Issue 191,  published January 16, 2019

Sounding Off

A small storm was kicked up among listeners of the BBC’s popular Fortunately… podcast last week, when digital and podcasts commissioning editor Rhian Roberts announced on Twitter that as of 2019 the show would be available exclusively on the BBC Sounds app.

As far as I’m aware, this is the first regularly publishing weekly podcast to move completely into the Sounds app. There have been limited-run seasons that have had windowing periods on the platform, but this seems to be the Sounds team testing out a strategy of pushing an existing podcast’s audience towards the app.

Part of the frustration expressed by listeners came from the fact that BBC Sounds is not currently available outside the U.K. Roberts later confirmed that international listeners can still listen to the show on the BBC website, but many still expressed frustration that they couldn’t now get it to download via RSS in their app of choice.

It’s worth noting, too, that the BBC has a deal with Acast to monetize podcast listens outside the U.K., so by walling off a popular podcast like this, they are in theory opting to leave some advertising revenue on the table. The Sounds app continues to attract mixed responses; for what it’s worth, it’s still getting a lot of one- and two-star reviews from users on the app stores, and I’ve spotted a fair amount of grumbling on social media about the loss of the sharing and sleep timer functions that used to exist in the old iPlayerRadio app. The public relations campaign is definitely still being waged on this one, and I’ll be interested to see if making popular podcasts like Fortunately… exclusives will help soften listener attitudes towards the app — or if those podcasts will just end up losing listeners as a result.