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Introducing the BBC News Control Panel on Facebook

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Gareth Owen Gareth Owen | 12:10 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Screenshot of BBC News control panel Facebook app, showing which BBC News topics and correspondents you are subscribed to.

BBC News Control Panel beta

I'd like to tell you about a new feature we are introducing designed to give you greater choice in how you keep in touch with BBC News if you use Facebook.

We've created a Control Panel for the BBC News Facebook page which will allow you to personalise the mix of content you see in your Facebook news feed.

As Product Manager for the BBC News website, I've observed big changes over the years to the way in which people are arriving at the site.

Just a few years ago, most people arrived at our site by typing in the website address (bbc.co.uk/news). Those few who arrived directly at story level came almost exclusively from search or, from that first social network, a link in an email from a friend.

Today the picture is very different. Fewer than 50% of the 8 million+ visitors to the News website every day see our front page and the rest arrive directly at a story, video page or section index.

We can see from our referral information that this change in user habits is in large part down to the growing amount of time many are now spending using social network services such as Facebook or Twitter. The number of clicks to BBC News stories from Facebook, for example, is now over 14 times higher than it was at the end of 2008. Almost a quarter of a million individual users start their BBC News website journey via a link on Facebook every day.

With this in mind, we've given our BBC News Facebook page an upgrade.

Now, if you choose to 'like' the BBC News Facebook page you'll be presented with a control panel of options (above). You can also get to it at any time using the link on the left hand side of our Facebook page.

This allows you to select for your Facebook News feed, all in one place, your favourite BBC correspondents and programmes and the latest headlines on the subjects you care most about.

To help you find the sections that are most relevant to you, you'll see slightly different options based on your location.

At the moment we are mostly providing short headline updates, which will pop into your news feed in the style of:

BBC News story in Facebook: Ants remember their enemy's scent

BBC News story on Facebook

We may also add longer posts to the mix, in the style of those on our main Facebook page, for example where we want to tell you about interesting new feature stories, graphics or video. When you click a link you'll be taken to see the full details on the BBC News website.

We're labelling this as 'beta' for now, which is a period during which we can test how this new feature is being used and ask for your feedback on what you like about it and how you think we could make improvements. You can email us on our feedback page to let us know what you think. We'll be reading all of your feedback and using it when we make decisions on future stages of development.

Gareth Owen is the Product Manager of the BBC News Website

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Sorry, but while I appreciate that many people come in from Twitter or Facebook, and while I think it is reasonable for the BBC to add sharing buttons and the like, I strongly dislike the idea of the BBC spending its resources building applications specifically to promote a proprietary, privately run platform and one moreover whose revenue comes from attempting to monetise its users personal data and activity records.

    The Web provides a wonderful, open opportunity for communication. Please, please don't hand more control over to a privately run walled garden.

  • Comment number 2.

    Interesting strategy to make customisation the legal responsibility of a 3rd party.

    Russ

  • Comment number 3.

    Agree with #1. If the BBC has seen a decline in the number of users of the front page, then surely more should be done to design it in a way that makes users want to visit it regularly.

    The BBC should be doing more to promote open standards for traffic generation, such as by allowing users to create customised RSS feeds. As it stands, every news article has the corporate logos of Facebook and Twitter on it, but users have to work hard to get an RSS feed of the content they want.

    For example, I want a feed of my local news but for some reason there is local sports news included as well. Spend time developing technology that benefits the BBC and the users of the BBC's services - not the pockets of Facebook and its users.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with #1 and #3.

    And how about making access to your pages device-aware? A lot of people use smartphones to read webpages. Some content providers (eg newspapers) offer pages that make their content legible on a smartphone. In fact their pages are optimised for smartphones. When will bbc.co.uk do this? Your iPhone app is no substitute as it carries relatively few pages.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with #4, coincidentally, the sum of #1 & #3

    I also look at this.. 'you'll mostly see short headline updates' and ponder the complaints I have currently at ECU level based on what the headlines say are not actually reflecting the substance of the story accurately.

    I actually have one response that says, basically, 'the truth wouldn't fit', and another saying what I had cut and pasted didn't exist, or if it did they couldn't admit it.

