Changes to BBC Sport Online
You may have seen already that the BBC has today announced a new strategy for BBC Online. If not you can read more about it here. As part of this, we are cutting the BBC's online budget by 25%.
I just wanted to spend a bit of time explaining what this means for the Sport website.
Cuts will mean a change to what we offer. However, I believe we have put together a strategy that will ensure BBC Sport can continue to deliver you a first-class service.
It means we have had to take some tough decisions about priorities. It's all about how in future we will focus on what is most important to our users.
From our research and our conversations with you we have found that the two elements of BBC Sport Online that are most important are:
- Fast, reliable and in-depth news across a range of sports;
- Dynamic coverage of the best live sports events.
So those are the areas we will be focusing on. We want to continue to enhance our sports journalism and to innovate around our event coverage - this is in line with the principles of the wider BBC strategy. And we want to link out more and act as a trusted guide to relevant sports content on other websites.
The flip-side of this, of course, is that we won't be able to do everything else we currently do - and there are some key areas of the web operation that will be scaled back:
- The 606 website will close at the end of the current football season - instead the focus for audience interactivity will be on capturing the conversation around the biggest sports stories and events. It is worth stressing that the 606 radio show on 5 Live will continue - and we are considering ways for the audience to interact with 606 on the 5 Live website, focused around the radio programme;
- The on-demand sports news video bulletin will go - video is a central part of our site, but we know the bulk of traffic goes to on-demand clips around stories and streams of live events. So that's where we will focus our efforts, rather than on a 'linear' bulletin of headlines;
- The Sport Academy website will close - coverage of participation in sports will instead be incorporated within the individual sections of the Sport site;
- There will be less coverage of those sports and events that fall outside our main editorial priorities. This does not mean we will stop covering them altogether, it's more a question of "turning down the volume" of what we do outside the biggest stories;
- And in general we will continue the move to increasingly focus on core coverage of sports journalism and events - a process that has already begun with the closure of the Fun & Games section of the site last summer.
Obviously this announcement represents significant changes for the BBC Sport website - as you would expect, given that the whole of BBC Online is losing 25% of its budget. And we don't under-estimate the impact that they will have on some of our audience.
These have been difficult decisions and we're genuinely sorry we have had to scale back or even close some areas of our website that have built up a loyal following over the years. We have had to prioritise on those areas of our service that are of most value to our audience and which are consistent with the BBC's wider aims and objectives.
In particular the decision to close the 606 discussion website warrants more explanation.
The main reason why all these changes are being made to BBC Online is a financial one - the overall budget is being reduced so we need to cut our cloth accordingly. Instead of moderating and maintaining a site as large as 606, we can concentrate on our editorial priorities.
Alongside the overall online budget cuts, there are other strategic reasons for choosing this course of action. The fact is that technology and audience behaviour has moved on massively since we first launched the 606 site back in 2003. In those days there was no Facebook or Twitter and the 606 messageboards swiftly established a reputation as a place to come to discuss all kinds of issues in sport with fellow fans.
But things move on. The social media landscape has been transformed in recent years (as this handy map attempts to illustrate). And the emergence of new giants on this scene - each with that crucial commodity, critical audience mass - has seen 606's popularity fall from a peak of 1.1m unique users a week back in 2008 to around half that figure now.
When it comes to people who actually comment on the site, we have seen a similar trend. 606 now has around 15,000 'active users' a week - half the number the site was attracting in 2008.
By way of contrast, the audience for the main BBC Sport website has expanded steadily in the same period, from 9m users a week in 2008 to 12.5m now.
So in essence the Sport site has seen 33% growth over the past two-and-a-half years, while 606 has experienced a 50% fall.
These bare facts may be indicative of a downward trend - but there is still a significant audience for 606 and we know from feedback that there are users of the site who do appreciate it and feel connected to communities there. The fact is though that there are other messageboards, whether connected to specific sports or individual clubs, which offer this kind of debating platform for fans.
To be clear, we still want our users to comment on the big sports stories of the day, to get involved in debates on our blogs and to use the likes of Twitter to play an active part in our live text commentaries. And, of course, 606 the radio show will continue to provide the perfect platform for fans to have their say on the latest football action.
The changes we are announcing today will start to take effect in the spring, with the 606 website closing at the end of the football season.