Unless they reverse course, I’m done with Audioboom

It looks like I am about to say goodbye to a service on which I’ve created content for around four years.
I first became aware of the service known until recently as Audioboo, when British broadcaster Tony Blackburn began posting “boos” from his iPhone. It seemed like the kind of service blind people would really enjoy, a kind of Youtube of audio, where anyone can create audio content. The content could be a form of audio blogging, it could be original music, news content, tutorials…really one’s imagination was the limit.
The only trouble was, the service wasn’t particularly accessible either for consuming or creating content.
To their credit, the Audioboo team got it. They too understood that the blind market could benefit from a service like theirs, and they made conscious effort to make all aspects of the platform more accessible.
Over the years, the platform has changed emphasis somewhat, thanks, I would guess, to commercial reality. The service now rebranded Audioboom feels more corporate rather than grass roots. Such is the reality of staying in business and I don’t blame them for that.
Because some of my content on Audioboom is more lengthy than the various free accounts over the years have allowed, I’ve paid for the premium subscription, and have done it gladly.
It has been easy for people who want to listen to my audio posts, the majority of whom are blind, to do so by choosing a link in a tweet, by pressing a key in a number of Twitter clients which have included direct support for Audioboom, or via its iOS app which with the exception of a few hiccups has remained accessible.
Today, I created a post on Audioboom only to find that some people told me they couldn’t hear it. After a bit of detective work, I managed to work out that people needed to be signed into the service, or the audio would not play. This is Audioboom policy now, and unless it is reversed, that’s the last content and dollar they will get from me.
As a content creator, what matters to me is that people who want to hear my content can do so with as little difficulty as possible.
Obviously I must log in to create the content, but forcing consumers of the content to create an account is creating an additional barrier between my content and my listeners that I will not accept.
This is no different from the Youtube experience. I’m well used to logging into Youtube to create content, and there are benefits to viewers of signing into Youtube, but it is not mandatory.
The way Twitter works is another relevant comparison. My tweets are not protected. While there are benefits to following me on Twitter if you want to read my tweets regularly, you’re free to visit my Twitter feed on the web or via a Twitter client at any time. I can choose to protect my tweets, which forces people to follow me if they wish to read them, but that’s a choice that I, as the content creator, must make.
Not only is Audioboom’s forcing of listener log-ins bad policy for content creators and added inconvenience for listeners, its implementation has been appalling. I don’t know what sighted users are experiencing, but when a blind user tries to play content on Audioboom when they’re not logged in, the play button is still available. When you press it, a pause button becomes available. To all intents and purposes, it looks like the audio is playing, but you’re hearing no sound. A user who doesn’t know about this change in policy may conclude that there’s something wrong with their browser.
And speaking of being aware of the policy, this brings me to my second gripe about the implementation. As a content creator, I wasn’t told about this significant change. When a decision of this magnitude is made, I would expect to receive an email advising of the change, particularly when I am paying for the premium service. I don’t expect, as a content creator who tries to give my users a seamless experience, to learn about it thanks to difficulties my listeners are having.
In short, this is a massive screw-up on Audioboom’s part, from the rationale behind the policy to its implementation.
I urge Audioboom to think again, and hope that other content creators and listeners will share this post widely so Audioboom can appreciate just how strongly people feel about what they have done.
For now, I am after alternatives, just in case Audioboom has lost touch so much that they stick with this policy.
Thanks Audioboom, for the most part, it’s been a pleasure.

19 Comments

  1. Sara Hillis

    Unfortunately, there is a little proviso in their ToS which says that they can make changes without notifying us. It’ is a stupid change and I had no idea that it was doing this. I assume it wants to look more like a specialized and “customizable” radio-ish experience for people, but you’re right. If that’s the way they’re going, it’s not good. I think we need to find a way to tell them what we want. I mean, there is a podcast feed for everyone’s boos. Does that mean that someone using a PodCatcher can’t access these feeds anymore? Grrrr! That’s not good at all!

