Top Gear iPad app launches

Top Gear magazine released an iPad version of popular monthly print issue this week, which launches to coincide with the ‘Cars of 2012’ issue.

From the brief demo shown at the launch event, the app looks to be a good one. The ‘pages’ of each issue look similar to the print addition, but certain aspects of each come alive in various ways.

TopGear iPad app

For example, this month’s cover features images of the Cars of 2012 under spotlights. By tapping each, you get playback of the engines firing up and revving, a la Clarkson. Nice for the Ferraris and Maseratis of the world, but you wonder what will happen when they feature a family saloon on the cover.

Or actually, you don’t. The guy presenting (who didn’t introduce himself, sadly) told the audience each cover would be interactive in one way or another, with the production team “finding ways” to bring them alive.

Deeper inside the iPad addition there’s more treats, such as videos from presenters Clarkson, Hammond and May as part of their monthly columns, images in slideshow format and an interactive feature that allows the reader to open the boot, bonnet and doors of a featured auto. Quite nice when you’re looking at one of the more extravagant supercars with gull-wing doors (or Back to the Future Delorean doors for non-car enthusiasts).

TopGear iPad app

In fact, the iPad addition easily overcomes a few inherent issues with print. The buyers guide that lists the specs and prices of all makes and models on sale in the UK is much, much easier to flip through on the iPad’s endless scroll-column compared to print. And there’s almost limitless space for hi-res images of each car, excellent news for a magazine that’s all about showing off big shiny things.

The launch event also featured everyone’s favourite white-overall-clad mute, The Stig. Stiggies’ actually become quite a good PR and marketing tool in his own right. He was a bit of a pull for the event, and while he was on stage for a bit he soon ‘got bored’ and wondered off – and thus left the audience to focus on the app demo.

The app is in iTunes now, £2.99.

Also, here’s me with The Stig.

TopGear iPad app

Was the BBC’s Playlister all rumours of iPlayer Radio?

Last week the Telegraph published a seemingly unconfirmed story about the BBC launching a music streaming service. There was talk of potential partnerships with Spotify and iTunes, and the vast BBC archive being made available online – potentially for free, due to the unique way the Beeb is funded.

This morning the BBC made an announcement that may have been the cause of these rumours. As is usually the case with rumours, they were a little wide of the mark.

iPlayer radio BBC

The BBC has launched a new service called iPlayer Radio, which wraps all radio content previously featured on the regular iPlayer into a brand new iOS app and desktop interface. This means all radio content will be pulled from the existing iPlayer, effectively creating two iPlayers – one for TV and one for radio.

Users can choose to either listen live to any of the BBC’s radio stations, or catch-up on previously aired content. The iOS app has some cool features, including a fancy looking spin-dial interface, the ability to share tracks being played, and an alarm clock that will wake you up with your favourite show (although if you don’t leave the app open when you nod off the alarm won’t sound, which could cause a few late mornings).

An Android app is reportedly to follow; some issues with Flash mean development has been slower. This is the same sort of issue that prevents Nexus 7 users getting the iPlayer officially through Google Play (but there is a cheat). Windows Phone and BlackBerry apps are far from top of the development agenda, but users of those devices can still get access the new service through their mobile web browser according to general manager for programmes and on-demand Daniel Danker.

So it’s not the revolutionary ‘BBC enters on-demand streaming market and puts back-catalogue online’ announcement you might have expected.  However, it does confirm the Corporation sees a distinct difference between what is needed for on-demand TV streaming and catch-up, and what listeners want from their online radio.

There’s a hint this development has been driven by the increasing use of the iPlayer by mobile and tablets users. The press release noted the Beeb has seen monthly iPlayer requests for radio increase 56% and 300% on mobile and tablet respectively year-on-year.

This doesn’t mean that the proposed Playlister is off the cards. The rumour was any such service would launch later in 2012 or early 2013, so the new iPlayer Radio could be a prelude to something much, much bigger from the Beeb.


BBC and Playlister: what will the iPlayer of music be playing?

The Telegraph ran an interesting, and seemingly unconfirmed, story this morning regarding a new music service from the BBC, called ‘Playlister’.

playlister iplayer BBC

It’s billed as a ‘music equivalent’ of the iPlayer, making tracks and albums available to license fee payers for free, on-demand streaming. The BBC is supposedly in talks with existing streaming services Spotify, iTunes and Deezer as potential partners to power the service. This is an effort to “side-step the problem” of licensing content from record labels and artists.

This seems strange, iTunes, Spotify and Deezer are all primarily direct to consumer. 7digital* would be a more logical partner, given the company has an API that allows partners to build digital music download and streaming services and already works with hundreds of partners, Samsung, HTC and Toshiba to name a few.

Going down the partner route is a wise approach for the BBC. It can take a long old time to negotiate licensing deals with individual majors, independent labels and collection societies – even with the clout of the BBC behind you. If the service is to launch in late 2012/early 2013, a partnership seems like the only option – unless negotiations are already near complete.

