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The Future of Audioboo is Uncertain

me and mark 650x431 The Future of Audioboo is UncertainThe future of Audioboo is uncertain. Like most online spaces.

But Audioboo isn’t like most online spaces.

This page of blurted sentiment and opinion will probably seem a bit much to some. Perhaps I’m over reacting because something I deeply care about is threatened.

I first blogged about Audioboo four years ago, not long after it’s launch.

I embraced it immediately, wholeheartedly, and have been passionately singing it’s praises ever since. Mainly in my talks and workshops around the globe.

Audioboo, it’s simplicity and why audio is important in today’s connected world has been a major part of my talks. To the foreign office, all the political parties, the British Council, The Open University, Reuters, Aljazeera, the BBC.. Journalists the world over.

I fell in love with the way it just worked. It’s intertwining of geographic data, text, photos and audio. It has been my main digital storymaking tool for the last four years.

I have laughed, cried and shared more via audio than any other medium. All because of this one app.

And this app exists because of one person’s passion and drive. An erratic, spontaneous, unusual man. A boat rocker, a captain of inovation who is no longer at the helm.  He’s been thrown overboard.

I’m not here to martyr Mark Rock. He rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way. He has been known to explode in meetings. He’s upset me more than once, mainly on the phone and not long ago, even though it didn’t last long, I promised myself i’d never speak to him again. I soon realised how much he believed in what he was doing and this made me look at him in a different light.

You need unconventional people to build out of the ordinary things.

You have to admire what he has built, the community that’s been nurtured, the fact that he wasn’t your conventional CEO. And lets not forget his small team. That did so much on so little funding. Of all the platforms out there sharing audio, only one feels like a living breathing organism. A community made of stories.

I thought.. “With people this passionate about what they’re doing.. what could possibly go wrong?”

When I recently caught wind of what was happening inside the company, I genuinely felt queazy as I thought of possible outcomes.

This is the press release that Audioboo have sent out:

Release

——————-

Mark Rock, the founder and President of Audioboo, has announced he is handing over all executive responsibilities to Rob Proctor, who has been CEO since October 2012.

Audioboo – a web platform & series of mobile apps focussed on socialising the spoken word through simple record, upload and social interfaces, launched in 2009 with backing from UK broadcaster Channel 4, who still remain an active shareholder. Early success with radio & news groups such as The Guardian have blossomed into key global partnerships with the BBC, Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph, UK Radioplayer and the British Library.

Investors that Rock brought on board to fund the company include Imagination Technologies plc (whose graphics technology powers mobile devices such as the iPhone & iPad), AudioGo (the company that bought BBC Audiobooks), Simon Fuller’s XiX group and a key group of angel investors including Sir Don Cruickshank.

Rob Proctor, current CEO of Audioboo, said: “Mark has done a remarkable job of creating such a unique concept and bringing it to market. I feel genuinely privileged to be involved with such a great company and amazing team and look forward to helping the company realise it’s tremendous potential.”

“I was born with itchy fingers, “said Rock, “And a stupidity to believe anything can be achieved if you click your heels together 3 times. Now that Audioboo is stable and thriving, I have the urge to click those heels again in a few new areas.”

In a personal note sent to staff, Rock wrote: “I’ve spent 4 years crafting this vessel with many of you, piloting it away from the inhospitable shores from which it launched. We’ve nearly hit open seas. A time for a captain to take over. I have, after all, other ships to give shape to that are waiting for me.”

Rock will continue as a Board Director at Audioboo and remain a significant shareholder. Relaxing with a week of diving in Malta after leaving, he so far has no firm plans on what’s next. “Let’s see. I’ve weathered taking an idea with absolutely zero spending cash, no business plan and what sometimes seemed like an odd proposition. Nurtured, sculpted and grown into a solid platform that is now attracting key visibility – not only in the UK but internationally. I’m proud of that and knowledge learnt I’m keen to embed in other ventures and partnerships.

