Andrew KuklewicziPhone Radio Apps Are Not Banned

Andrew Kuklewicz posted on Saturday, November 27th, 2010 | iPad, iPhone, Mobile

UPDATE 11/28 4:45 PM:
Lance Venta of Radio Insight is following up on the possibility that AirKast may also have been banned as well. In the AirKast store where 277 apps are listed, the latest new release is dated 10/30. (Coincidentally, their last app was for ‘KNUE’, which is a station I grew up listening to in Tyler, TX.)

This would be a big deal, both because they have so many apps, but also because they have significant commercial partnerships (e.g. ESPN, Triton, Radio One which “primarily targets African-American and urban consumers” in 15 markets with 53 stations, Salem Communications “targeting audiences interested in Christian and family-themed content and conservative values” with 94 stations, Bonneville International with 26 stations, Citadel Broadcasting comprised of “165 FM stations and 58 AM stations”, & NextMedia with 33 stations.

I’ve started compiling a list of other providers possibly hit by this when I started this post; time to go back and see who else might have been affected by the policy. Statements from Apple specify that apps in a station’s own store should continue to be approved, but it will be interesting to watch the white-label app sellers’ stores, and see if they can add more station apps.

For example, Jacobs Media (with 249 apps in its store) has not had a new app in their own store since 11/10 (though as Lance pointed out to me, they have had updates as recently as 11/24). They have probably taken to putting all new apps in individual station stores in accordance with Apple’s policies (which they were previously doing with some station apps anyway).

For customers of white label app providers, in effect the price just went up by $100/year, as they now have to buy their own iOS Developer Account rather then riding on the app creator’s. For DJB Apps, with a price of $199.99 (1 platform, 1 station app), adding another $100 for Apple is not a minor difference.

Original Article:
We’ve been asked by a number of partners and acquaintances to weigh in on the recent controversy started by Jim Barcus’s letter to the editor in Radio Magazine.

The jist of the letter it that Apple rejected 10 of his iPhone apps because they no longer accept single stream/station apps:

On Nov. 10, 2010, we had 10 radio station apps rejected by Apple because Apple says “single station app are the same as a FART app and represent spam in the iTunes store” and Apple “will no longer approve any more radio station apps unless there are hundreds of stations on the same app.”

He does not identify a particular source at Apple (few can or do), or cite an official notification from them (such as the reason(s) that would be included in a rejection), but adds:

We have talked to many Apple reps about this, but they appear to have a script that they all read from saying that a single station app is not an enriching end user experience.

While this particular letter has engendered remarkable response (as it seems intended to do), the tale of a developer rejected is a common one. In fact, Brian Stormont had a similar odd rejection back in April (emphasis is mine):

Today I received the oddest rejection from Apple for a pair of iPhone apps I had submitted for two different radio stations. Apple rejected the apps with the explanation that they were of a similar “Family of radio applications” and “should be packaged in a single application using In App Purchase”.

I replied to Apple explaining how combining the two apps is not an option, but I haven’t yet heard back. I’m hopeful this isn’t the start of a new policy on Apple’s part prohibiting apps for individual radio stations.

UPDATE 4/13/2010: The two apps have now been approved, although I never received any clarification from Apple regarding my inquiry. The apps just suddenly became approved. Best I can assume is the original reviewer had made a mistake.

A point of interest is that this precedes Apple’s 9/9/2010 statement which accompanied the first set of official and public approval guidelines for the app store. This document makes clear that “We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.”, and shortly thereafter a point that perhaps Barcus missed, “If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.”

As with Barcus, Brian Stormont expressed (more skeptically) the fear that Apple is trying to cut down on the sheer number of radio apps, and instead focusing on aggregation apps that play an uncounted number of stations, as iTunes does for streams on OS X, or an actual radio does for broadcast.

If this were to happen, and Apple were to enforce a no single station apps policy, it would be immensely troubling to say the least.

The thing is, you shouldn’t believe it.

The app store right now is flush with single station apps, including many featured in ‘What’s Hot’ (such as ‘WMBR’ and ‘RadioU’), and ‘New and Noteworthy’ (‘TuneLab Radio’ appears as #7).
Surely if this were truly a blanket policy they would be rejecting these apps, not featuring them in such coveted spots.

There must be more to this, some of which came out when Trevor Long of your tech life also spoke with Apple:

I’ve spoken with Apple, as have several developers and the situation, while not crystal clear, is certainly very clear on principal. There is no ‘ban’ on Single station Apps.

My own summary is that App developers submitting identical apps with just a logo/stream change under their own developer accounts are not looked well upon. (and if you take the time to download a few of this chap’s apps, you’ll see how uninspiring they are, and similar too)

However, if a station has an app developed, and submitted under their own name, it should breeze through.

Likewise, if an individual or group create an app that links to a single station stream or show, it might face some hurdles.

From a station owner perspective I think that’s a good thing – but, from Apples point of view, good on them for ‘encouraging’ the development of rich apps with a user experience that is more than ‘just a stream’ – in the end, if it was ‘just a stream’ the industry won’t survive!

Moral of this story for Radio stations – be creative, own the rights, own the application submission.