    Not.. a great way to maintain trust.

  • Comment number 6.

    Strange how technology blurs bounderies. I too find it worrying that the BBC is so keen to pour resources into what is in effect a private network run by a commercial interest. No problem if you had made an app using open standards that could be used by any number of social networks and systems, but the BBC is contributing to the general trend of "facebookization" of the internet. If Channel 5 wanted to show the BBC ten O'clock news, it would certainly be expected to pay - I suspect no bill is being sent to Facebook HQ. Both systems are used by licence fee payers, so what makes Facebook special? I don't want my money being used to support private, highly dominant, commercial websites.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just fix the Sport and Homepage before you go and waste cash on a commercial companies website.

    Also, will the BBC Facebook pages be advert free in the UK?

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm not happy about this. Not happy at all.

    I detest social networking sites and tire of those that bleat on about how fantastic and "revolutionary" they are. I don't believe for one minute that farcebook has 850 million users (Most I know have 2 or 3 accounts) and of my friends, family and peers, only 5% actually have contacts abroad they need to communicate with. The other 95% bore the backsides off everyone else by droning on and on about how wonderful it is.

    As I am not susceptible to passing fads or shiny things, I watched with morbid fascination as vacuous lemmings and vain, self-obsessed, self-promoting narcissists fell over themselves to get set up on micespace, followed quickly by the desertion and subsequent rush to do much the same on farcebook. When the next passing shiny thing appears just wait for those, sad, geeky arguments between the farcebook detractors and farcebook advocators.

    Thats why I'm not happy. The BBC has, for reasons I cannot fathom, deserted common sense and aligned itself with this tedious, life-sapping, corporate monstrosity and has by extension chosen sides in what is quite a polarized issue.

    The BBC chose farcebook which has given me little option than to disavow the BBC.

  • Comment number 9.

    Yet again the BBC pushing the likes of FB and Twitter. Yet again restricting direct comment on its own site, paid for by ALL licence fee payers. There have been news stories breaking daily in which the BBC could easily open HYS comments on and yet all we get is this nonesense of having to open accounts on commercial 3rd party sites where security of data and personal info is treated with a total lack of respect and either dished out to all and sundry or gets hacked. Its clear now that whatever the views/opinions of fee payers here, they will be ignored and the BBC will just do what it thinks regardless. So much for the farce of public consultations and seeking our views.
    I will not open a FB a/c nor a Twitter a/c. If the BBC want to go down that route then frankly they best just close the BBC website altogether as it becomes pointless and irrelevant.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Fewer than 50% of the 8 million+ visitors to the News website every day see our front page"

    I think that says as much about the quality of your front page as it does about user behaviour. And don't ignore your own broadcast programmes that promote their own section index, endlessly. (Remember broadcasting? the middle B of BBC?)

    #9 "Yet again the BBC pushing the likes of FB and Twitter. ... I will not open a FB a/c nor a Twitter a/c. If the BBC want to go down that route then frankly they best just close the BBC website altogether ..."

    Agreed. Why is the "Television Licence Fee"-funded BBC supporting commercial web businesses? What do they have to do with Television, or Broadcasting?

  • Comment number 11.

    BBC self harming again. The sooner they scrap the Licence Fee the better.

  • Comment number 12.

    9. At 17:22 7th Mar 2012, BMT - An - Alternative - View wrote:
    ... just close the BBC website altogether as it becomes pointless and irrelevant.


    That process does seem underway in the realm of actual original content, to the point that I guess we will soon be served, at just £145.50 a year, 'news' from (free) twitter, gossip (and ads) from (free) FaceBook, and endless Dad's Army repeats.

    All to serve a poorly-managed pension pot that is immune from going down and must only go up.

    I can see why the funding model is often called 'unique'.

  • Comment number 13.

    @Cramps @JunkMale

    This blog post isn't about the BBC's wider funding model or digital strategy.
    Let's stick to the Facebook page.

    More off-topic comments will be removed.

  • Comment number 14.

    So you remove customisation on your own site home page, to the chagrin of a number of users, then introduce it onto a 3rd party commercial site? I fail to understand the logic here...

