Chapters within programmes: finding the bit you want
A couple of weeks ago we took a first tentative step on what will hopefully be a significant journey. We started to identify 'chapters' within programmes. Chapters is the term we're using to describe sections of a programme, rather like the chapters of a DVD. In some cases a programme might have back to back chapters, like a book, but in other cases producers might just identify key moments in the programme e.g. the big interviews.
We're excited about chapters for several reasons.
Firstly, they allow listeners or viewers to navigate back and forth through programmes e.g. jumping to the start of an interview, or replaying an item you found interesting. We think this will be useful for existing fans of programmes.
Secondly, chapters will help people to find items of interest from across the BBC - including items from programmes they might never have watched or listened to before.
For example a listener might notice an interview with the manager of their football club promoted on the 5live website, and they could follow a link to listen to that chapter. Or they might do a search for a subject or person (perhaps climate change, or Andy Warhol) and find not just full programmes that relate to that, but also links to specific chapters about or featuring that subject. (Actually, chapters aren't appearing in BBC Search results yet, but they will be later in the year).
In the future you might be able to download those chapters, or embed them in a blog, or sign up to get a podcast of all items on a particular subject... but we're only just starting to think about these possibilities.
Right now it's still early days, and we're interested in experimenting and learning. We're not even sure whether 'chapters' is the right way to describe this (if you've got a better suggestion, post it as a comment!) and we plan to keep working on improving how chapters look and work, based on user testing and audience research.
5live were the first to experiment, and they're adding chapters to several of their programmes. You can find links to them on the 5live homepage (look out for pink links) and the Simon Mayo show is a great example (visit any episode, or click on the Chapters link).
Digital Planet from World Service are also involved, and you should start to see chapters on a few select TV programmes over the coming weeks, hopefully followed by a wider range of radio programmes later in the year.
We're starting slowly, with a limited selection of programmes, as we learn about what does and doesn't work. A couple of factors that may influence the selection are whether there are people available to do the extra work, whether we are able to add chapters from a rights perspective, and whether we think it's editorially appropriate and valuable to add chapters. The intention is to grow the number of programmes over time, but in a controlled and measured way.
We also need to do some work behind the scenes to make it as easy and efficient as possible for producers to add chapters. At the moment they're having to type the info in by hand, but we are aiming to tap into existing data from around the BBC like running orders and subtitles. This work is really vital if we want to make chapters an everyday feature of bbc.co.uk.
Sarah Prag is Executive Producer, BBC Audio & Music Interactive