Planet Rock

It’s nearly a month since the launch of Audioboo and Mark Rock is quietly pleased with progress.

This morning the social audio network was name-checked by Chris Moyles on his Radio One show. Tony Blackburn, Stephen Fry and the BBC’s Technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones are all fans.

Corporate clients include The BBC, ITV and The British Library.

Audioboo enables people to record and upload audio from anywhere using an i-phone. The technology will soon be available via other mobile phone networks.

Audioboo is not only easy to use – it’s completely free.

When Mark’s company, Best Before Media, launched Audioboo in partnership with Channel 4’s 4IP fund, they decided to make it a “Freemium” service.

This means that the majority of users can access the software for free; a small proportion (currently around 5 per cent) pay a monthly subscription of £2.95 for additional features (eg: easier uploading, larger photo allowance) while a tiny number of corporate clients pay around £500 a month for customised versions.

There are three reasons for launching Audioboo like this, says Mark:

1. It’s a social network so it doesn’t work without content
2. The costs of adding each extra user are minimal
3. It’s an innovative product – a relatively new idea

Podcasters love Audioboo: earlier this year, Christian Payne (aka Documentally) audiobooed the birth of his son. And news journalists are also finding it useful: when BBC reporter Matthew Weaver forgot his digital recorder at the G20 protests in London in March, he used Audioboo instead.

Mark is keen to build on this initial enthusiasm: he has ambitions for his new baby to be “the audio version of Twitter or Flickr”.

So he’s been thinking a lot about “sound ecology” (our aural environment) and speaking to people called “acousticians. Like all true innovators, Mark is carving out a market for something that we don’t know we needed – until now. Mark sells it winningly:

“When my three years old is 15, imagine how great it will be to have an audio record of her life!”

Every profile and tag on Audioboo has an RSS feed. And users can create audio maps featuring any type of sound they like. Soon, Best Before will publish an API that’ll enable people to build applications that expand Audioboo’s functionality. It’s very much a work in progress.

“It’s an agile model. The customer is more important than the business plan. You iterate. It’s all about trying stuff. Because a product isn’t fully developed, it means you launch as free.”

It’s early days and the product has yet to become profitable, but Mark is optimistic for the future. He cites networks such as Flickr, Vimeo, Last.FM and Spotify as examples of other networks apparently succeeding with the Freemium model.

There are competitors in this space: Twitmic and Evernote – but Mark’s social focus may just give him the edge.

Part of the challenge is thinking laterally. Among other plans, Audioboo hopes to tie in with The Guardian Hay Festival later this year. Watch the the Best Before blog for further updates!