Making Radio Mobile Friendly

According to RAJAR, 25.9% of adults in the UK claim to listen to live radio via a smartphone or tablet at least once per month.

It’s important for radio stations to make sure that their live stream and OD content is accessible on these devices.

Here’s a few easy ways and some tips on how to improve your mobile presence.

Have separate streams for mobile & desktop

Before you send any audio to a device, it’s worth thinking about how it’s being sent.

If you add a station to the Radioplayer platform, you are asked for two streams; 1) an MP3 or AAC stream at 48kbps or under and 2) an MP3 or AAC stream at over 48kbps.

I can recommend this setup for most stations. It’s important to offer a low quality stream for mobile users as not all users are happy to use their monthly data usage on a high quality feed.

As a rule of thumb, use LQ streams on mobile data connections and HQ on WiFi connections. Then give the user the option to switch to the HQ stream whilst on mobile connections if they desire.

Several streaming apps provide this option including TuneIn and Radioplayer, so help the user out by providing them options.

However, just because it is a ‘low quality’ stream, doesn’t mean it has to be rubbish. Ensure that it is processed and has the volume set just as carefully as the HQ stream. There is a national commercial broadcaster in the UK who has a pretty terrible LQ and HQ feed, making it almost unbearable to use!

Some streaming platforms will provide you with separate LQ and HQ streams out the box, just ask. For example, have it built in to their self-service portal for ease.

Do you need your own mobile app?

This is a question that has different answers depending on the station you are.

There is an option echoed by several people in the industry which I’ll paraphrase here; be everywhere your listeners are, but make your own apps the best. Be in the aggregator platforms (which we’ll come back to), but within the environments you control, make it the best experience you can.

A great example I’ve come across is what Bauer do. They are on TuneIn and Radioplayer, offering their vanilla stream to everyone, but within their own apps they offer a whole load of on-demand content and incentivise users to login to reduce the number of adverts in their stream.

For community radio stations in the UK, paying for your own mobile app may not be cost effective. They can be expensive and if your website or playout systems aren’t setup to export data efficiently, they don’t offer anything over the aggregator apps.

The team at Aiir offer mobile apps as part of their website packages. The apps are populated by the content on the websites they provide. This is a great way of populating an app nicely and without having to populate the two separately.

The apps from All In Media again take content from places stations already generate content and place them in a configurable app.

RSS feeds for the local news from a website, JSON feeds from a playout system and content from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are a great way to populate an app. Most stations already do all this, so why generate the content again to populate an app?

If you’re not already offering these in aggregate apps and they are unique to your station, an app may be the way to go.

Aiir and All In Media are just a couple of companies I know of which provide quality apps, but there are others around.

Join Radioplayer

In the UK (or one of the other countries with a local Radioplayer), if you’re an Ofcom regulated station, you can join Radioplayer.

Not only does Radioplayer offer a web player for your website, but you can be included in their apps and other outlets. This includes Android & iOS mobile apps, Sonos speaker service, Android TV & Amazon Fire apps, Alexa skill, and other partnerships they’re making with automakers.

On the mobile size, they need the HQ and LQ streams mentioned and some logos. Then you can customise the webview to include a custom page.

For ONE Sound FM, I included our playout information, studio contact details and a link to our website. It was an easy way for us to get on mobile devices for our 5 day broadcast.

The omnipresent TuneIn

TuneIn is everywhere and the radio aggregator that nearly everyone has heard of.

There a whole other article of reasons why you should and shouldn’t be on TuneIn. But right now, TuneIn aren’t accepting submissions for new stations.

An issue I have with TuneIn is that stations have little to no control over their content once it’s on the platform. TuneIn can monetise the streams as they wish, and don’t have to give any of it to the station.

However, it is everywhere and is the default on Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.

I’d recommend being on there if possible, but making sure that the offerings you can control are much better.

Making your web player mobile friendly

An often overlooked way of reaching a mobile user is having a mobile friendly player on your website.

The Radioplayer web players are mobile friendly too, but other players might not be.

To make your player friendly, use HTML5 and ditch that Flash player (no mobile devices support it!).

There are a few libraries which can help, like MediaElement.js. It can be a bit fiddly if you’ve got a strange streaming format.

About 5 years ago, I put together the Basic Radio Console which is a simple layout and incorporates MediaElement.js. If you use it, let me know.

Be on aggregators, but provide it better yourself

In summary, aggregators like TuneIn and Radioplayer are a great way to get mobile easily and fast, but providing your own experience with better content will entice your loyal listeners away from them.

I work for All In Media, and Radioplayer & Bauer are some of our clients. If you’re interested in exploring going mobile further, you can drop me an email at work.

Whilst some mentions in this post are friends or clients, none of them have asked for mentions. They’re just great examples of how mobile can be done well.

Update: Since July 2019, I no longer work for All In Media and no longer with Radioplayer or Bauer.

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