More interesting is what music catalogue Playlister could potentially offer. The Telegraph’s piece simply says access to “hundreds of thousands of music recordings”, but also notes the BBC has planned to offer a “vast archive of music recordings public in the past, but has always run into trouble clearing the rights.”

So there’s two potential catalogues on the table; one of major label content that could be supplied by a partners and a second of the BBC’s own recordings. There must be a ton of live and ‘unplugged’ style BBC recordings just waiting to be unearthed, which would align to the BBC’s strategy with iPlayer. If this is the plan, what do they need Spotify at all?

As is usually the case with early-days stories, the plan is still being hammered out. The Telegraph notes details are still being “formulated” and  the BBC’s official comment is a polite ‘no comment thanks’, “The BBC is regularly in conversation with digital music providers about how we strengthen radio’s position as the number one place for discovering music in the UK”.

It all sounds very early on, but if Playlister goes ahead this could be a big boost for music streaming – giving it the same shot in the arm the iPlayer gave on-demand TV in 2007. Rock on BBC.

* disclosure: my company represents 7digital


TV news outlets, tablets are yours for the taking

The youth of the US, they are revolting. Not in the nasty sense, but revolting against consuming TV news.

According to some research from Pew, an increasingly small number of ‘young’ Americans are switching off their TV and turning on their phone/tablet/laptop when seeking out the latest news.

According to The Guardian, the report states “Only about a third (34%) of those younger than 30 say they watched TV news yesterday; in 2006 nearly half of young people (49%) said they watched TV news the prior day”. In addition, there was a “notable preference” for consuming news on social media sites over local TV news, according to The Guardian. 42% of 18-29 year olds watched what the US classes as ‘local news’ in 2006, but that figure has dropped to 28% since then.

Perhaps the dual screen habits of playing with a phone or tablet while watching TV are shining through – you’re unlikely to seek out news on Twitter while watching the 10 o’clock News, I would have thought.

Although, I can think of a few use cases that would throw off these results. I regularly go on Twitter with no intention of looking for news, only to end up reading a few articles posted by those I follow. I may throw off the average, given I follow a lot of journalists and PRs, but still. And what if I’m watching BBC TV news on my tablet. Where am I plonked in these results then?

TV’s audience may be aging, but more devices capable of news consumption could and should lead to more news consumption overall. The BBC is already making efforts to improve the iPlayer experience generally for mobile device users. If these US trends come to the UK, it’s up to TV news outlets to make their output as appealing to mobile readers as possible.

24 hours is a long time in Twitter’s legal department…

The legal precedents around Twitter continue to be established at a rate of knots this week, driven in part by everyone being uber keen to tweet about the Olympics (although not always in a nice way).

Yesterday we posted on several legal wranglings involving Twitter; those of Guy Adams of The Independent newspaper, the anonymous user behind @UnSteveDorkland and teenager @Rileyy_69. In less than 24 hours, there’s been progress on all three.

Guy Adams

Bit of a bad one for Twitter, this. It turns out Twitter workers originally alerted NBC to Adams’ critical tweets of the news outlet’s coverage of the Olympics. This resulted in his account being suspended. Twitter has now published an apology, admitting “we did mess up”. Adams’ Twitter is back up and running, but the questions around Twitter’s reputation won’t go away overnight. It’s likely this example will be dragged up time and again when a user is accused of something untoward. This leads us to…


Today, 1st August, was the deadline for Twitter to handover details of the user behind @UnSteveDorkland, a spoof account of Northcliffe Media’s chief executive Steve Auckland. Handing over user details is well within the rights of Twitter’s T&Cs, if the site receives a complaint from a third party about said user’s account.

However, Twitter also provides details of how the user can acquire legal aid. This, combined with a high level of media attention for the case, led pro bono layer Frank Sommer to take up the case. He’s now filed a motion to halt the disclosure order from Northcliffe. According to the BBC, Sommer has stated “I have been unable to find any website that lists this controversy in terms of someone being deceived that any of the Twitter usernames listed in the subpoena are anything other than a satire on Mr Auckland.”

Take that out of legalise and it simply means if an account is obviously a spoof, there’s no case for taking it down or even handing over a user’s details. The difficultly here is defining exactly what counts as ‘obvious’ in a court of law. Amazingly, this could reach a court room (if Northcliffe decides to push on) on 2nd September. If this happens, presumably we’ll get a clear ruling and precedent on what can and can’t be deemed an overtly satirical, spoof Twitter account. Good luck reaching a verdict on that one.


Finally, the rather unpleasant case of @Rileyy_69 appears to have been settled. After the 17 year old behind offensive tweets to Olympics diver Tom Daley was arrested, he was released with a harassment warning. Clearly this wasn’t a case that would ever make it to court, but hopefully one that shows you can’t get away unscathed with vicious comments on Twitter anymore than you would saying it to someone’s face (although you’re far more likely to get arrested, and less likely to get punched in the nose, it seems).