Delivering Quality First on BBC Online: Social Media
Following today's announcement about the re-shaping of BBC Online , including the decision to close 606, Video Nation and the BBC iPlayer message board, and the disposal of h2g2, I wanted to share some of our thinking around social media.
Central to the new strategy is a tighter focus on the BBC's editorial priorities to make the service better, and a 25% reduction in BBC Online's budget. Both will affect our approach to social media.
We believe there are three fundamental ways social media can enhance BBC Online.
First, to enrich our content. Drawing on the collective knowledge and experience of our users can improve what we publish, for everyone. One recent example of this was A History of the World. Another is comments on blogs which often illuminate or extend or challenge a post in interesting ways.
Second, to bring more people to our content. When a user recommends something to his or her network of friends that is more likely to interest them than when the BBC makes the recommendation. More eyes on the same content means better value for money.
Third, to better engage audiences. Engaged users come back more frequently, increasing the value of the service to them. Richer connections with the user can help us be more open, transparent and accountable.
The next phase of our approach to social will be to move from a site which offers a few fairly circumscribed social experiences to one which is more social everywhere.
We recognise that contributions made off BBC Online can also add value to the content we publish, so we want to converge onsite and offsite contributions better than we do now. You can see the beginnings of this via Buzz and in our coverage of live events like the recent Ashes cricket or the Archers 60th anniversary.
Similarly, we are looking at the potential for broadening the interactions around some of our blogs by exposing a wider range of relevant social contributions.
The most notable changes are probably the closure of 606 and proposed disposal of H2G2. These sites are certainly social and in their own terms, successful. However, neither have strong links to the BBC's content. Ben Gallop on the Sports Editors blog explains more about the closure of 606, and its fit with the broader changes in Sport. H2G2 is a unique community but it does not sit comfortably alongside anything else we do. The site has been created, and is sustained by, its users and our hope is to find a new owner who will nurture it in the coming years. In due course we plan to close the BBC iPlayer message board whose function is increasingly being taken on by new features within the product and BBC Online.
This isn't a sudden change in direction. Sites that have only a peripheral connection with our editorial purposes, don't significantly enhance our content or only engage small audiences can't any longer justify the resources they need. This is why we have closed a number of message boards in the past year or so. This process will continue, selectively.
How, then, can we make the whole of BBC Online more social?
In recent months we have experimented with enabling comments within some news pages. We will be looking to extend this in the coming months, developing the editors' picks feature and the ability to rate other people's comments.
BBC iPlayer users are able to recommend programmes (and add a comment) and have these posted to their accounts in Facebook or Twitter. Again, this is a small start to something we plan to extend more widely. Some programmes and networks will continue to experiment with, and improve, the official BBC pages we manage on Facebook (such as BBC Radio 1 and Eastenders) and Youtube. And we'll continue to explore collaborations like Sound of 2011 with social sites like Songkick and LastFM.
Much of this is standard practice across the web, of course, and we need to evolve to meet the changing expectations of our users. The size of BBC Online, the legacy systems on which it was built, our commitment to maintaining the highest editorial standards and to providing a safe social environment mean that the task is complex. And in a world where we have fewer people and less money we have to focus on doing the things which promise to offer the biggest benefits to all of our users.
Ian Hunter is Managing Editor, BBC Online
Read Erik Huggers' post: "Reshaping BBC Online"
Read Ben Gallop's post: "Changes to Sport Online".