Thoroughly intrigued by the recent launch of channel4radio.com, not least because of its eagerness to play an active role in the redefinition of the word 'radio', lacking both live programming and a presence on the FM dial (although a DAB multiplex bid is in the pipeline).
Not only is it a wholly on-demand, it's also predominantly downloads (with the exception of the 'T-Mobile Street Gigs' and the meager 30-second preview streams which start at the beginning of the programme and therefore rarely take you past the opening credits - doh!). Potential listeners must register before they can download programmes, which is no-doubt attributable to a commercial broadcaster's desire for a trackable demographic (yes, date of birth is a compulsory form field) but nevertheless does function as a barrier to entry and indicates Channel 4 aren't gunning for a huge audience at this stage.
Another indication that this launch is on the soft side is the decision to effectively exclude the downloads from the influential iTunes Podcast Directory by offering personal (and therefore unique) RSS feeds rather than programme specific podcasts. Whilst this does enable Channel 4 to keep control of the subscription process, they're forfeiting a significant shop-window in the burgeoning podcast marketplace.
So, what about the content? Well, there's not a huge amount of it yet. Navigation is by genre (Arts, Comedy, Entertainment, Music, News & Current Affairs and Racing) and the programme selection is unsurprisingly dominated by no-brainer TV spin-offs (e.g. Lost, Big Brother, Richard and Judy's Book Club), although it's exciting to see some original speech formats being developed in the commercial radio sector and it will be interesting to watch how their Co-Creation space progresses.
There's no advertising on the current site and the main revenue models appear to be programme sponsorship and pushes to featured content (e.g. the audio book being discussed on Richard and Judy's Audio Book Club) which will be made available as DRM-protected Windows Media files (the free stuff is MP3).
It's clearly early days for the site and Channel 4 seem genuinely keen to shape the offering in response to feedback from the audience. My personal plea would be to lose the audio ident which plays every time you hit the homepage and make a definite decision on branding (the site is branded 4radio, but they don't own 4radio.com).