The Disappointing Evolution Of SoundCloud

It seems to me that it was only a couple of years ago when I (and many others) thought that the audio sharing website and app SoundCloud was incredibly useful and perhaps even the future of audio distribution via the internet. After all SoundCloud had elegant mobile apps that made it easy to record and upload audio as well as offering elegant, easily embeddable audio players that were also mobile friendly. These features made it easier than ever to capture and share audio on the internet and across a variety of websites.

As a venture capital funded company I knew that SoundCloud would at some point be making changes designed to bring in more revenue so it was no surprise to me when they limited the amount of free upload time when they launched a paid Pro service in 2013. The much bigger suprise was in 2014 when SoundCloud decided to remove uploading capability from their mobile apps, including their iPad app. To this day you cannot upload to SoundCloud directly using their mobile apps. You must use a computer or seek out a 3rd party mobile app. That and the redesign which was intended to put the listening experience for music upfront lead to an interface that to this day I find just plain confusing.

While I’m sure it seemed to make sense for SoundCloud to put music listeners (or to at least attempt to) in the drivers seat I think that’s the tail wagging the dog. If there are great sounds on SoundCloud then all kinds of listeners will come. And if you give audio creators a platform to build a strong presence then the listeners will stay. But what SoundCloud did with their updates to their apps took away the simplicity that probably lead more that a few people and artists to capture those spontaneous moments (including live jam sessions, live concerts and important live events) that could possible delight many other people.

As things stand now SoundCloud does support uploading prerecorded audio files via non-mobile web browsers and some third party apps, including Apple’s GarageBand music editing software. While that is something I think it’s a far cry from the prior possibilities for SoundCloud. Others do too in part because of additional content related issues such as SoundCloud cutting deals with major labels and cracking down on piracy (which inevitably leads to legit fair use content being pulled).

More recently SoundCloud has attempted to boost their revenue by launching a paid audio podcasting service. Although I think that the service will do quite well, particularly with established media companies, the general direction of SoundCloud over the last couple of years makes me think that for the individual who hopes to build out a show that using SoundCloud will be a mistake. I say that because as a company with lots of venture capital funding (over $200 million) they are bound to make decisions that go against creators. Some examples could include auto-insertion of ads into audio as well as assertion of some form of ownership over the actual content.

Perhaps my fears are overblown. Perhaps not. For the moment I’m disappointed to have lost a place where I can easily share interesting audio clips at a moments notice. For those willing to put their faith in SoundCloud I say beware. It’s always very dangerous to host what you consider to be valuable content with a service whose aim goes beyond merely hosting content. Services like SoundCloud see themselves as media companies (as opposed to pure technology providers) and as such you have to be ready to move to another platform if (more likely when) they make a change that goes against your mission as a distributor of content on the internet.

Skype Reverses Decision To Kill Some Add On Applications

Recently I started up my favorite (well, also my only) third party Skype add on (a call recording app called Pamela) and was dismayed to see a message informing me that soon (as early as next month) it would no longer function. This will occur because the folks at Skype (now owned by Microsoft) have made the decision to shut off their Desktop API.

The Skype team says that they are making the change in the name of innovation, but for power users like me it the decision felt like anything but. All that I (and perhaps you) knew is that an application that is very important to my business might not work in the very near future. So it’s lucky for me (and a bunch of podcasters that use Skype call recording apps) that the folks at Skype-rosoft partially reversed their decision this week. Below you will find the key quote from Skype’s announcement of their reversal.

However, I’m happy to share that we will be extending support for two of the most widely used features – call recording and compatibility with hardware devices – until we determine alternative options or retire the current solution. Although chat via third party applications, will cease to work as previously communicated.

As you can see call recording apps have gained a reprieve…for the moment at least. Third-party chat apps (like Trillian I suppose) weren’t so lucky. I am happy about this reversal but I also see the writing on the wall. It’s likely that Skype will continue to change in ways that will impact third party add ins. Whatever Skype-rosoft decides in the near future it’s my hope that they adhere to the best practice of allowing for backward compatibility until such a time as their alternative interfaces into Skype are sufficiently developed and documented.

The Rise and Fall of Feedburner

Back in October 2012 Google shut down the Feedburner API, a situation that left many an Internet content publisher scrambling for alternatives to a service that no longer seemed to be a given to continue into the distant future. It’s true that Feedburner is still alive (for now) but the signs of a slow retreat by Google from the feed distribution space (shut down the API, shut down the blog) are there. Given the signs I think it’s a wise move for Internet content publishers to: a) start migrating feeds off of Feedburner; and b) refrain from moving any new feeds over to Feedburner.

As an early Feedburner user (pre acquisition by Google) I thought that it would be helpful to write a post that provides some context by letting people know what Feedburner does for publishers, why they got so popular, what happened after Google acquired them and why Feedburner (and services like it) are no longer necessary (or advisable) for those people who plan to be serious Internet content publishers for a long time to come.

Continue reading

Podcast Listening Gone Mobile

As someone who loves to consume media via podcasting I have seen a marked change in my approach to managing the various shows that I listen to (I only subscribe to audio podcasts) over the last few years. From what I have been hearing from people with similar tastes there are many other people who have gone through the same evolution and arrived at the place I’m at now. Below I briefly list the periods that show how my podcast audio discovery and management process has evolved.

Continue reading

RSS Is Alive But Hidden

Don't Panic

There has been much consternation on the Internet in the weeks since Google announced their decision to shut down Google Reader on July 1, 2013. Count me among the first that initially recoiled in horror when I read the announcement…in Google Reader of course. The thing is that for many Google Reader has become an engine that processes large amounts of information and makes it available seemingly everywhere we need it. And so while it is certainly a niche product for Google, Google Reader is incredibly important to those who use it daily.

The concern regarding the closure of Google Reader is also borne out of the fact that in popularizing their tool Google essentially wiped out all of the competition for RSS (stands for Really Simple Syndication) news readers out of the market. Part of the reason Google was able to achieve this was based on the fact that Google Reader could be used and kept in sync across multiple platforms. The Google Reader API also allowed other applications (such as Reeder which I use and love) to to provide new news feed reading experiences without having to build all the back end systems required to manage and poll feeds. So knowing that Google Reader was going away many people began scrambling for the answer to the question, “Is RSS dead?” Because if RSS is dead some people will have to figure out new ways to read their news until developers can figure out a technology that can replace RSS.

Continue reading