It’s another carefully crafted document to smooth the transition of another comfortably conventional suit into his cash focused role.

I hear you say.. “What are they here for if not to make money?”

Is it only about the money? Do we invest our time, words, ideas and feelings wrapped in stories just to make the other investors rich?

When I first visited the Audioboo offices, a speaker on the wall would play people’s uploads as they hit the server. The team coding and creating below were as much a part of the community as those sharing their lives around the world.

Mark Rock and the team managed to create something really special. An ecosystem now hanging in the balance.

What kind of community are you building when money is your only focus?

If the shoddy so called update to the Audioboo app is anything to go by, the company is going to need more than a CEO who knows his way around the boardroom. It’s going to need to reconnect with those truly passionate about social audio. Those who live, eat breath and share audio stories.

Idealistic I know.

We have seen too many unsustainable platforms fall by the wayside. Seesmic, 12 seconds, Phreadz. Some so desperate for growth that a pulling of the plug appeared to be the only option in a bid to cut losses.

I said it not long ago..

“As we invest so much of our cultural, conversational histories and stories, is it too much to ask that the companies hosting and archiving them guarantee that they will not only be there for future generations, but they will maintain the connections and metadata?…”

I can’t say my heart is no longer in audioboo because that’s exactly the problem. I have shared so much into this digital space that a chunk of my heart and soul hangs in there, strung out in the noughts and ones.

There is value being generated daily, by countless individuals living richer lives because Audioboo exists.

I hope the new Audioboo listens to the real investors.

 

I’m @Documentally on Twitter and App.net

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About Documentally

Talking, teaching and documenting using mobile tools. Running workshops and consulting worldwide with a focus on social technology.

  • macolgan james

    I share your feelings on Audioboo – and on Mark Rock. Audioboo is now part of my life and I dread anything taking that away. A shaky “new” app doesn’t destroy the communities built up within that app !
    With regards to Mark, like you ( though not to such an extent ) I have had disagreements – but cannot help but admire him and his tenacity for managing his “baby” the way he did, while bringing us a platform that we now treasure.
    Lets just hope and pray it’s never taken away from us !

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks man. Although We can do more than prey. If you only preyed you don’t loose your data you’d soon be very upset. You need to back up. And you need back up platforms. Preferably to ones where you own your data and stories.

  • http://shkspr.mobi/ TerenceEden

    I like Audioboo – but I find it hard to get excited about community sites.

    On a technical level, all AudioBoo do is host an mp3 file*. Why can’t you do that on your own server? Of course, you can. Perhaps it’s a bit fiddly at first, but it means you’re not at risk if they go down, go bust, their app doesn’t work on your platform, they get extinguished by Microsoft etc etc.

    What they excel at, it seems to me, is gathering a sufficiently large group of people so that any individual uploader can benefit from the network effect.

    Ultimately though, a community needs a shared interest – not a shared central location.

    Sites like AudioBoo and YouTube are great if you want to build a following from zero (and don’t have the ability & bandwidth to host your own content) – but they can only ever be useful as a kick start.

    To toot my own horn for a moment, my blog gets ~1,000 reader per day. Yet it’s not part of any centralised community. I carefully syndicate it out where relevant – including AudioBoo – to build a *personal* community.
    If you’re putting your emotional investment into AudioBoo (or Facebook, or Doctor Who message boards, or Twitter) you have to remember that you’re the equivalent of a pint-puller in a popular pub. The owner wants you to be cheerful and chatty so that customers come in and make the business profitable – but ultimately they don’t care about your emotional attachment to the job.

    So, good luck to AudioBoo – I do enjoy using it, but I think decentralising is the way to go.

    T

    *Well, FLAC – but let’s not quibble, eh?

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      I agree with everything you say and am waiting for the decentralised ‘Open Audio’ system that’s yet to be built. Audioboo made it simple and it’s soul was born within that simplicity.

      If you make it I will not only use it. I’d migrate everything to my own server and plug into it.

