BBC quietly launch Radio Explorer, and make radio relevant again

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Over the weekend the BBC quietly launched a beta of a new service called BBC Radio Explorer, which is designed to offer up a custom stream of radio snippets relevant to your interests.

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The way it works is that you enter a keyword for a topic you want to hear radio content about – for example “iPhone” – and it’ll serve you up a playlist of BBC radio content that is relevant – not limited by radio station or programme. This means you could listen to an interview with someone from Apple on the Today Programme from Radio 4, followed by, umm, me talking about the latest gadget news with the Asian Network’s Noreen Khan in my regular 3:30pm on Tuesday slot.

Whilst it is only a beta, and clearly not totally finished, its interesting to see the results so far. Apparently it is the result of Google-style “10% time”, in which BBC employees are allowed to spend 10% of their day working on their own projects. (It was this style of working that gave us Gmail, back when Google was mostly only a search engine).

What’s also clever about the new service is that it provides a means to not only make use of the Beeb’s vast back catalogue of content, but also solves the problem of people simply not listening to short-form audio clips – by instead queuing up a playlist, so you can listen to a longer set of radio features whilst doing something else.

What’s especially strange for me is that I actually pitched an idea very similar to this to a former employer that worked in the digital audio space. Did they listen? No. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to all of the audio tagged with the keyword “bitterness”.

James O’Malley