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Measuring quality and reach at the BBC

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James Holden James Holden | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 7 July 2011

Red, blue and red curves from a graph

"Audiences are at the heart of everything we do" is an important phrase at the BBC. It appears on the back of every member of staff's BBC ID card. And understanding how and where those audiences are choosing to consume the BBC, and what they think of us, our programmes and services, is always of huge importance, and interest, to everyone at the BBC.

In December 2010 the BBC published its new strategy Putting Quality First and in this new strategy, the BBC Trust pledged to set new standards of openness and transparency for the BBC, so that the public and the market understands how the corporation spends its money, how it is performing and what it plans to do next.

As part of this initiative, we plan to publish a wide range of performance information on a more consistent basis so that licence fee-payers can understand better how the BBC performs against some of its key objectives.

This document (PDF) is the first step in that process and shows how the BBC and its services perform in terms of quality (to what extent people enjoy and appreciate BBC programmes) and reach (how many people consume BBC channels and services and for how long) on all of our main media platforms.

As you will learn from some of the data in this report, it's encouraging to see that despite the plethora of media choices available to the UK audience, 97 per cent of the UK population choose to spend an average of over 19 hours a week consuming BBC services across TV, radio and online. And perceptions of the BBC's quality in this latest period have hit some of their highest levels in recent years. Whilst this is certainly good news for us, it sets very high expectations for the new strategy as the BBC must continue to provide the high quality and distinctive programmes that the audience expect and say they enjoy.

This sort of audience information is extremely important to the BBC and is continually tracked and reported, from programmes and channels to views of the Corporation as a whole. These metrics are reviewed by BBC managers and the BBC Trust continually and have a big influence on decision making throughout the BBC.

This is the first time we have published this breadth of information on the BBC website and, following the launch of the Annual Report and Accounts in July 2011, we intend to publish this sort of information for every calendar quarter. The next release of data is planned for September 2011 and will cover the period from April to June 2011.

Alongside this performance data we also intend to publish some insights from specially-commissioned research projects so that licence fee-payers can see examples of how the BBC uses audience feedback to help develop and create programmes and content for audiences.

James Holden is Head of Audiences at the BBC


  • Comment number 1.

    Once the information filters through over the next few months it will be interesting to see if the BBC believes that the changes to the news blogs have resulted in better quality and audience satisfaction.
    So far it seems unlikely judging by the comments here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2011/05/our_next_step_in_news_blogging.html

    I look forward to an honest appraisal in the September 2011 release.

  • Comment number 2.

    Me too, Kit. Knowing BBC, they will leave this area out altogether so that it doesn't bring them more grief. They're just ignoring the complaints now anyway.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why is the Online reach not (also) measured using page hits and page views? It probably is, so can those figures be included in the report.

  • Comment number 4.

    I found this report to be something of a 'looking at the trees and not the wood' exercise. For BBC Online, Erik Huggers' initial review noted:

    The review will, of course, go beyond top level directories and cover all parts of BBC Online. We'll look at every major section of the site and ask three questions: does it meet our public purposes; does it fit one of the BBC's five editorial priorities; how does it perform in terms of reach, quality, impact and value for money?

    He later reported (January 2011):
    In order to decide where to focus, we looked at every website we have and applied three tests to each. First, do we really need this website to meet our public purposes? Second, to what degree does it help meet our five editorial priorities? And third, how does it differ from what else is out there in the market; is it distinctive?, and if not - should we be doing it all? Working these tests through iteratively, merging some websites, and looking objectively at how much each costs and how much it's used and valued by the public - we ended up with ten products.

    Although many of these proposed ten products identified from the Huggers' legacy are now only beginning to take shape, if they exist at all beyond vague notions in Ralph Rivera's mind, we were never shown any evidence of the content of the review of the present content of BBC Online in respect of how it scored in terms of the public purposes and the degree of alignment with the five editorial principles. In my view, these first two 'lenses' are equally if not more important as the last RQIV lens, on which your new pdf addresses only the R and the Q.

    I appreciate that your report is necessarily a simplified aggregate overview, but it is notably lacking in criteria about assessing quality and distinctiveness for the Online sector, where the overall AI will I suspect be completely dominated by a single item - iPlayer. The "The site feels original and different from most other websites I've seen" is not particularly helpful nor is it a sharp enough question. The impending 25% cut in Online budget shows no sign of implementation on BBC Online - since the cut was announced, the number of BBC blogs for example has actually increased by 25%.

    One openness and transparency element for Reach you could publish, which would I think add to the I Impact and the V Value picture, would be the visitor stats for your main directories (the infamous '400') and the visitor stats for the 300 or so BBC blogs.

  • Comment number 5.

    The tables showing average hours viewed on page 7/8 of the report don't seem to agree with BARB's own figures. Yet BARB is quoted as the source.

    e.g. BBC One is shown at average of 7.39 hrs, whereas BARB shows it as around 6.10 hrs for the same period.

    Why is that

  • Comment number 6.

    Is this going to be yet another BBC Blog post where the author never returns to answer any of the questions asked?

  • Comment number 7.

    All of which has been totally forgotten about with the decision to cut F1 coverage on bbc1, ignore the thousands of viewers who have complained and not one response offered to the complaints made. If we F1 viewers are so important to you, support the most watched coverage on the BBC why has this decision been made and cuts not made to less viewed broadcast? Thanks.

  • Comment number 8.

    Many thanks for all of your responses related to this blog post, it's very useful to get some feedback.

    To answer a couple of the questions raised:

    Citizenloz - The tables showing average hours viewed on page 7/8 of the report don't seem to agree with BARB's own figures. Yet BARB is quoted as the source.

    The figure reported in our published data relates to the amount of time that the average user (in this case viewer) spends with the channel, as this is the agreed way of reporting this metric within the BBC. To calculate this we take the time spent per head (as reported by BARB) divided by the average weekly reach of the service (as reported by BARB). The figures on the BARB website are reported as the time spent by the general population and includes those who did watch BBC One and those who did not, therefore the figure will be lower.

    Piet Boon - Why is the Online reach not (also) measured using page hits and page views?

    It's a question of consistency. We are trying to measure digital reach across the four screens (PC, mobile, tablet and TV) and browsers is the most consistent measure of reach across these screens. We don't typically use pageviews/impressions as a reach measure as part of the QRV framework, especially in the age of web 2.0 and dynamic, AJAX heavy pages.

    Thanks again to all of you for taking the time to offer your opinions.

    If you are interested in how things are changing over time, the second wave of information has been released today and can be found on the About the BBC web site.

    James Holden, Head of Audiences

  • Comment number 9.

    2nd wave this , browser tablet architect 2.0 etc etc , YOU HAVE LET THE F1 FANS DOWN BADLY ......... NO TO SKY.!


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