  • http://twitter.com/IanKath Ian Kath

    Goodness, You have me scared Christian.
    AudioBoo is also for me my number one, most important resource for many, many things. There is what I get from recording my personal content, conversations with others and interviews but there is also the community of other people’s boos which I love to listen to. If this puppy went the way of Seesmic and the like, I would be devastated.

    Yes there is SoundCloud and it does have many things better than AudioBoo, but AudioBoo has a heart and community which just doesn’t exist at SoundCloud. I have no idea what’s going on in the back-room at AudioBoo but I hope they realise this company and app is more than just any old company. For this very reason I upgraded to a pro account both to show how serious I am about audio, how much I love AudioBoo and to support the company.

    I know you’re well regarded at AudioBoo and I know this post will get their attention so I just want to say to the powers at the company that this little app is hugely significant to many of us and one I hope to be involved with for many years to come. I’m constantly thinking of how I can use it even more than I am at present.

    Thanks for the post Christian.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks for the comment.. Don’t be scared. Just be aware that the only permanence is impermanence.
      ..and I’m not highly regarded at Audioboo any more. It seems they don’t value my opinion and may have even made one of my Boo’s invisible unless you are on my page.

  • http://twitter.com/katiemoffat katie moffat

    Interesting but it’s fairly usual for founders to take a step back when it comes to this stage in a business. One of the biggest issues that confronts start-ups and indeed any business that is growing beyond being small, is that the kind of (usually creative) person that is great at coming up with an idea and getting it off the ground does not normally also have either the skills or experience to build and grow that business beyond a certain point and ultimately it does have to turn a profit to keep going. You can make money AND build a business that supports its community though, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    I don’t think it necessarily follows that because someone else is at the helm Audioboo will go down the drain, I’m sure their argument would be that this move will in fact help ensure Audioboo’s future – for them and therefore for the users.

    What do you see as the *real* problem here – that Audioboo has a new CEO? that the new update is no good? that those two things are intertwined? Is it more of a fear of having no control over a platform into which you have poured hours of your time and has chronicled huge parts of your life?

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      >He didn’t step back. He was pushed. Maybe this was nesessary for Audio’s ultimate survival.. who knows. It’s not like there is a channel of communication open from anyone else in the company.

      >Perhaps I am expecting too much but on a platform that people pour so much of themselves into It’s weird that the masters of the data cauldron just stir it up and dont say a word. Not even a “Keep it coming!”

      >I’m not saying Audioboo will go down the drain. It may well become the drain. delivering shit to sustain those that want it. MacDonalds style. Lucrative but no good for anyone but those counting the cash.

      >The only issue here is that the social company known as Audioboo is not paying little attention to it’s users. That’s not very social at all. Yes there in a transitionary period and who knows our having this conversation may well rattle a chain or two.

      i don’t blame any individual for this. I have met many of the massively over stretched staff. spent time in the office and see what they are up against.

      I am just passionate about how good all of this was and how amazing it all can be again. And i want to see it return to that place. For the sake of the communities that have come to depend on this amazing tool. For the sake of the stories that are locked inside it.

      • http://twitter.com/katiemoffat katie moffat

        I know you’re passionate about it and I realise that you have a unique perspective as both a long term user and as someone who has a relationship with the company and people there.

        The tricky aspect of your post is that you clearly/possibly, have further info that you’re unable to share so my positing a counter opinion is difficult.

        All I know is that running a business is hard. In my (albeit limited) experience, it can be relentless, grinding hard work. From the outside looking in stuff may seem blindingly obvious but from the other perspective you can have many factors clouding your sight. You have a vision, you want things to work out in a certain way, you slog on, you do what you think is right. One step forward, two steps back, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen the way you expect. I really hope it works out for Audioboo, you know I’ve championed it for many years too.

        • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

          I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is to run a business like Audioboo. Pleasing the needs of the non-user (investor) over the core cummuniy is well documented as being a bad move.
          http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-02/27/autopsy-of-friendster

          • http://twitter.com/katiemoffat katie moffat

            I didn’t say it was a good move, simply that it’s not surprising in business that sometimes it happens.

  • http://www.jeffbundy.com/ @bundini

    This post plus the recent post of you and (??? cannot remember his name) regarding the pros/cons of Audioboo v.2 bode that a change is quite definitely in the air. And your citing of Phreadz, Seesmic, and 12seconds also puts this into what seems to be the ever-pervasive age of ephemeral social media services.

    As many also cite the low barrier of entry into internet “apps”, as time rolls on, it becomes more and more evident that there is an equally low barrier to exit. The old adage “Easy come, easy go”.

    However, like the great Borg itself, there are many of us who assimilate these new services into our core. The service is us, now.

    Like agile chameleons, changing color hopping from branch to leaf, today’s most adaptive technology Borgs relentlessly assimilate quickly adapting to the “color” of the moment — it’s survival. (Aside: it’s tiring. Really. We’d prefer a few constants – at least for a bit longer.)

    The future? Constant regenerative assimilation. :)

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks for the comment. As ever great points well made. Although it may be easy come.. it’s not so easy go if you want to take your data with you.

  • http://about.me/mcfontaine mcfontaine

    I think it is a watershed moment for Audioboo right now. It has always seemed like it had a heart & soul, because of the community built around & within it. That has always been supported by the team at Audioboo.

    But as @bundini kindly said, i did blog and boo about some of the “issue’s” i felt there are with the new version of the Audioboo app. http://mcfontaine.tumblr.com/ & http://audioboo.fm/boos/1295756-audioboo-vs-audioboo2

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks for posting this Mark and especially for highlighting some of the issues with the new App. I could not have said it better myself.
      It’s all easy for Audioboo to fix this and turn it around. If they want to.

  • MikiStrange

    I think the fact that Audoboo and Audiobus are talking is a good thing.
    For too long Audioboo has shunned iOS technologies like Sonoma’s Audio Copy/Paste as a way of getting audio into their app. It’s meant that any pre-publishing edits have to be done on a Mac or PC and for field reporters this is inconvenient at least.
    If Audioboo integrate Audiobus then it’ll breath new life into the company. But at what cost to the end user? That’s the question that needs to be asked. If they do integrate then surely others will follow and if not they’ll be missing a trick. Someone, maybe Ipadio will take the initiative.
    As Audobus becomes the universal feed for iOS audio apps then someone somewhere will see this as a useful audio gathering tool. If that someone is like archive.org then commercial app devs will be out of the picture.
    In my opinion it’ll all come down to money or popularity.
    It’ll be an interesting end game.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      I really value your opinion on the audio iOS systems that are out there and think Audioboo would do well to get you in and show them just what is possible with audio workflow on iOS devices. what you have shown me in a short time has blown my mind.

  • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

    I’ve recorded 6.5 days of audio on Audioboo. That’s 4.85GB of data. I have laughed, joked, cried, swore, talked about some extreme topics and yet the first recording I make that mildly criticises Audioboo ..and they remove it from peoples apps. Surely it would be more valuable to address peoples concerns. Not delete them.

    This is the audio that they are trying t stop people listening to.. I never ask people to share stuff but.. http://audioboo.fm/boos/1320574-the-real-investors-are-the-ones-that-share

    It’s not even that harsh. I failed to get the email I normaly get when a recording passes 1000 listens. it did that a while back.

    Please feel free to share it. I’m not sure it’s what Audioboo would want but perhaps they may think about how they address criticism.

    If I am wrong (and i hope I am) and it’s just a weird glitch that has meant my boo has just momentarily gone invisible to every iOS app.. then i’ll be the first to eat humble pie.

    (Thanks to @Edent for working my data stats out.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wizardgold David Allen

    It was two or three years ago when I first signed up for Audioboo, there are so many things to sign up for and something stick on some things don’t. Probably because I had other podcasting things going using other platforms I neglected Audioboo. After hearing you talking on a podcast about what you do and how you do it I was inspired to look again and see what I could do with Audioboo.

