Programme information guide

A one stop guide to how to write titles and descriptions for your programme on any network.

Why should I care?

Providing good quality information about your programme is vital, it guides your potential audience into deciding whether to listen or not.

You are required to provide programme descriptions for your programme, so it’s worth spending the time to choose the right words. This will result in higher placing for your programme on search engines and more people discovering the output you've worked so hard to create.

Titles

Grab attention with an episode title

Submitting a great episode title is one of the best things you can do to get your programme heard.

There are two reasons why episode titles are important:

  1. Potential listeners – Good titles are the best way of advertising the key theme of your show to potential listeners as they browse iPlayer Radio.
  2. Google – Titles really stand out when the search engine is indexing pages - much more so than the same text in your main description.

All of our programmes have 'episodes', even if you're not used to thinking of them in that way. So this morning's Chris Evans Show, yesterday's Morning Reports on 5 live and the latest Asian Network Reports are all 'episodes'.

Writing a great episode title

Consider your potential audience

What will they be searching the web for? What would make them want to listen to your show? It might be:

  • The main guest
  • The lead item on a magazine
  • The overall theme of the episode

Be brief

Don't exceed 50 characters for a title. Any more than 34 characters and the end of your title will be cut off on some platforms. In some places only 25 characters will be displayed - make sure the interesting words are at the beginning. Save the detail for your programme description.

Be consistent

Either edit all your episode titles consistently, or only edit them when you want a particular episode to really stand out from the rest.

Dont be too clever

Search engines dont understand clever cryptic titles that exclude key search terms. Listeners might not either.

DO

  • Write in title case
  • Mention interviews
  • Name guests (if they are important)
  • Include guest mixes (if relevant)

DON'T

  • Mention the date if you don't have to
  • Mention the day of the week if you don't have to
  • Use long sentences (about 34 characters is enough)
  • Repeat the name of the show in the title

Magazine Programmes

Always include the lead item.

Don't use "/"s to separate items; use either commas or semicolons:

No Episode Title

Episode titles might not be suitable for some types of programme. Examples include the 'Six oClock News on Radio 4, or 'Through the Night on Radio 3.

If you don't enter an episode title, then a default title will be displayed instead. Here's how it looks:

When a series with a set number of episodes has no title

When a series with a set number of episodes has no date

Programme Descriptions

Why do I need to write a programme description?

Quite simply, to get the maximum number of ears listening to your show. You've gone to the trouble of making it so now it's time to sell it!

Your programme may already have been given a generic description online, but it won't do justice to your particular episode. Nor will it contain keywords about the particular guest or topic you're featuring.

We've found that even simple changes to programmes generic descriptions result in more people listening.

Descriptions come in three lengths

  • Short Description - Maximum 90 characters including spaces (most important!)
  • Medium Description - Maximum 180 characters including spaces
  • Long Description - Absolute maximum of 1800 characters but please keep this under 200 words, plus credits (cast list in the case of drama, music details in case of Radio 3)

The audience will only ever see at any one time the programme title and one of your three programme descriptions. So you need to make each description self-standing. Don't put some crucial detail in the medium description but leave it out of the long.

Why do I need to write three of them?

Because we need different lengths for different places. Where you programme appears in a list of programmes the title and short description are shown. On devices with small screens the medium is used. The long description will only appear where there is space.

Where do all these descriptions go?

As well as BBC iPlayer, your description will go on:

  • Your /programmes episode page
  • The schedule view of your radio station's website
  • The Now and Next display on the BBC Radio homepage
  • Radio Times and other print media
  • Electronic programme guides (EPGs) on digital TV
  • The iPlayer picture editors, so they can choose the right picture
  • Press and Publicity, for planning media coverage
  • Information and Archives, who catalogue your programmes
  • Google and other search engines (including BBC Search)

Writing Style

Each network will have its own tone of voice. But in general, follow these tips:

  • Write with the potential listener in mind - This means emphasising why people should listen.
  • Present Tense - "DJ Joe Bloggs will play the best in hip-hop" looks fine before TX, but odd during transmission and afterwards.
  • Slang/Jokes - Remember that slang or in-jokes can appear out of context, particularly in Episode Titles and Short Descriptions.
  • Guest - In programmes with a constant presenter, put the guest or the headline first, unless there is a deputising presenter. So: "Devlin is in the Live Lounge" and "Huw sits in for Zane and talks to x".

Clarity

Short words. Get to the point. Use strong verbs. One point per sentence. Medium and Long Descriptions should build on the same basic information as the Short. Don't miss anything out.