  • Comment number 15.

    I can kind of understand the logic of this. While not a Facebook user myself, it is exceedingly popular.

    However, I must wonder if the BBC is spreading its developer resources too thinly. Too many recent products have been of poor quality. Perhaps more time should be spent on those, rather than introducing another new product with the additional support burden that introduces.

  • Comment number 16.

    '13. At 11:35 8th Mar 2012, Ian McDonald
    @Cramps @JunkMale
    This blog post isn't about the BBC's wider funding model or digital strategy.
    Let's stick to the Facebook page.


    At risk of further censure, one way to avoid addressing someone incorrectly is to cut and paste. It's JunkkMale.

    On matters of social media, when it comes to free speech, few credibly adopt the 'we decide what is on topic' approach, preferring to leave that to the community.

    Divorcing FaceBook from involving reference to an overall digital strategy, or how licence fee payers' money is directed, might be seen as a stretch, too.

    Otherwise it can be seen as seeking to shape the conversation. At best.

  • Comment number 17.

    13. At 11:35 8th Mar 2012, Ian McDonald wrote:.
    More off-topic comments will be removed.


    On the matter of what the BBC and it's mods deem 'off topic', or not, as it suits, care to comment on this last few from here on?:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2012/02/twitter_guidelines_for_bbc_jou.html?postId=111916694#comment_111916694

    Multiples of standards, especially on The Editors threads, make the correct way to tow the line hard to assess.

    If this is what we are to expect from the drive to twitter and FaceBook support, I am not encouraged.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi JunkkMale - thanks for bringing these comments to our attention.

    I have forwarded them to the relevant team.

    However moderation and what is, or is not, off topic is not the subject of this post, so is therefore off topic.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    @14

    A very good point, and one that, so far, the BBC have not answered, or, even, ignored.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    '21. At 14:28 9th Mar 2012, Tengsted -
    A very good point, and one that, so far, the BBC have not answered, or, even, ignored.'


    Just a few of the mechanisms to an extensive and less than reassuring editorial armoury, it appears.

  • Comment number 24.

    I do wonder if the social media gold rush will come to an end or keep adding value. Either way i think its a good iead for now!

  • Comment number 25.

    The fact that some BBC departments are forced into using Facebook and Twitter, to communicate with their audience, can be viewed as more of a reflection of the continuing disconnected between the BBC Website developers and needs of the BBC departments and its licence fee payers.

    Please, BBC can you try and understand that without getting your own house in order any external development is most likely to be seen as a pointless waste of our money. Social media should be seen as an additional tool for communication and not used to mask your own poor attempts to deliver a modern website.

    The chaos that the internet team is causing is spreading like wildfire thought-out the BBC website. How long before we have to have Window Live, Apple I-Tunes, iGoogle accounts etc before we can view the BBC website?

    Facebook and Twitter is only the first of many steps towards a faceless and unaccountable organisation.

  • Comment number 26.

    'How long before we have to have Window Live, Apple I-Tunes, iGoogle accounts etc before we can view the BBC website?'

    http://mashable.com/2012/03/09/bbc-shows-download/

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9133905/BBC-plans-iTunes-rival-download-service.html

    I do trust this is the kind of 'on topic' comment/link mods may agree 'users' are seeking

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    '25. At 07:42 10th Mar 2012, marcus1972 -
    Facebook and Twitter is only the first of many steps towards a faceless and unaccountable organisation.'


    That boat, I fear, has sailed.

    And I might disagree on the lack of face, when there are obviously two at play here.

  • Comment number 29.

    Ah is this why open debate is being stifled on the Have Your Say page of the web site?

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    Here's why I am concerned....

    The BBC has various incarnations, one being this...

    http://www.facebook.com/worldhaveyoursay

    While the FaceBook version at least has an accurate reflection of the story this time, on twitter I just got this....

    @World Have Your Say ‏ @BBC_WHYS - US soldiers kills 16 civilians, inc. 9 children, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. What's your reaction to this story? http://t.co/uc84V4ek

    My reaction is that sloppy proofing on the mass of social media platforms to rush out 'story' headlines, is leading to huge errors that can inflame already tinderbox situations.