  2. Steph R

    Here’s what I’m experiencing:

    Using the Twitter.com website, and not a client, I go to your Twitter profile/stream and see your tweet with the Audioboom recording. Because I assume you haven’t included a picture to accompany the recording (the option of which I believe they included around the time I stopped using Audioboo), it shows your display pic with a play button over it – sort of like the freeze-frame type display at YouTube. Clicking the play button centered by your nose, still within the tweet, it promptly switches to a view that is similar looking to Soundcloud when it is embedded within a tweet, and commonly seen in audio production – that waveform thing. I again have to press the play button, and your recording starts. No logging in.

    If I chose to not go the embedded player route, but click the link provided to the recording at Audioboom, I see the recording’s page as expected, but it is quickly shaded out with a box popped up over top giving me a choice to sign in or register. If I wish to do neither, my only choice left is to close the browser tab.

    I’m not sure if it is a new feature or not, but I see they offer the ability to “log in with Twitter”. Curious, I followed that path but didn’t to completion, especially when I saw that had I continued, Audioboom had access to edit my profile – I’d not seen that before! Sure, see who I follow or are followed by and send the odd tweet automatically, but edit my profile feels a bit over the top!

  3. Steph R

    I just thought, I know it’s a cheap and nasty workaround (and frankly don’t know how easy it would be for most of your listeners Jonathan), but I remember when I was helping someone who wanted to download Boos to “listen on the train” etc without using data and I set up an IFTTT recipe for them, that you just added “.mp3” onto the end of the URL, and you get the recording file.

    For instance, your Boo earlier today Jonathan has a link of https://audioboom.com/boos/2927053-ios-8-s-speak-screen-feature-listen-to-ibooks-with-your-screen-locked-and-more
    If we change that to https://audioboom.com/boos/2927053-ios-8-s-speak-screen-feature-listen-to-ibooks-with-your-screen-locked-and-more.mp3 it starts to play immediately with no logging in.

    This appears intact in the RSS Feeds still – but who knows how long that will continue. I don’t have experience in using the feeds in a podcatcher like Sara talks about above, but hopefully seeing the code of the feeds remains as I remember it to be, hopefully catching those pods will continue as one is used to.

    • Jonathan Mosen

      Hi Steph, I do a similar thing actually, so I can hear booms in a standard player. It’s a good trick for those who know it and as long as it works.
      My concern is that it should be something an expert can do, without making it harder for a less experienced user to gain access to the info.

  4. Amanda Rush

    I stopped using AudioBoom a while ago. The app has been a nightmare, and then there’s the owning my own data and not hosting it on someone else’s server thing where they control access. I now embed my audio directly on my personal blog using WordPress, where I have an HTML 5 player, and more importantly for me, controlling who has access. I haven’t checked my older embeds, but I’m assuming they won’t play unless some technical trickery is done, which I’m not about to ask what listeners I have to do just to play something. I hope AudioBoom changes course, but I’m not betting on it.

    • Jonathan Mosen

      Hi Amanda, you make some great points about content ownership and we all need to think about those things carefully.
      I presume like everything WordPress, there are plenty of choices. Do you recommend a specific HTML 5 player?

      • Amanda Rush

        Hi Jonathon,

        You have a couple good choices. The stock player that comes with WordPress is almost completey accessible at this point. I need to go fix some button labels, but you can seek through audio and the buttons no longer go away if you press play, which is the first button. You can also change the volume. There’s also a plugin version of mediaelement.js, but it hasn’t been updated in a couple years. Still works though. Includes the accessible buttons but I’m not sure about the Aria application support.

  5. clare Page

    Hi! Until I read the blog post above, I had no idea that we now have to log into Audioboom to listen to other people’s content there. I am not yet giving up on Audioboom yet myself, but I can totally understand your reasons for considering doing so. It’s unfortunate that those who run Audioboom can make changes without warning us, and the one mentioned above isn’t the only bad move they’ve made: I know I’m not the only one who has noticed recently that uploads to Audioboom are far slower than they used to be, which I’m personally not happy about, even though I no longer have a paid Audioboom account since the length of recording time for the free one was increased to ten minutes. I don’t blame anyone for considering giving up on Audioboom, given the way it’s changing, but for the time being I’ll stick with them in the hope that things don’t get far worse for ordinary nonprofessional users like me, who joined it to be part of a community and to upload audio for other ordinary people, rather than to get a kind of podcast and radio service.

