm at one time, so I understand how that industry works. I do not endorse it but I acknowledge that it’s the commercial reality.


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