Please lower your bitrates.
Now that the largest U.S. mobile carriers have ended or announced an end to unlimited cellular data plans, this is a practical way to help customers manage their usage. (Sprint, get the iPhone and you can re-join the conversation with the big boys when people start caring about you again and your earnings release is no longer prefaced by the word “Hemorrhaging”).
Some suggested guidelines for mobile streams:
Again, particularly for mobile streaming/downloads, though these guidelines would be sufficient for the desktop, as well. Also acceptable would be to provide concurrent “low-quality” and “high-quality” streams for the different use cases, i.e. while on wired/wireless internet vs. cellular.
You like streaming music or listening to the radio while you commute on the bus/train? Maybe listening to a 3-hour baseball game? Maybe one that’s out-of-market, so the radio in your car won’t do. Does your local radio station not carry your favorite radio talk show, or not carry it live when you can listen, or only carry an hour segment of a 3-hour show? (BTW, I love ooTunes by Oogli for listening to the radio on the iPhone [iTunes link]. It effectively provides streams to every station that broadcasts on the web in every city in a single app. Much better than having separate AOL Radio, IHeartRadio, or several apps for individual stations).
Well, let’s say you have AT&T’s 2 GB monthly data plan.
At 128 kbps, an hour of audio is 57.6 MB.
That’s 35 hours per month.
Not to mention all the other data you use each month, from e-mail, to web surfing, Twitter, YouTube, GPS, etc. And who knows what new apps will come around that will use heavy data? TV viewing? Live sports? Do you use tethering with your laptop? Yep, that’s included in the monthly 2 GB, too.
How long is your daily commute? 30 minutes each way? So, an hour a day? More? Times 22 days or more.
Do you like to listen to your own music/radio at the gym? How much time do you spend there each month? Spend time outside? Ride a bike? Go to the beach?
That 35 hours can disappear rather fast.
At 32 kbps, an hour of audio is 14.4 MB.
That’s 142 hours per month.
Big difference. Much better. More efficient. Still better quality than AM or FM radio. Don’t have to think about it as much.
For users, it will obviously help keep data usage down. Podcasts or audiobooks will take up less storage. Also, for iPhone users, it will keep you from bumping up against Apple’s arbitrary 20 MB file size limit when downloading over-the-air from the iTunes app. (To get around that, you can actually just click on the name of a podcast vs. the download button and the file will start streaming. Of course, this doesn’t help with data usage and you must have a signal, so if you go underground or through a tunnel, no dice. Instead, I recommend the great Podcaster app by Alex Sokirynsky [iTunes link]. It enables you to bookmark your favorite podcasts, subscribe to premium ones that require a subscription/login, and download files above 20 MB over cellular). Yes, you can just download while on Wi-fi or when at your PC, but 50% of iPhone owners never plug them into iTunes after the initial activation and sync. (Yay, iCloud). What if you forget? Don’t have the time before leaving the house or office? There’s no Wi-fi at the train/bus station? Your iPhone is synced with your home computer, not your work one, and thus you can’t manipulate the files on it?
For publishers, it will result in lower bandwidth/hosting costs. You can store a larger archive of data in your xml/rss feed history so users can retrieve more past content. And your listeners can download/stream when they want to, and more importantly, when they have the time. Better to give your listeners access wherever they are, lest they stop listening. What if that hour on the train/bus is the only free time you have? Rather play with your kids when you get home than listen to Adam Carolla complaining about something?
And perhaps just as important, for most non-music content, there will be no appreciable difference in sound quality.
Listen to the 3 samples below. Spoken word. It’s Martin Short singing “Happy Birthday” to Dennis Miller on his radio show a while back. Same clips, varying bit rates. The original 128, 64, and 32 kbps.
I won’t tell you which is which.*
Hear a difference? Think you’ll notice with those stock white ear buds?
Worth getting dinged for overages on your bill each month?
It’s a simple switch that helps all parties involved. Even the carriers, who might like the idea of charging for overages, probably like more the idea of giving their already over-tasked networks a break wherever they can and gaining the goodwill that comes with better performance.
Please do it. Everyone get on board.
Feel free to forward this to your favorite publishers.
Thanks in advance.
*1 - 32 kbps, 2 - 128 kbps, 3 - 64 kbps