Punctuation and Grammar

Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation. Avoid unusual abbreviations and non-standard punctuation. One point per sentence. Capitalise names of films, books, TV shows, don't use inverted commas.

Search Engine Optimisation

Include keywords people might search the Internet for, so that your programme page crops up in their searches (but don't obsess).

Programmes with late deadlines

You may not know what the content of your programme will be at the Press Deadlines stage, especially if you're working on news and current affairs. You can at least submit your presenter's name in time for the Radio Times Deadline. When you have more detail you can submit a full programme description closer to broadcast.

Credits

What are credits?

You may have noticed ‘credits’ appearing on programme pages. Credits are designed to offer user journeys around people, programmes and content (such as clips or news stories). Not every programme can have credits, the list includes drama and programmes with permanaent archive. They are not designed to represent a complete cast and crew list. In the future credits will be clickable and link to a webpage ‘people pages’ offering BBC content relating to the credited individual.

What do I need to do?

You don’t have to do anything extra to achieve this.

The information going into ‘credits’ is coming from the Proteus long description field. The new thing that is happening is our metadata partner, Red Bee, is copying names from the Proteus long description field and turning them into the structured credits list you see on BBC Radio programme pages.

How can I make sure the credits are right on my webpage?

Include a ‘removable credits list’ at the end of your long description in Proteus. It won’t be included in the published long description on your programme webpage but it will communicate an accurate credits list to Red Bee.

Do all programmes have credits?

No, for cost reasons not all programmes have credits. The credits are designed to offer user journeys around people, programmes and online content (as opposed to a complete list of cast and crew).  We don’t have the resources to credit all roles so the selected programmes represents the most common and potentially engaging options for listeners to interact with.

These are the programmes and genres that have been designated to include credits:

Genres:

  • All BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and Radio 2 programmes categorised as drama or readings.
  • All BBC Radio 4 and Radio 2 programmes categorised as comedy.

Deadlines 

3 weeks before  TX

Radio Times starts its production run. If it has no information, it will list your programme title, and nothing else.

 (Proteus users: If the programme is a news or current affairs programme, and it has no other information, it will take the presenter details from Core Details in Proteus. Make sure that this is correct.)

 

1 week before TX

Red Bee publishes the schedules to all the EPGs and to the BBC website. Your programme information is now visible on all digital platforms.

 

1 day before TX

The audience traffic to EPGs and web listings starts to peak. Make sure your that your key items are listed in the descriptions.

 

During TX  

Your description is displayed on EPGs, and on digital TV when people use their remotes to access more details while 'watching' the radio channels.

 It is displayed prominently on your station's website, the BBC radio homepage, whether on PCs, internet connected TVs or iPads. It is also shown on the new industry-wide Radioplayer.

Under certain conditions, your description is also used in the live (or 'synchronous') text that scrolls across DAB radio displays and appears on digital TVs and at the top of your network's home page.

24 hours after TX

Your iPlayer Radio "on demand" traffic is at its peak. To maximise 'click through' - conversion of someone reading the description to someone listening to the programme - make sure that your description is perfect.

7 days after TX

Your programme drops off iPlayer Radio.

From this time, approved updates in Proteus are not transmitted onward - if you need to make a change to a description, talk to your metadata assistant content producer (is this still up to date?)

Even though the audio may be gone, your description remains on your radio network's website for reference. The descriptions are then are then passed to Information & Archives, to help with digging out content in years to come.

Common Questions

  1. What happens to my programme description after it's submitted?

    Different networks may use different systems to submit descriptions and titles - but once they've been approved, they follow the same route:

    Proteus/Email > Network sign-off > Redbee > Sent to or used by:

    • Episode page on bbc.co.uk
    • Radio Times & other print media
    • Sky/Freeview/Freesat/Cable EPGs
    • iPlayer
    • iPlayer Picture Editors
    • Press & Publicity
    • Information & Archives
    • Google & other search engines

    Red Bee processes all the descriptions.

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  2. Who within the BBC uses my programme descriptions?

    • The iPlayer Picture Editors use them to decide which picture to display for your programme in iPlayer.
    • Press & Publicity use them to plan media coverage around your programmes.
    • Information & Archives use them to catalogue your programmes to the BBC’s archive database.

    In short, your descriptions are now an essential part of the production process; without them audiences would find it very difficult to find our programmes, and other BBC departments would not be able to carry out some of their basic functions.

     

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  3. I have changed my programme description but my /programmes page hasn’t changed? Why?

    Changes to your description will be processed up to 7 days after TX.

    If you use Proteus, has your change been approved?

    If no: It needs to be approved for the change to take effect.