  6. Chris S

    As a content provider myself, I don’t want listeners to have to take extra steps just to be able to listen to my stuff. Audioboom is making some really bad decisions here. I don’t see them changing their minds any time soon. It’s such a cool idea, being able to share bits of audio, it should be the audio equivilant to youtube, but somehow the little guy doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

  7. Jeff Thompson

    I see no problem with this. If you tweet out the link and tap on the poster it works from within the Twitter application. I use audioBoom quite a bit and have had no complaints and it seems to be quite seamless. RSS feeds work fine and a lot of other platforms work fine.I pay for the premium service and I’m very happy with it. I’m just perplexed at the amount of attention this has generated. No problems here.

    • Jonathan Mosen

      Hi Jeff. Good to hear you’re OK with what Audioboom has done.
      You’re correct that the Twitter clients supporting Audioboom content natively still work. That’s great if: 1, you’re coming at the post via Twitter, and 2, you happen to be using a blindness-specific, Windows-based, Twitter client that has incorporated this feature. A number of Twitter clients for Windows and other platforms do not.
      Also, Twitter is not the only place through which you can share Audioboom content. Many people will click through from Facebook and other social networks.
      The fact that RSS feeds do still indeed work is a further example of how half-baked this solution is. Subscribing to an RSS feed requires someone to have the tools and the ability to do it. And there might be the occasional Audioboom post I might want to hear, without actually subscribing to their RSS feed.
      Bottom line is, none of this constitutes the easy, universal access we had before, and I think that’s why this post has created such a groundswell.
      Still, if you really only have users who hear your posts via a blindness Twitter client, then I guess you’re not going to be affected. That’s not the case for me, as the complaints that came in following my what seems to be finalAudioboom post yesterday illustrates.
      I’ve already posted that particular clip to Sound Cloud and users can hear it, no log-in required, no blindness Twitter client needed, no RSS feed necessary.

    • Amanda Rush

      The minute AudioBoom switches everything over to a secure connection, (and they will, because Google says they should and is tying an undisclosed rank increase to it), all that blind Twitter client support is going to end. See Youtube videos behind https.

  8. Caroline C

    A couple of years ago, I paid 99 cents for an app called AudioVox. It lets you record audio, and then automatically adds it to a dropbox folder of your choosing. From there, I created an IFTTT recipe to automatically tweet out a link to any files that showed up in that particular folder. This allows me to have unlimited recording time, and still automates the process for others so that they don’t have to jump through hoops. I don’t know that the audio quality is quite as good as AudioBoom, but with that existing IFTTT recipe, I can record audio with any source, put it in that folder, and IFTTT does the rest.

    • Caroline C

      I don’t see a way to edit my comment. The name of the app I bought is actually DropVox, not AudioVox.

      • Jonathan Mosen

        Thanks Caroline, when I last looked at Dropbox, the bit rate of audio was on the low side, but this is a really cool idea, and there are many iOS apps that will record to Dropbox, including the Bossjock app.
        . It’s wonderful what one can do with IFTTT.
        The one potential down-side I see of this approach is that presumably one doesn’t get any stats about the number of times a clip was accessed etc. For many people that won’t be a deal breaker.

        • Amanda Rush

          I use Dropbox and I love it. I’ve also automated it to post to my blog, which then gets shoved out to Twitter. I have it go ahead and upload the audio to WP because Dropbox will cause your links to stop working after 80 GB of transfer, which can happen quick if people are streaming your audio from there. For most this is not necessariy a problem, but it can become one real quick.

    • Jonathan Mosen

      Sadly, Sound Cloud took upload support away in a refactoring of their iOS app. They are trying to focus more on the listening experience on mobile.
      Boss Jock works OK with a few work-arounds. You can also use an IFTTT recipe to upload to Sound Cloud everything in a specific Dropbox folder, which is quite sweet.

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