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Connected storytelling - one service, ten products, four screens

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Ralph Rivera Ralph Rivera | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 17 June 2011

Editor's note: the presentation above is the one Ralph made at the BBC Online industry briefing. You can see more BBC presentations here - SB

The main thing I wanted to talk about today is storytelling and technology, and how we are bringing the two together in concert to make BBC Online better.

I believe that media is simply the intersection of storytelling and technology - whether it's the Gutenberg press, radio or television - technology has enabled more pervasive and immersive storytelling, and it will be that way with the internet.

It's in that spirit that we approach our digital future - not as a software company with content as a feature, but a storyteller with software as an enabler.

New strategy

In January we announced a new strategy for BBC Online. The big picture here is a vision of quality and distinctiveness over quantity, the discipline and simplicity of going from hundreds of websites to 10 products, and the commitment to work with industry to build a sustainable digital public space. All of which will make BBC Online better for audiences.

One service

At the heart of this is looking at BBC Online as one service. It is the gateway to content and experiences across the entirety of the BBC. It provides the connective tissue that enables us to inform, educate and entertain as part of one narrative - not as a disjointed set of activities. We have reorganised the business around this principle. It also sets the boundaries of what we will do, and not do, online.

Ten Products

We will have ten products which are complete unto themselves, and in support of our five editorial priorities. Each are distinctive and clearly-defined, but will evolve to become even more powerful together, as we and our audiences create journeys that run fluidly between them. These will not be silos.

We continue to develop these products. Highlights since January include CBBC, a redesign we dubbed Shed No Tears (more on why from product manager Phil Buckley here). Radio player got off to a great start, BBC iPlayer interlinking went live and BBC News continues to be the place where audiences come for the big news stories, and stay.

Four screens

To date the bulk of our activity has been focused on the PC. We see the emergence of a post-PC world and we are embracing it as an opportunity to reach our audiences on whatever 'piece of glass' they choose to use, with an experience appropriate for each device.

We're making progress. The BBC iPlayer can already be accessed through many different devices, with the growth rate in mobiles, tablets and TVs outstripping that of PCs.

We're experimenting with dual screen companion devices, where what you do on your tablet or phone is related to what you see on your TV, for instance with our Autumnwatch trial.

We have had 6 million downloads of our BBC News application on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets globally. Coupled with the website, the BBC News product is already present globally across three screens. And today, we announced its arrival on a fourth - the TV.

Connected storytelling

Of course, the BBC isn't the only broadcaster thinking four-screen and digital. It's the industry's direction of travel. And if I stopped here, this presentation could have been delivered by anyone at Google, Yahoo! or AOL.

What makes the BBC different, what really sets it apart, is its ability to tell stories. Quality editorial, delivered in a way that people love and trust.

Radio 4, News at Ten, Doctor Who, Desert Island Discs, The Huey Show, Luther - these are not just brands, programmes, or networks but ideas. Ideas that mean something real to people, with stories that are crafted, nurtured and told over time.

It's been that way for 80 years on radio, it's that way now on TV, it's going to be that way on any internet-connected device, and it will be that way hundreds of years from now in the holodeck... (Yes, I am a Trekkie).

The internet is enabling connected storytelling. And by connected, I mean three things:

Audiences - connected to us and each other. Together we can create personalised, interactive and social experiences.

Editorial - the storytelling itself - connected through professional, algorithmic, and social curation. This creates a more complete and immersive experience than is possible from any one source, and;

Devices - connected to one another and working in concert. We can create experiences best suited for the capabilities of whichever of the four screens you happen to be on.

I think this adds up to a far better service for our audiences. And while all aspects are important, it's the BBC's traditional editorial strengths in professional storytelling that will make us truly distinctive.


Finally, a word on partnership. The BBC cannot do this alone, and we are looking to our partners to help us realise these plans, whether that's developing better links with the start-ups that are putting the UK on the map as a hub for digital innovation, global deals with social networking sites, improving relationships with independent production companies or partnerships with consumer electronics companies - these partnerships will be the key to transforming BBC Online into the Connected Storyteller we all want it to be.

Ralph Rivera is Director of Future Media at the BBC



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