External search removed from BBC Online
There has been some talk recently about innovation - is it becoming another buzz word?
I am curious to understand what people really mean when they use the 'i' word and the real world examples they intuitively embrace. Being practical, I understand it to mean both BBC iPlayer - the fastest growing search term on Google last year - and more recently the engaging Bugbears. Check it out and let me know what you think.
I talked about quality in December - this will be a recurrent theme.
It was interesting to read the diverse selection of comments about branding from my last post - I had to smile when I read the remarks about the 'cyclical nature of the BBC's management decisions'. Yes, sometimes it does come across that way. In this case, though, I disagree that 'it matters very little to people who use the service, just those within the organisation looking for ways to spend their allocated budget.' The key task - as addressed by old boar - was to make all our services part of the 'normal' BBC, by simultaneously removing surplus brands and simplifying the overall branding.
Old boar and lucas42 are right - consistency is important. We need a uniform url policy, it's something we've started thinking about late last year - more on this later. And yes, if we are trying to work towards consistent branding, making the site operate consistently is vital. Three c's I worry about are: clarity, consistency and coherence, and I comfortably predict these will be the subject of many more musings.
Picking up on Sue Aitch's positive comment on our commitment to accessibility, I hope you have read my colleague Jonathan Hassell's two recent posts and some of the aspirations we have for the year. They include improved live subtitle synchronisation, improving the iPlayer's media player so it can display the colours currently used in broadcast subtitles to indicate different speakers, and inclusion of subtitles on BBC channels simulcast on bbc.co.uk.
In this post I wanted to tell you about another step we are taking towards being clearer about we do and don't do. Today will see the end of the web search option on BBC Online. I know that when we removed this from the re-launched homepage over a year ago, (we replaced it later) a number of users complained so I want to set out the thinking behind this decision.
When I took this job on following the BBC Trust Service License review last year, there were several actions pending in my in tray. One of these being a request from the Trust that we look at web search.
Reviewing the service recently you cannot help but come to the conclusion that BBC web search was not sufficiently different in quality or character from others like Google or MSN to justify the time and money spent maintaining it. Users have easy access usually in their browser, to a very similar service. Usage is not high, accounting, on average, for between 10 -15% of the total amount of searches made on BBC Online.
We'd do far better to concentrate on making our own BBC website search as good as it can be, for example by developing our topics proposition and improving the way we point users to other related content around and off the site. To be honest, there is a lot we can do to provide users with a range of editorially selected links to other high quality sites in the UK and elsewhere. This is why we have decided - with the endorsement of the BBC Trust - to end the web search option.
I realise that some of you may find this inconvenient, but do not believe that in the current search market the BBC can genuinely make enough of a difference. We need to focus our energies where we can truly do so. I want to direct our efforts over the coming months on providing a richer selection of external links across BBC Online. At the moment, these can look thin.
For example, although our health page on autism has a good selection of external links, these are not available on our autism topics page and there are none at all on our search results page for autism.
In fact, there is a huge number of excellent links across the site. The problem is that these links can be a bit buried away. So we need to bring all our links into a single database so that they can be presented to users in a wider range of contexts across BBC Online - rather as we do in News with alternative coverage of some stories.
Seetha Kumar is Controller, BBC Online.