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Searching for places on the BBC

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Tristan Ferne | 10:17 UK time, Wednesday, 22 July 2009


We were wondering the other day how much people search for local information from the BBC, so as a quick hack we got hold of the top 10,000 search terms from the bbc.co.uk search logs for one day, July 9th. Then using the Yahoo! Placemaker API we extracted any UK place names from the search terms, counted them up and plotted them on a map*. It's just a little thing but we thought it might be interesting.

Click to see full-size image

A version of this was originally posted on my personal blog

* though I removed the map from the final rendering, I think it's prettier that way.

Tristan Ferne is Senior Development Producer, R&D, FM&T for Audio & Music Interactive.


  • Comment number 1.

    Yet more evidence that the BBC's output is London-centric.

  • Comment number 2.

    1. At 7:38pm on 22 Jul 2009, neiltc13 wrote:

    "Yet more evidence that the BBC's output is London-centric."

    Can't agree, if it does show any London-centric bias then it shows a London-centric audience, these results were based on bbc.co.uk search logs not the URL click-through web server results.

  • Comment number 3.

    "it shows a London-centric audience" - and the reason for this? That the BBC output is so London-centric that the rest of the country pays less attention.

  • Comment number 4.

    I disagree with the "London-centric audience" statement. Sooooo many people I know from across the country have the BBC as their homepage, or part of their homepage. I don't live in London but I check London local news regularly because it is the capital city, family & friends live there etc. etc. London will always have the most hits, it makes sense.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tristan - it's an interesting take on things, but what does it really tell you and us?

    Searches on BBC are location centric and pretty much follow the population locations - wow that's news worthy. The anomaly for Newquay is probably based on the sad story of the teenager who fell off the cliffs and I think we can all work out the reason for a big result for Glastonbury.

    What would be more interesting and certainly a lot more valid, would be to plot the correlation between IP location and location search term.

  • Comment number 6.

    @mktgDIGITAL - I agree and I'm certainly not claiming it tells us anything profound. It really was just a couple of hours of hacking to see what it might throw up. But maybe it points the way to something else- surfacing stories which people think are important or showing up places which the BBC doesn't have much content about? Maybe we should normalise the map against population density?

  • Comment number 7.

    It's also to do with the two local news rows, sharing local news tv facilities, and the BBC v the local newspaper publishers which means that there is not a very effective BBC web local news service apart from crime (though it has become a little more variable recently) There seems little cross platform work even with the major TV local programmes.

  • Comment number 8.

    In reply to comments @ #3 and 4

    Sorry but these are search results, people wanting London-centric information, it's NOT a result based on the number of page hits or article title count etc. In fact if you look at the map and add together all the areas outside of the claimed 'London-centric area' you will see that there are more NON London-centric area searches than there are London-centric...

    It's impossible to make a judgement about BBC content from what people search for, had there been a major story (or even rumour) about - for example - Ludlow and thus a high number of searches using "Ludlow" as a search term would you be claiming that the BBC was 'Ludlow-centric'?!

  • Comment number 9.

    Remember the search is based on UK place names ~ how many people put London into a search ? You can understand Glastonbury, but why London ?

    BBC coverage is London-centric, whilst some of this is natural given that London is the capital, other parts of it relfect the ease with which reporters can reach London locations. Too often London locations are used to reflect national stories.

  • Comment number 10.

    on the subject of searching, have the /topics pages been axed? if so what was the thinking behind this? did they simply not work as intended?

  • Comment number 11.

    For those obsessed with London centered-ness, look at any population density map; look at any measure of economic output and activity vs. areas on the UK. The only rational conclusion is that the UK would be nothing without the SE of England, so be grateful. It is no surprise that there is so much activity there in almost any field you take the time to look at. I live in the Scottish part of the UK.

  • Comment number 12.

    Is the choice of date for the map an attempt to justify the BBC Junketing to Glasto?

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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