The BBC has pulled its podcasts from parts of the Google Podcasts ecosystem, which means that People Programming is no longer available through Google's helper on Google's speakers and smart devices. In a blog post published this morning, Kieran Clifton, director of the BBC's distribution and business development, explained the move:
Last year, Google launched its own podcast app for Android users – they have also said they will launch a browser version for computers soon. Since then Google has started referring people looking for a podcast to the BBC to its own podcast service, rather than BBC Sounds or other third party services, which reduces choice. people – a method that the BBC is not comfortable with and has consistently expressed strong concerns about. t We asked them to ban the BBC from this particular feature but they have refused.
This refers to the integration of the Google Podcasts app with Google search and the rest of Google's ecosystem. Since Google re-entered the podcast last year, it's been true when you're looking for a show that uses Google, you get a “recent chapters component” to Your search results with playing buttons next to each one using Google Podcasts app architecture. As Podnews noted in its early reports on this story, the BBC now uses robots.txt on its podcast server to prevent Google from indexing any chapters published after March 19 like this. You could read this as a classic publisher-platform dispute: The BBC now considers Google a competitive distributor, one that uses its search supremacy to push consumers towards their own podcast products. (I mean, welcome to the internet, it's like?).
For a background on this, we should look at the rules that govern how the BBC distributes its content. Clifton refers to the BBC's Distribution Policy, which doesn't go to this subject directly, but it states the conditions that The BBC allows them to ensure that its output is available on other companies' platforms. The general headings are: prominence, editorial control, branding / attribution, quality, data, free access, and value for money. This policy appears to agree with the BBC's regulator, Ofcom, the body that scrutinizes the BBC's operations to ensure that everything is as it should be.
Given that the BBC is funded by the public through the license fee – read my commentator on how that works here – how the corporation creates and distributes content is We constantly monitor to make sure it provides value for money while being broadcast accessible and representative service as possible. In the light of this public remit, it is a major issue for the organization to draw a significant part of its audio output from a platform as a huge platform widely used as Google.
But how big is agreement, however? Intelligent speakers (and sound distribution through Google Podcasts) are a small segment of the audio market so far, but Google Podcasts have now been switched on on many Android phones, giving an extensive theoretical reach to & # 39 platform. Ofcom will no doubt look at this decision in detail, and for what is worth, its guidelines allow the BBC to best work with a third party platform in cases. where there is “objective justification” for doing so. “Objective justification, of course, is where the rubble lies.
Meanwhile, there is another element to this: BBC Sounds strategy. As I have discussed extensively over the last few months, the BBC's bespoke audio app – the biggest launch of its product in a decade – has started a bit rocky since its launch in autumn 2018, with mixed reviews and experiments. with unpopular exclusivity show. with some listeners. But the BBC has consistently doubled the benefits of the app, giving statements about how the response to BBC Sounds has been very positive. Basically, the BBC seems to think it's worth moving podcast listeners to their own app than to reach them on whatever platform they are using at this time. time. For sale, Chris Kimber, BBC product manager working on BBC Sounds, it's tweeted that removing BBC shows from Google is “irrelevant to any exclusivity test,” which makes sense – this is a more fundamental issue of how the BBC interacts with third parties over its own app.
Only in order to clear some errors in that article: (1) Google does not link to content only (2) the license fee income was 3.8b, not 5b (3) No sounds available out to the UK via web (4) this is not associated with any exclusivity trial
– Chris Kimber (@chriskimber) March 25, 2019
The part I think is particularly pertinent to this issue with Google has come to the first spot in an interview that director launches BBC Sounds, Charlotte Lock, t has spoken of the negative reaction of the audience to the Fortune podcast… with Me and Jane going back temporarily back in January. Lock made the point when listeners use the BBC's audio content via the BBC Sounds app, rather than via an RSS feed on a third-party platform, that the BBC can gather more audience data. This turned something positive for listeners, as it enabled the BBC to offer better “recommendations tailored,” although I was somewhat skeptical at the time that a “corporation would want to”. more data about you ”is going to be a strong motivator for listeners to use the app.
This line of argument has now been applied to this dispute by Google. Key section:
We also want to make our programs and services as good as they can be – this means we have access to meaningful audience data. This helps us to do a number of things; making more types of programs we know people like, making our services even more personal and relevant to people using them, and just as importantly, identifying gaps in our commissioning to ensure that we do something for all audiences.
My understanding of this situation is therefore as follows: The BBC wants Google to direct listeners to BBC Sounds (which has an internationally accessible version; The app is only in the UK), rather than prioritizing the fact that they can play shows through Google search or on other Google platforms. Unfortunately, Google refused to make this significant exception to its own business model. As a result, the BBC used robots.txt and is now introducing this move as beneficial to listeners, which will give the BBC more data by using Sounds instead, influencing long-term direction. BBC audio content. Clifton's blog even describes the BBC's actions as “taken for the benefit of listeners.” “For BBC Sounds, which is internally thought to be good for listeners” could be more accurate.
Unfortunately, I do not think that this logic rises enough. It 's logical enough for the BBC, which is desperate to make BBC Sounds work after all the resources and effort that were poured into it. But I believe the benefits are more common than listeners', which now has fewer shops where they can access BBC material. The BBC's gaming is that listeners love their content well enough to follow them to the app app, but I would guess that a reasonable portion – especially those that are # 39 t do most of their listening to Google Home for accessibility reasons, say, or through Android When driving – it will change to other podcasts t is available on their preferred platform.
As a strategy, this would be fine if the BBC was a private company that made a profit: You sacrificed some listeners in order to get more value from those loyal who are ready t to use your app. But this obligation on the BBC is to be as open and accessible as possible, and so far I am not convinced “we can make better recommendations if everyone uses BBC Sounds” overcoming the need to distribute their sound as widely as possible – although ultimately it will be for Ofcom to adjudicate. It is also worth remembering that BBC Sounds has been named by BBC officials as a way of re-engaging younger audiences who turn away from BBC radio in favor of other streaming platforms. I will also await the regulator's views on that with great interest, particularly as the corporation's failure to reach young people is an important part of Ofcom's latest performance report for the BBC.
However, this anger between the BBC and Google is far from over, and all of this could still change. Clifton notes in his role that “we are in discussions with Google to try to resolve the situation and we will continue to work with them to try to find a solution that is in the interest of all listeners.” early this is the chess game: The BBC called bluff and pulled their shows. Your move, Google.