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Being multiplatform

Wednesday 12 August 2009, 18:30

Jennifer Clarke Jennifer Clarke

multiplatform

It used to be so simple when people asked what I do. "I work for the BBC," I would say. "I'm a radio producer, making programmes for Radio 4." Simple.

But since last summer, it's not been quite such a straightforward question to answer. "I'm a senior multiplatform producer." Cue puzzled look. Producer is fairly self-explanatory. It's the multiplatform bit that confuses.

I'm a member of a small team that's part of Radio Current Affairs. We make a number of long-running series and one-off current affairs documentaries, for, er, radio - mainly Radio 4, Radio 5live and the World Service, but also occasionally for Radio 3, the Asian Network and 1Xtra. (When we're not fending off fox attacks of course).

Our programmes include many Radio 4 stalwarts like Money Box, File on 4, From our Own Correspondent and In Business, along with younger series like More or Less, The Bottom Line and 5live's Donal MacIntyre. Plus lots of specials such as the recent Reith Lectures, the current three-part series on the history of MI6 A Century in the Shadows, and the forthcoming four-part series Robert Peston and the Moneymakers.

Our output is incredibly rich and diverse. And the multiplatform team's job is to make the most of it, and find new outlets for our journalism across the rest of the BBC.

This could involve anything from making a shorter version of a documentary for The World Tonight, or Woman's Hour, setting up an interview with one of our reporters on Today or 5live Breakfast, or liaising with colleagues on the Asian Network, the World Service or Radio 1's Newsbeat to enable them to produce their own pieces from our content.

Despite being a radio department, we also increasingly generate material for television as well. Our reporters regularly pop up on the News Channel to talk about our stories, often accompanied by clips which we have filmed as well as recorded for radio - as was the case for this interview which Simon Cox did with Dignitas founder Ludwig Minelli for The Report

We've also made short television 'packages' for BBC Breakfast - such as this investigation into the controversial Yes Loans company.

It was filmed and edited by my fellow multiplatformer Ruth Alexander, at the same time as the reporter Samantha Washington made a radio 'package' for Money Box and a separate item for Radio 5live's Donal MacIntyre programme, also part of our department. Another shorter version ran in radio and television news bulletins.

Why? The answer is simple. It enables us to get much more bang for our - or rather, your - buck.

And that's before we've talked about the web, which is another crucial platform. As is often the case, the Yes Loans story, was also written up for the BBC news website.

It has almost ten million unique readers in an average week, and so is a supremely important target for our programme material.

We therefore spend a lot of time liaising with our colleagues in the different sections of the news website - especially The Magazine - to try and tempt them to commission articles from our reporters and producers.

We don't just turn our content into written features either. We also make picture galleries - such as this one from a Crossing Continents programme about life in a Mumbai slum.

Our programmes have also generated fantastic audio slideshows, such as this one - inspired by a Radio 3 documentary about Yiddish's struggle for survival.

More slideshows accompanied our 90-part (yes, 90) series for Radio 4 America, Empire of Liberty - all still available online (David Reynolds wrote about the series for the blog).

And that's not to mention the time we spend making sure all our programmes are present and correct across the BBC's digital landscape, be that on the Radio 4, 5Live or World Service websites, or the iPlayer or in the podcast directory. And not forgetting our work with sites beyond the BBC, such as Twitter, which I've already discussed here.

The common thread which runs throughout all this work is that, er, it involves a great deal of extra work. Many of our programmes are made by one producer and one presenter - often the same person wears both of those hats. Asking them to wear an additional multiplatform hat is tricky.

Getting our content onto other platforms is not a copy-and-paste kind of operation. In every case the journalism has to be re-imagined for a different medium and/or a different audience.

Although we always hope to bring people back to the original programme, each separate audience has to be satisfied by the version of the story which they receive - wherever and however they get it.

Our job is to make that process as efficient as possible. To help achieve this, I've spent much of the last year on an extended training boot camp, learning to shoot and edit video, make pieces for television, produce content for the web and more.

Along the way, I've had to get to grips with a frankly bewildering range of different (and often mutually incompatible) systems: from CPS and IPS to APS and PIT, from Jupiter and Q-cut to Premiere and VCS, and not forgetting Top Cat and (of course) Top Cat 2. And no, I didn't make any of those up.

It's been a demanding twelve months, but also exhilarating. So - multiplatform producer. Not a great job title, but definitely a great job.

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