iTunes Radio App Hoopla gives Cause to Pause

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A letter from a media applications developer claiming that Apple has banned single radio station apps from its iTunes store apparently struck a few nerves across the Web after its publication a little over a week ago. Ironically, the post from Jim Barcus, CEO of DJB Radio Apps first appeared in Radio magazine's letters section, where it touched off heated debate in dozens of blogs and forums across the Internet.

Barcus posted the note in hopes of triggering a broadcaster backlash against Apple after discovering that iTunes had rejected 10 apps his company had developed for client stations. Barcus quoted Apple as saying that "single station apps are the same as a fart app and represent spam in the iTunes store" and that the company refused "any more radio station apps unless there are hundreds of stations on the same app." Apple summarily dismissed an appeal of the decision by DJB.

Somewhat predictably, reaction swelled forth from the broadcast community, branding Apple as autocratic and unreasonable, while Apple user forums tended to support their brand in its attempt to sweep "clutter" from iTunes Store shelves.

Yet as things began to sort out after the extended holiday weekend, it became clear that the "ban" wasn't at all what some had initially feared. A number of reports from connected tech bloggers overwhelmingly suggest that Apple's problem with the most recent batch of client apps from DJB revolved around that (and possibly another) firm's template approach to generating apps that present little more than a brand linked to an individual terrestrial radio station's audio stream.

Apple representatives have since assured other radio app developers that iTunes is simply trying to filter out "cookie cutter" applications that can be "monogrammed" thousands of times over with the potential to choke their site, which currently catalogs over a quarter million iPhone applications. An update on the controversy in The Register seems to bear this out in quoting an Apple spokesman: "There are many unique radio apps on the App Store and we look forward to approving many more...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."

If Apple is on the level, the point they're trying to make might be summarized as follows: In an age of almost unlimited consumer media choice, unimaginative duplication of services and content is an act of futility. And if broadcasters are willing to pause and take notice, this episode could prove instructive in more ways than one.

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