BBC Music Website Relaunch
Much of our focus over the last few months has been on building the internal tools and databases to enable us to harvest and represent relevant data around our broadcast activity - in data terms, how our domains at /music and /programmes intersect. This means that we expect the play count data we display on artist pages to improve over the next weeks and months as these tools are rolled out. Currently this data still has significant gaps which is why we're still retaining the beta label. It should also enable us to begin generating really useful contextual links from our programme pages, such as making artist names clickable on tracklists. This work also represents the foundation for future views of data which might enable us, say, to provide navigation and aggregation around the broadcast of sessions or live events.
We've also added a few more innovations to the pages themselves since the beta was launched last July. We've added links to BBC news and blogs (here's how) and links to our own album reviews. We've made it easier to access the pages by guessing at a human-writable URL redirect so you don't have to rely on the ungainly-looking MusicBrainz ID that sits in the page's URL, though of course the pages are also now available via BBC search and web search.
We've added our "Now On The BBC" feature to artist pages (here's one for Bonnie Prince Billy). Set against our aspirations for fully domain-driven design and semantically linked data, this is something of a blunt instrument, as it's effectively linking data to flat pages. But compared to where we are now, we think it offers some pretty neat features. It gives us the raw material for an enhanced artist gateway, and the tool that sits behind it also lets us publish in a streamlined way to an artist page at the same time as we update the homepage and genre pages of the new music site.
It's also one of a number of APIs that we are making available with the new site (alongside the playcount data, news and blog updates and album reviews). If you're a developer or publisher of a third party site we'd love to hear your ideas on working with this data.
Elsewhere on the site, we've brought our overall template and design conventions into line with most of the rest of BBC Online. We've added contextual programme recommendations to our album reviews - so if you're reading a review of Marianne Faithful's new album and would like to hear the kind of programmes that broadcast her music, you can follow the links to Nemone, Iyare and Shaun Keaveny's programme pages. We're experimenting with a new Flash interface as well to display our "most played" artist data on the homepage.
We've been grappling with some fundamental editorial questions in bringing the artist pages to full public beta. As mentioned when we launched the beta, we are now publishing several hundred thousand pages automatically, which harvest third-party content from Wikipedia and MusicBrainz, both sites run by the contributions of a dedicated, self-appointed pool of experts. This is new territory for the BBC, and we've had to give careful thought to our policies and how we communicate them to our audience. We would love to hear your feedback on the approach.
We have a lot of plans for building on this foundation. In the short term, we'll be working through a somewhat miscellaneous snagging list which includes everything from making sure we build URIs for all the resources windowed on our pages to getting audio clips back on our album reviews. We're keen to get our content around artists and albums on to the mobile platform. We're looking at ways in which we can reflect and link to activity around artists from the rest of the web.
Most importantly, we'll be working hard on systems to automate meaningful aggregation of all of the BBC's own content around artists, so that you will never miss, say, a documentary featuring a given artist, or an interview that's available on one of our programme pages. Coupled with that, we'll be building a variety of ways of navigating contexutally between different kinds of content (music, programmes, topics and so on). We'd also like to bring our users into the picture, by gathering attention data, fanship and the like and starting to offer personally useful journeys around our content.
As I say, we'd love to hear your views - comment here or mail us directly.
Matthew Shorter is Interactive Editor, Music.