Bauer to keep own radioplayers

As more radio stations across the country arrive on the UK Radioplayer every day, Radio Today has learned that Bauer's portfolio of stations have no plans to use the new console on their websites.

Instead, the group's stations – which include Magic, Kiss and Big City heritage brands like Key 103, Metro, Hallam and Clyde – will keep their own bigger 'radio player' for listening online.

Most of Bauer's stations are now live in the UK Radioplayer too, however, meaning listeners will be able to find them in a Radioplayer search when listening to a rival station (or from the Radioplayer [link=]website[/link]), but people streaming a Bauer brand from the station website will only be able to switch to other Bauer stations.

Despite being the second biggest commercial radio group in the UK, Bauer isn't one of the founder shareholders of not-for-profit company UK Radioplayer Ltd, which is made up of the BBC, Global, GMG, Absolute and RadioCentre (of which Bauer is a member).

Iain Clasper, Digital Director of Radio at Bauer Media, told that the group decided against 'popping the UK Radioplayer' from its own websites in favour of its own, larger, player which it confusingly calls 'radioplayer' and only launched just under 12 months ago. "They’re really integrated into the websites and our roadmap’s a little bit different to some of the other players in terms of how we see it working with our web business," he said. "The UK Radioplayer is quite small compared with something like the Kiss Kube, which is probably the best version of what we’ve got. Ours is a lot bigger, more dynamic and has more rich content – so we didn’t want to lose that functionality."

The [link=]Kiss Kube[/link] and Magic 105.4's [link=]myPlayer[/link] are both heavily branded with content from major sponsors, while other regional Bauer stations' web stream pages include both external advertising and promotion for the brands' own jobs, dating and deals sites.

Mr Clasper, however, denied any suggestion that Bauer aren't supporting to the industry-wide initiative. He told us: "We do buy into the philosophy of the UK Radioplayer from the point of view of new devices and giving people new ways of listening to us. I think where it really becomes interesting and unique is where it starts getting embedded into things like mobile phones, Xboxes and Playstations. It’s a great new initiative and what’s great about our industry is that we do things like this. So few other industries could actually get this off the ground. I think it’s great that the way that it’s done means that everyone can keep monitoring it and decide to what level long-term they’re going to commit further. At the moment we’ve done usability testing of our players and our listeners absolutely love them – so we’re in both camps and we’re going to be monitoring the usability of both players."

But Bauer says it will continue to review its decision not to link to the UK Radioplayer from its websites. "I think the one thing that we know in all of the areas that we operate in is that’s what’s right today is not necessarily right tomorrow," says Iain. "I think we’re different to some of the other participants in that we’re market leaders in virtually all of our markets – that probably has quite a big impact in terms of the online listening we have in each city. The figures that we have for listening on our own players are very high so we’re happy with those at the moment."

He added: "We engaged with UK Radioplayer right from the start and we wanted to find a way to participate that allowed us to carry on with the things that were in our development road map. With the constraints of the UK Radioplayer in terms of size and what you can do with it in its current format we didn’t feel that could shoehorn what we had in our plans into it. We had a lot of conversations with them but right now we don't want to give up our existing in-house player strategy within our websites. We are, however, very open to it outside of our websites."

Meanwhile we've had plenty of reaction to comments in [link=]this week's eRADIO[/link] about the official launch of UK Radioplayer happening when only stations belonging to the founder shareholders had gone live, despite stations from the likes of UTV and Bauer appearing only days later.

Clive Dickens, Chief Operating Officer of Absolute Radio – one of UK Radioplayer's shareholders – told us that it was important to add stations gradually to ensure the high level of interest didn't result in it crashing and creating a PR disaster. "From the first weekend we had 3 million users and we hope that within six weeks we’ll have about 5 million," he told Radio Today. "There’s never been an internet product that’s had that many users within such a short period of time. If we hadn’t of done the PR and just made it live people would have still talked about it and written about but we wouldn’t have been able to create the big exciting event which was standing room only at Centrepoint last week so we were between a rock and a hard place."

When asked whether stations still not on UK Radioplayer could at least have appeared in name so that listeners would still find their local station with a 'coming soon' label, Clive said that would have been a sensible idea but that it just wasn't possible. "Everyone who wants to be on will be on by early May," he said. "The search engine in UK Radioplayer is powered by everyone’s metadata – so you can’t half come on with either metadata or stream but not both."

There's also been some criticism of the search function, with keywords not yet bringing up the results you would expect. But it's early days, says Clive. "People are expecting it to perform like Google," he told us. "But this is the radio industry’s own algorithm. Google’s taken 15 years to build its search engine so it’ll take some refining to get Radioplayer better for the core functions. The metadata’s already got millions of keywords in it but it needs tens of millions before it’s finished. The secret of it is the front-end simplicity but behind it is a lot of complicated work."

Got any views on your own experience of the UK Radioplayer so far? [link=]Get in touch[/link] and let us know what you think.

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