For anyone whose programme offers 'interactivity' - and that is almost everyone blogging on this site, I suspect - a clip of a Mitchell and Webb sketch that is doing the rounds has caused much interest and amusement.
The sketch is very funny. It is also a bit painful. Here are a couple of examples.
- "Are you personally affected by this issue? Then e-mail us. Or if you’re not affected by this issue can you imagine what it would be like if you were? Or if you are affected by it but don’t want to talk about it can you imagine what it would be like not being affected by it? Why not e-mail us?"
- “You may not know anything about the issue, but I bet you reckon something. So why not tell us what you reckon. Let us enjoy the full majesty of your uninformed ad hoc reckon, by going to bbc.co.uk… clicking on ‘what I reckon’ and then simply beating on the keyboard with your fists or head.”
Interactivity offers viewers, or in this case listeners, the chance to participate and it offers us the opportunity to engage with those consuming our product. If that sounds like claptrap, then you are probably someone who does not wish to 'participate' or have us 'engage' with you.
Come to think of it, if that is you, then you are very unlikely to be reading an editor's blog.
At its best interactivity connects us with viewers, or listeners, sometimes directly influencing our editorial agenda. There are numerous stories that have been told (across TV and radio or online) that would simply not have made it to the surface were it not for interactivity.
That said, I am not pretending it is always so.
E-mails or texts being read out can be very tedious indeed. Sid in Stevenage probably doesn't give a stuff what Maureen in Manchester thinks about something.
That's why, at Breakfast, we've tried to steer our interactivity away from mere 'opinion' and more towards 'experience' or 'anecdote'. It's just more interesting that way.
Opinion does still get read out when it's especially interesting or insightful, but experience generally wins the day. The other thing that works well is questions from viewers. On a number of occasions, it has led us towards a line of questioning we might not otherwise have pursued.
What does not work is using interactive responses to fill holes in a programme in a "…now then, err, let's turn to your e-mails and texts while we try to re-establish that link" sort of way. We have been guilty of this. Viewers and listeners are not stupid - they generally know if we are filling.
The other thing that doesn't work is looking, or sounding, desperate. This is what Mitchell and Webb so deliciously capture - a sense of "please tell us, please e-mail, please call.. About anything".
I'd recommend a listen to the clip. I shall certainly be sharing it with my team...