My MSNBC podcasts have been broken since just before Christmas. At first I thought it was related to a more general problem I was having with podcast feeds, so I worked on trying to sort that out. I got it fixed this week, and MSNBC still wasn’t working, so I went in search of a solution. Different podcast software also failed. Downloading directly from the MSNBC web site also failed.
While searching, I managed to find this discussion. I’m not alone – it appears that plenty of people outside the United States no longer have access to the MSNBC podcast feeds. They appear to have implemented a regional restriction.
My question to MSNBC is, “What would you like me to do?” I have no way to take up a paid subscription to MSNBC – if I was to get pay TV, I’d have CNN, Sky and FOX on tap 24 hours a day, but still couldn’t get access to the shows I like from your network. I suspect that in most cases, by creating this restriction, you lose interested worldwide viewers who value your work and discuss it online (raising the profile of your shows), but you cannot gain a paying customer. So, why do it?
It also highlights one of the many flaws with the Steve Conroy Internet filtering plan. In that short discussion thread on the Apple forums, people have already identified and disseminated a solution – use a third-party app that will result in MSNBC thinking you are connecting from the USA. Any time one attempts to restrict content using a technical barrier, someone will develop a technical method to circumvent it.
UPDATE: I should take this opportunity to recommend the service I’m using now to get my podcasts. Because iTunes refused to download files it couldn’t play – meaning that I couldn’t use it to get the WMV video files my MP3 player likes – I have begun using Mediafly, a service that lets you manage your subscriptions online and then gives you a few options to play them. They have a web player on their site, apps for several devices (iPhone, Chumby, etc.) and a SyncClient that lets me download the podcasts to my PC and then automatically synchronises with my portable player. As soon as I have listened to an episode, the next sync will see it removed from the device.