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.