News Archive Connected Studio: using yesterday to tell better stories tomorrow

Editor, BBC Online Archive and Connected Studio

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A host of rich ideas have emerged from last week’s Connected Studio exploring ways to unlock the BBC News Archive. I had a great time because mixing the ambitious, anarchic, artistic chaos of creative endeavour with a tight deadline always produces interesting results.

Photo courtesy of Head agency who attended the Connected Studio event

Several themes emerged across the day. Firstly there was real excitement about the potential of archive to give our audiences really potent and immersive experiences. We can use the past to connect with audiences on a much deeper emotional level. The BBC Archive is unique and extraordinary in its depth. So it can be a big part of what the BBC feels like to audiences and what makes it distinctive in the fully digital world.

There was also agreement that we cannot just digitise the archive and hope people find it. We have to curate it and connect it to the things people are interested in now. This throws up fascinating cultural and technical challenges which were wrestled with during the Connected Studio event.

Culturally the BBC has for decades been very prescriptive in what we give our audiences. We decide the schedules, we choose what is important and what facts should or should not be included, but digital audiences want to control their own journeys and instinctively resist being told what to do.

So can we reconcile the two?

Lots of ideas explored ways in which we can. Audiences get to control their own serendipitous journeys into our content within a context curated by BBC Journalists, so experiences remain relevant and rich with public service value.

Delegates at the London site

The technical challenges are becoming clearer too. The linked data platform allows us to connect things happening now to relevant events in the past but how can we find the sweet spot between machine and human curation? Lots of ideas also rightly explored the potential to offer more personalised experiences with the News Archive, especially using location technology. This has huge potential given the emotional power of archive to connect people with where they are from, as well as where they are now.

There will now be a judging process and a build studio in Belfast (on the 26th and 27th February) from which prototypes will follow.

So thank you again to all the teams that took part. It was really valuable and fun.

Peter Rippon is Editor, BBC Online Archive

Peter Rippon addresses delegates in London

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