  • Comment number 33.

    However, on twitter I do notice that the intro is as follows..

    '‎16 Afghan civilians, including 9 children, have been shot dead by a US soldier. Dial us on Skype: bbc_whys to share your reaction to this story. Many of you are angry at this latest incident involving the US military in Afghanistan. Are you worried about the repercussions for US forces? Do you think it's time for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan? Post your comments here, don't forget to let us know where you are.'

    Which gleaned, of many, this comment:

    'I'm not worried about repercussions for the US forces I'm more concerned that a US soldier killed 16 civilians, including 9 children. Whatever that soldier gets isn't harsh enough...'

    And that seems the one the editors are most keen to amplify upon...

    'BBC World Have Your Say Hi Sarah Green Thanks for your comments. Whereabouts are you? Would you like to take part in the programme? Email worldhaveyoursay@bbc.com if you're interested'

    I simply wonder why, and if FaceBook is the best medium to ally the BBC with in such debate as facts seem in low supply whilst passion rages.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    Why, if you are on the internet, would you look at BBC content via Facebook?

  • Comment number 38.

    @Chris (#1) - facebook may well be a proprietary platform but there are now 100s of millions of people worldwide using it.. for the BBC not to embrace such a ubiquitous technology would be foolish and it certainly would not serve the consumers of its content well at all.

    Gareth, I think the BBC news control panel is a great introduction and will certainly go a long ways in both helping guide readers and viewers wanting to interact on social media, and making headway on some of the points raised in this interesting article I came across on using facebook for breaking news. It seems the technology to integrate media house websites with the likes of twitter and facebook is there, stress tested and being used. The sooner readers become educated as to how best to interact with news on social media, the richer the experience will be.

    I do agree with some of JunkkMale's observations above about rush vs quality - I do believe however if a more concrete and consistent process is put in place many of those points would be addressed.

    Michelle

  • Comment number 39.

    '38. At 19:25 22nd Mar 2012, Michelle Summers - I do believe however if a more concrete and consistent process is put in place many of those points would be addressed.'

    I will be keen to learn of all concrete and consistent processes put in place, when they are, and of course how they address my concerns as already outlined and kindly noted. Beats being told I'll get banned next time!

    But still seems a pity that so much does already seem to have been rushed out, be of poor quality, yet most certainly is online and out of control before these points needed raising, much less urgently needed addressing.

  • Comment number 40.

    http://paidcontent.org/article/419-pew-twitter-facebook-arent-moving-as-much-news-as-you-think/

    The irony of my locating this via twitter is not lost.

    It is but one tool of many, and as reliable on its own as none of them.

  • Comment number 41.

    How's Newsnight doing since the blog thread close down and move to twitter and FaceBook?

    Still getting the vibrant exchange of views that used to pervade the threads?

  • Comment number 42.

    Love it Nice

  • Comment number 43.

    '41. At 08:47 1st Apr 2012, You wrote:
    How's Newsnight doing since the blog thread close down and move to twitter and FaceBook?'


    Actually the FaceBook page is shaping up well. Just had a gander, and from the looks of it the House Rules, from OT to a lot more pertinent... out of the window.

    Ok, most of it is gibberish, foul-mouthed or both, but at least it is pithy, uncensored gibberish, etc. No use at all as information, education or in debate, but I am sure some boxes were ticked and ratings noted.

  • Comment number 44.

    On a different note. Is there any likelyhood that the BBC Sport section will have something the same or similar to the 'Have Your Say' section of the main news website. I dont use Twitter and detest Facebook and so when a story comes out that I would like to comment on, I can't. Afterall there are news stories in sport as well.

  • Comment number 45.

    This is a good improvement in my opinion.

    #3, the BBC needs to be keeping on top of all the latest media channels and distributing news via those mediums to us, I think its quite important that they continue to do this. I don't suppose the web development involved in a simple application is excessive either.

    That said I do agree about the iPhone and iPad Apps being a poor substitute for the actual website. It would be nice to see the BBC make moves to be using a responsive design that fits devices of all sizes.

    Anyway, good job, it can only improve the service overall :)

    Just my thoughts..
    Ant

 

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