    If yes: The updates are sent to Red Bee on the hour (e.g. 10am or 3pm).  So if you have approved it at 10.01am then it will not be sent to Red Bee till 11am. You'll probably see it on your site by 11.30am.

     

    Did you submit it between 8.30am and 5.30pm?

    If yes: the changed are processed by a “BBC Listings Writer”.  They amend all the relevant formats for your programme. It can take anything up to an hour after they received your change for it to go through depending on their work load.

    If no: Red Bee'ss out of hours staff are there from 6.30am till 12midnight, 365 days a year.  They will prioritise changes to programme descriptions for that day or the next.  Anything after that will be dealt with by the BBC Listings Writer for your network.

     

    Did you submit it over the weekend?

    If you make your change over the weekend it will be dealth with by the out of hours staff.  They prioritise all descriptions for that weekend and the following Monday. Changes to programmes from the Tuesday onwards will be updated on the Monday morning by the BBC Listings Writer for your network.

     

    Have you made any changes to the PIT details page? 

    By editing the programme description in PIT (specifically, those under the Details tab) you have locked out updates from Red Bee.

    In order to get this fixed, contact your R&M.Support@bbc.co.uk

    You can tell if your page is locked by scrolling down to the bottom of the details page in PIT.  If the Pips3::Episode History contains something other than rbm in the Updated or Last Published section, your page has locked out Red Bee.

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  4. What is metadata?

    Simply put, metadata is information about information, or data about data.

    Metadata helps you to understand what an object is through linked relationships, grouping, what objects have in common.

    Metadata helps define items - and in our context, it helps define programmes.

     

    Your programme metadata comes in two forms:

    1. Business-facing metadata

    Schedules, finance, compliance, commissioning, contracts, contributors, music reporting, media assets are examples.

     

    2. Public-facing metadata

     

    This includes Network schedules, programme descriptions, music data, tracklists, programme images, now playing labels, and live text labels.

     

     

    Metadata matters for programme descriptions so that:

    • audiences can find new information
    • audiences can follow up on topics

    Metadata matters to you, because it helps people find your programmes.

    Focused, relevant keywords in titles and descriptions improve SEO and generate good search rankings.

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  5. What is SEO?

    SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.  It's a way of ensuring that people can find your website in search engines such as Bing, Yahoo or, of course, Google.

    In a programme page context, good SEO practices can give episode pages more web presence, improve their ranking in search results and consequently generating more traffic to a site.

    More traffic means that you are more likely to get people who are not regular listeners accessing your programme and website.

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  6. What are good SEO practices?

    The best way to improve your ranking in search results is to provide accurate information containing well chosen keywords.

    By providing useful and unambiguous episode titles and accurate programme descriptions which tell both search engines and people what the programme is about, it will be easier to find when someone searches for the subject.

    So follow the guidelines for writing Titles and Programme Descriptions.

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  7. What are keywords and how do I pick them?

     Keywords are the core elements of your programmes page. When writing your description and title you will have thought "What is my programme about, who's in it and why would someone want to listen to it?"

    The most basic answers to these questions are the basis of your keywords. You've got to think about the type of language or terminology your audience is using.  What will they be typing into a search engine? What specific information are they looking for?  Scientific topics? Celebrity Guests? And so on.

    The words in your description must be appropriate to your audience. For example, would an average listener search for ‘H1N1 virus’, or the words ‘swine flu’?

    A useful tool when deciding on your keywords is Google Insights for Search, it gives you a chance to compare two search terms and see which one is used more.

    People type in what they are expecting.  So in your writing, you’ll need to be direct, and consider your audience’s expectations. A targeted vocabulary increases the chances of your programme being found ahead of other content on the web. People want to be led directly to the relevant subject matter, and accurate keywords will help them get there.

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  8. My programme description has been updated and approved but is still not reflected on the website several hours later. Why?

    Email EPG Radio-RBM (located on the internal email address list), cc John Partington, identify the programme, include the change you want to happen and ask EPG to action it.

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  9. How can I edit a programme description very close to transmission?

    Update the description in Proteus and Approve it as usual.  Then scroll down and click the email icon button (bottom right) and send an email marked “Urgent” to EPG Radio-RBM (located on the internal email address list).

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  10. How do I to correct a description for a past programme on the website

     

    Update the description in Proteus and Approve it as usual. Changes are processed for seven days after TX (final TX if it’s repeated). If it’s beyond the seven days email EPG Radio-RBM (located on the internal email address list), cc John Partington, identify the programme, include the change you want to happen and ask EPG to action it.

     

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