Confirming this account and adding further detail is a translation of another conversation with Apple representatives:

Translation from German article in Radioszene.de:

http://www.radioszene.de/?p=18796

Faster than expected, Apple has reacted in a telephone call from german radio organization VPRT, This is a summary of the call:

“Apple will not delete any radio apps or prohibit access of radio apps to Apple Store. Apple suggests that every radio station makes their own developer account (79 Euro) and uploads their apps in there themselves. The apps can be developed by third parties (White label solutions). New and the apps in the future will be handled as so far. Apple confirmed, that several identical apps -which are provided from ONE developer account- will no more be accepted. (Comment: there has been some cases in the near past where a developer has submited hundred identical apps into the store). This rule is also applying to newspapers and other industries. If the app will be uploaded by the radio station this is no problem. Radio stations can also upload more than one app on their own developer account”.

Consistent with these posts, other radio app creators as or more prolific than Barcus have made it known they are not experiencing systematic rejections, nor are aware of any policy changes:

Claiming that Barcus is wrong, Paul Jacobs, VP/GM Jacobs Media/jacAPPS, tells RBR-TVBR that he’s been able to build radio station apps since Nov. 10: “Since that date, we have had apps for radio stations accepted as new as well as upgrades. And we are not alone. I invite you to go to the iTunes App Store and go into the “free” apps portion of the Music section. There you will see examples of dozens of radio stations – domestic, international, and Internet – that have been accepted and/or upgraded since November 10.”

Battle of the screen shots?
Jacobs even sent us a screen shot proving it. There were at least five radio stations — both AM and FM –with apps listed post-Nov. 10. Now, not to make any rash judgments here, but Barcus also sent RBR-TVBR a similar image, indicating the opposite was true.

Neither screen shots has been made public, but I have found results consistent with Paul Jacobs claim in my own perusal of the app store (I’ll leave this to you for homework).

UPDATE 11/27 12:05 PM: RBR.com has posted the screen shots. The one of the entire app store, sent by Jacobs, clearly shows many new radio apps. Barcus sent in list of apps by Jacobs Media (not what Jacobs invited users to look at), who has not published a new app since Nov 10. I have seen many Jacobs apps submitted in individual station accounts, so I tend to believe the Jacob’s claim that they have apps approved since the 10th, just not ones in their seller account.

Barcus’s letter seems aimed at causing uproar, positioning this as a conflict between Apple and the whole of radio. It now seems to be a more specific policy that has been applied to him (and perhaps other, less vocal, sellers).

It is unfortunate that other outlets, such as The Register and other sites added their voices to this uproar, and have yet to post corrections.

UPDATE 11/28: The Register and Martin Bryant from The Next Web have both updated their stories (thanks for the link Martin). The Register received a statement from Apple:

“There are many unique radio apps on the App Store and we look forward to approving many more,” reads a statement from an Apple spokesman sent to The Register. “One developer has attempted to spam the app store with hundreds of variations of essentially the same radio app and that is against our guidelines.”

This makes the 3rd communication from Apple confirming that this is an issue regarding a single developer, and a particular type of activity that Apple has previously described as a reason for app rejection (i.e. ‘spamming’).

As others have found Trevor’s post, they have reported this as a developer’s sour grapes rather than a draconian policy against radio, as Lance Venta did in Radio Insight, or in the corrected piece by Steve Safran in Lost Remote. That’s a wonderful retraction Mr. Safran; gracefully done, and with good humor – it ought to increase your readership (I know it did by at least one).

As the app store has reached a population of hundreds of thousands, Apple has been raising the bar on approvals, and you should expect this to continue as even more flock to the growing iOS platform. The best way to get your own apps approved it to start by providing apps people actually want (rich functionality and crafted interfaces). From there, you need to consider many factors in getting your apps approved, not to mention adopted, but that is the subject of my next post…

8 Comments to iPhone Radio Apps Are Not Banned

[...] This may not be the start of a future blanket ban on all radio apps. A post from PRX Labs points out that this appears to be a ban on cloned apps, identical in all ways except [...]

Steve Safran
November 27, 2010

Thanks for your compliment. Humbled as I am by the experience, it’s good to see that people realize that sometimes we just plain F up.

Lance Venta
November 28, 2010

It’s nice to see the full story come out as many people simply reposted Barcus’ original article as fact.

It has been brought to my attention that another developer, Airkast (which was producing apps for Citadel, Radio One, and a few other larger station groups) may also have been banned at the same time as Barcus. They have not released an app for iOS since November 9, although they have added Blackberry apps since then. They have declined to reply to an inquiry so far, but that may also have been due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

[...] A fully detailed roundup of the issue from both sides can be seen at PRX Labs. [...]

Rusty Hodge
November 29, 2010

When you have your own app store account for distributing your own app, you get great statistic information on the update of that app. I’d think that statistic info is probably worth $100 a year alone.

Rusty Hodge
November 29, 2010

I’d like to clarify that i don’t expect station groups to have to buy iTunes accounts for every station they own. But I expect that Apple will not consider it store spamming if CBS does apps for each of their stations, for example.

On the other hand, I think that if CBS did simple single-channel players that did nothing other than play a single stream, Apple might give them some push-back. But if that app had customized content for the individual stations, I bet they won’t consider that cookie-cutter.

After all, if you station app isn’t going to do anything other than play your stream, why not just do a webapp to stream it?

Tim Olson
November 30, 2010

Andrew, very helpful post, thanks for doing the digging.

Brian Stormont
January 13, 2011

Hi Andrew,

I know this story is kinda of old, but I just ran into this change in policy at Apple and did get confirmation on the phone from Apple. The change is they are no longer allowing developers to host single-station radio apps on behalf of a station. The station must now apply for their own developer account and have the app submitted under their account.

You can read more about my experience here:

http://blog.stormyprods.com/2011/01/apples-new-policy-on-single-station.html

Cheers,
Brian

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