Audioboo, voice recording app, was once a darling of the app world. It has gone a little more quiet of late, as a rush of other apps, such as Sound Cloud, have also entered the space. Now, it is taking the Android version of its app open source, as it prepares to launch a premium, paid version of its app for the iOS public. Mark Rock, Audioboo’s founder and CEO, told paidContent that the decision to make its Android app was not a light one, but that it was a necessary step in managing the app for a company that only has five full-time employees.
Why open source? Marc Rock told paidContent that while the company has always developed the iphone app in-house, it had to outsource the build of the Android app. “We effectively gave it to developers and said, “look at iPhone and copy it. But that’s far from ideal.”
The app was first developed in 2009, at a cost of between £30,000 and £40,000, he said. Similar strategies were taken with its Symbian and Windows Phone apps. But since then, as Android has grown, he said it has become increasingly more difficult and expensive to make it a workable app across all of the many Android flavors and devices that have hit ti market. “As android fragments, with ranges like Samsung’s Galaxy devices, and the HTC devices, it’s really difficult for us to keep up with developments. Now the developer community out there can update and change it.”
There is also a question of where the business is for Audioboo today. Rock said that today most of the audio that the company captures today come from iOS devices. Android, he said, accounts for one in each 50 streams. (And it should be noted that streams from the Symbian and WP7 apps are even more rare.)
Rock’s other laments about Android are also of a familiar tune: he says that one of the other reasons that the app has had little takeup on Android is that is has been more difficult for people to find the app in the Android Market. The Google (NSDQ: GOOG) acquisition of Motorola (NYSE: MMI), which potentially could mean a more integrated device and OS, he said could change things in two to three years.
“But for now we can’t keep this app up like others can. Android is developing too fast and we can’t keep up,” he said. “This is not a cynical move, but a practical step.”
Monetizing Audioboo. As with so many other startups, the big question for some time has been how — and if — Audioboo would be able to convert its popularity into a revenue-generating machine. The company has done a little of this so far, with a premium app that it sells to broadcasters and large news organizations to use and distribute podcasts. Organizations that use this include the Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) and the BBC.
Rock said that the company “made a conscious decision in 2010,” when it received some investment, to go for growth rather than monetization. With Audioboo somewhat leaving the limelight in the last year — Rock’s phrase is “went underground” — that strategy doesn’t seem to have borne as much fruit as expected, although Rock does also point out that the app has been consistently growing its user base since launching. On average, the company gets about 120,000 listens per day, with 1,200 pieces of audio going up daily.
And it is showing some revelevance to the current climate. Audioboo had 200,000 listens in 24 hours last Monday during the England riots. “We’re no longer a media darling, but we are doing a sensible job,” he said.
The next step, he said, is a paid service that is is planning to launch in the next couple of weeks. It will let users have the option of buying time to extend the length of their audio recordings. Then, the free service will go down from five minute streams to three minutes. It will be operated on a “Spotify” model, said Rock — meaning users will be able to pay for their credits online, rather than via the app. That will let Audioboo bypass Apple’s cut of the deal.
There is also a subscription program in the works — this will let those with “valuable” content — such as celebrities or authors — to be able to charge listeners for subscriptions to their streams, similar to the kind of service being offered today by Audible.
And that may be the point: Given that Audioboo was a trailblazer in its earliest days, now that there are so many other podcasting apps and alternatives out there, will its brand and any of these services be enough to help them compete?