Well this is a bummer, but perhaps not entirely unexpected. As of Sunday, March 1, 2009, Gabcast is NO LONGER offering free, phone-based audio recording to mp3 format. According to the Gabcast blog, the following changes are now in effect:

  1. No distinction among channel types (Free, Pro, Premium). There will only be one kind of channel and it will have all of the features that were previously reserved for Premium channels.
  2. Telephone recording will become pre-pay, just like conference call minutes. Members that have used telephone recording in the past will have to purchase minute packs.
  3. Our Amsterdam, NL access number unfortunately will no longer be available. This is due to a requirement passed down from our service provider that a local address in the country is required to continue with service.

Gcast is still offering free, phone-based audio recording. I have used Gabcast much more than Gcast, however, and am REALLY going to miss sharing Gabcast as a free, cell-phone based audio recording option with workshop participants in sessions focusing on cell phone digital storytelling as well as our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices digital storytelling project.

When you login to your Gabcast account, in the right sidebar you can view how many minutes you have available:

Gabcast minutes

Gabcast minute packs are currently available for $1 per 10 minutes starting with increments starting at 100. ($10 for 100 minutes.) Purchased minutes can be used for ANY of the Gabcast channels you’ve created with your Gabcast account.

Gabcast minute packs

I wish Gabcast would offer new accounts at least 100 minutes of free recording time. Gcast does not currently have any limitations (as far as I know) for phone-based audio recording as Gabcast does.

One thing I did learn two weeks ago in Portland when I shared a workshop on cell phone digital storytelling was that Gabcast DOES record the phone numbers of people who call into your Gabcast channel. This is good from an accountability standpoint, since students (and others) who call into your Gabcast channel (if you share your channel number and password with them) CANNOT remain truly anonymous. When you click CALL DETAILS after you login to your Gabcast channel, all the recent phone calls (including the originating phone numbers) are shown, time and date stamped.

Gabcast call details

Are you aware of other web-based services like Gabcast and Gcast which offer phone-based audio recording services?

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  • http://elmofromok.com ElmoFromOK

    Have you tried talkshoe.com?

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    No I haven’t tried talkshoe – What do you think of it? It looks great for facilitating multi-party podcast recordings / webcasts, but I don’t think it serves the same function as being able to provide students with a phone number, channel number and password to have them record audio remotely for a digital story. Can it do that?

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    In reading through all the comments on the Gabcast blog post announcement, I came across the following intriguing option:

    Flyin’Ryan said…
    To everyone,

    There are many ways to connect for free. Take SIP Broker for instance. They have phone access numbers all around the world. See http://sipbroker.com/sipbroker/action/pstnNumbers

    Call any SIP Broker number and enter *652422# . You’ll be connected to Gabcast, for free.

    Please see the Gabcast FAQ for this and other ways to connect via VoIP: http://gabcast.com/index.php?a=faq#HowCanICall

    @Gillian Lord Ward, with an implementation as large as your’s, you might want to consider a FreePBX install. With this you can use your own local phone lines to call into Gabcast. More information is in our FAQ and at http://www.freepbx.org.

    I have not tried sipbroker but will certainly give this a go. There are more than a few upset educators “out there” who understand Gabcast’s need to charge, but felt the timing was really poor in the middle of the term/semester, especially without warning. Also, the model Gabcast is adopting seems pretty limited.

    I went ahead and bought 250 minutes for $25 for the pilot project I’ve been working on with a local instructor at UCO, who is having her students audio-record lecture summaries. I think the idea of having a local recording option is really intriguing. If this is possible (and I’m not sure freepbx.org supports this idea, but it made me think of it) then I could see a university purchasing a system which would permit this sort of local phone-based audio recording.

    The technology functionality is clearly “here” to do this sort of thing. We need an enterprising vendor to create a system which can be hosted locally, with local access lines, and permits users to call in and audio-record to the web. This would be PERFECT for a lecture summary podcasting project like the one I’m helping facilitate/pilot this term at UCO.

    Does anyone know of an open source project that involves phone recording to audio/mp3 format? We need this functionality added to an open source project like Podcast generator.

  • Elaina Feinberg

    I enjoy using Gabcast myself. Though, maybe it is disappointing but I think they are a business and probably needed to find additional ways to make money rather than allow free accounts to overuse their service/offering, wouldn’t you say?

    In fact, on a bigger picture note, I tend to see a lot of complaining about “web 2.0″ services not being free enough or not giving away enough. One has to ask… who are the people whose livelihood is behind building these applications or, more importantly, businesses that need a profit to survive? It is just way too easy to come across some website and feel that whatever they’re doing can be offered for free without actually considering the true cost of owning, operating, and maintaining a unique or highly desired product.

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  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Elaina: Certainly Gabcast is in business and needs to be profitable. You are right, we do hear lots of complaints about some web2 services not being free. There are multiple business models today for monetizing web applications and services, however, and we certainly see many examples of web companies offering a mix of free and commercial services which invite use as well as (the owners’ hope, I’m sure) sustained profitability. I think finding this balance between offering enough of your product for free to invite use, but also having ways to monetize effectively your service, is very important. We’re continuing to see many companies walk this line, esp when it comes to educational customers. VoiceThread is one company I think is doing this well. Of course I don’t actually know if they are profitable since they are privately held. I’d guess the recession is going to hit many web2 companies and we may see more policy changes like the one Gabcast recently announced.

  • http://aboatman.blogspot.com Andy

    I just received an email (3-27-09) letting me know the free GCast service is no longer going to be free. They said, “Beginning April 1, 2009, we will be charging a subscription fee of $99 for this phone-in service. It will still be free to upload content through our website.

    Additionally, the subscription usage will be limited to 2 hours in any 90 day period. ”

    Thought you would like to know.
    Andy

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Ugh, that’s bad news too. Thanks for the heads-up, Andy.

    This makes me think again about how there’s surely a way for an open source project (like Open PBX) to enable local, server-based mp3 recording via phone calls.

    I wonder if Gcast or Gabcast are considering licensing their technology? I could see a school or university purchasing a server which offers this type of functionality, and projects like COV.

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