    So thanks to you I have been able to enjoy getting back into creating short audio podcasts, I have to keep them under five minutes. I like the fact that it has been very easy to either create the Audioboo using the Audioboo application on my iPhone, or to create one in the office using the good microphone and to be able to upload file their website. I do hope that if there are changes coming that it doesn’t change the user experience too much, or for the worse. It is quite amazing how much you can at least say in five minutes and if I do bump into the upper time limit then I can always make another one to add to the waffle and wittering on that I did in the first one.

    Thanks for drawing me back into Audioboo and thanks for caring enough about the platform to write this blog post about it along with the accompanying Audioboo.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Cheers for the comment and yes. I do care. Alot. I hope it pulls though these next few months and manages to maintain some credibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/business.science Steve Prior

    Okay, I have never heard of Audioboo, Audiobus or any other audio for that matter but…

    There are varying layers of reality at play with these and other community type services. Unfortunately the biggest reality is that money or more importantly our money system does in the end call the tune.

    There are 100s of web based services out there on the cloud, some more helpful than others. I use a few for storage or backup and who’s to say that my vital (to me) information is going to be assessable tomorrow, next week, next year or whether it will vanish in a puff of a venture capitalist whim.

    We are all of us bound by a system where we must worship the money god or we will suffer.

    The capitalist system seeks to monetise everything. Where we would happily help out someone using a skill we had for free, we now charge for this at what ever we can get for it.

    At one time Google offered the best search results. Now as they seek to repay venture capital and shareholders, they have other agendas. Which mostly mean they want to feather their nest with the goodies that money brings.

    I happen to think there is a huge demand for community type services. The village has moved from the physical limitations of geography to the almost unlimited virtual villages of the on-line world. The problem of money will always rear it’s sometimes ugly head at some point though.

    When it does, watch out as the agenda changes from one of true community to one of how do we monetise this.

    There are solutions, but to get there our policy makers have to relearn the true nature of a human invented money system which is now out of touch with world reality.

    As it stands the one who wins is the one who gets the most cash. Giant monopolies are the natural outcome and only Government enforced policies will stop this.

    As for Audioboo, I hope the people who used it can continue using it and I hope the need for monetisation in this crazy world is dealt with sympathetically.

    May be there’s scope to share monetisation with it’s users in a fair way. User generated content which attracts more users should surely £count for something.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Steve, Thanks for your insightful comment.

      So many options. For the power users, the actual content creators to have any faith in any of them, they need to be kept in the loop. Even if it’s just loosely.

      Your final point was considered at one point and in a way is already in place with the paid for audiobook streams.

      Thanks again.

      • Women on wheels TV

        Hi Documentally, what do you think about Spreaker?
        Thank you for sharing this enlightening article about Audioboo, which I was recently reviewing for my personal use.
        Cheers!

  • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

    Interesting thoughts from @FiremanRich regarding #AudioBooGate & the mysterious vanishings of certain critical recordings.. http://audioboo.fm/boos/1324842-mark-rock-audioboo-what-s-on-the-horizon-it-is-what-it-is

  • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally
  • http://www.catstales.webs.com SassyCat45

    Great Post Christian,
    I can say that I have experienced a shut down of an audio site once, after it was sold from the creator to white pages, about a year afterwards it shut down. Everyone scrambled to look for a new audio home, most joined cinchcast AKA cinch.fm and then that too closed it’s doors. It was sad for everyone, losing friends, mostly the lost audio.
    I’m not thrilled at all with AB2 at all.
    I guess I am just gonna ride it out until the ride stops.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks for the comment. In many ways we are to blame for the loss of data and stories. We trust too much and forget these places are not in the business to care for our data. Just to mine it. Perhaps things will change when we come to take control and ultimately ownership of our data.

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