« Previous | Main | Next »

Audience research and BBC iPlayer

Post categories:

Alison Button Alison Button | 15:30 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

Hello, I'm Alison Button, I'm the audience research manager for BBC iPlayer.

My job is to make sure we are in touch with what audiences want for the service, by analysing user statistics about what is being used the most or the least, and by asking people directly what they'd choose to change in BBC iPlayer if they could. I also compile the monthly performance packs for iPlayer that we release each month.

We use various methods to gain insight into how audiences feel about BBC iPlayer, including commissioning surveys to see what the majority think, by discussing things in depth, face-to-face, with different types of audiences. We also road-test major changes before we nail the final versions - like the new beta version of BBC iPlayer that you're hopefully playing with right now.

One of the big changes in this latest version is to create separate home-pages for TV and radio programmes, unlike the old website where programmes of both types were shown together.

When the service first launched, it only played TV programmes, and the homepage looked nice and simple. We integrated radio content in July 2008, which we were aware made the homepage a lot busier. This did give us some concerns around the fact that a first-time visitor might have more trouble finding what they wanted with so many choices offered to them - we were definitely not obeying the rule of "less is more".

Of course some people just think "more is more", and in fact we didn't see a big change in people's overall opinions of BBC iPlayer after we added radio to TV. We were still getting fantastic scores from people when they rated the site, which was great, but we did notice a small dip in the tracking score for the "how easy is BBC iPlayer to use", which is what we wanted to avoid. And when we directly asked people if they liked the two media all being mixed together, some people didn't.

When designing the new version of BBC iPlayer, we decided to add even more things to the homepage, like favourites, and we knew we would have to find a way to go back to a simpler, less cluttered design. From the monthly performance packs, we had learned a lot about how people used the iPlayer for TV and radio - for example, radio listening is mainly in the morning, and TV viewing is mainly in the evening, just like in the real world.

Slide1.PNG(click to enlarge slide)

Also, in a typical week, there is only a small cross-over of people who are using the service for both TV and radio - more than 9 out of 10 users are choosing only one or the other.


Plus it was becoming obvious that other analogue habits are also persisting in the new on-demand world. People tend to hunt for a TV programme to watch by browsing across lists of titles, while radio-listeners are drawn much more strongly to a few favourite stations, and look only for their programmes, rather than wanting to see all the offerings from all radio stations mixed up together.

Therefore it seemed like we would be making a sensible decision to offer TV and radio right next to each other, but on separate pages. This would make it easier and quicker for people to find what they want, which ultimately would keep the new homepage simple, something that's been an internal mantra of the new design.

We will be keeping a close key on what people think to check we've made the right decision.

Alison Button is Audience Research Manager, BBC Marketing, Communications & Audiences.


  • Comment number 1.

    I was surprised to see such a low cross-over between 'tv' and 'radio' users, especially as the beeb's radio stations are listened to by large numbers of people.

    However, is the main reason that there's such a low crossover because a large chunk of radio listeners are at work, whilst most TV users will be at home. Therefore if it's cookie-based data it's not going to tell the whole story?

  • Comment number 2.

    So much for convergence!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Matt, I think you're right and that's exactly why this decision was made. Even in your example people are either using iplayer for radio (at work) or tv (at home) so there's no need to combine the two.

    Remember this data wasn't compiled to determine what people use iplayer for overall, but to see whether an individual browser or session switches between tv and radio enough to justify the mixing that the original feedback said was unpopular amongst some (although we don't know how many)

  • Comment number 4.

    I think uncluttering things by separating out TV & Radio is a great idea, though I'd like to have the option to set iPlayer to default to the radio homepage instead of TV.

    One thing which really, REALLY annoys me about the new Beta iPlayer though: the pages for radio shows have been removed. Now, all radio shows open in the pop-out radio player console - which has improved from the old console, but is still pretty horrible to use.

    There are many reasons why I preferred the regular browser pages for radio programmes - and I've spoked to quite a few other regular iPlyaer radio-listeners and none of them have a good word to say about the pop-out consoles. Some of my niggles are:

    - You can no longer "stack up" radio programmes in multiple tabs, for future listening. It's only possible to have one programme open at a time.

    - If you're listening to one programme and click on another, the programme you are already listening to ends. Infuriating.

    - The Windows taskbar becomes cluttered with the extra windows required to listen to radio.

    - In Windows 7 this is even more annoying: when an application has more than one window open, clicking on its icon in the taskbar doesn't switch to the window, it brings up an overlay which has to be clicked on again in order to go to the window. As I mainly listen to radio on iPlayer when I am in bed, and at an awkward angle to the computer, every additional click which I need to make to get at a window is torturous.

    - The popups break the well-established browser user experience, whereby users can choose to open content in the same window, a new tab, or a new window.

    - The popups are opened using JavaScript. Why?

    Since the end of the 1990s, popups have, thankfully, been dying out. This is a really retrograde step by the BBC. I can understand that you may want to keep the option of popups, for users who are still used to the old RealPlayer way of doing things, but PLEASE don't force them on the rest of us.

    While we're at it, the radio links from /programmes have always linked to the radio console (usually in the wrong type of window). This is also a broken user experience which needs to be fixed.

  • Comment number 5.

    Have you introduced yourself, or at least made a post that you exist, on the BBC iPlayer messageboards?
    You can find them here BTW

  • Comment number 6.

    There should be an option to view TV and Radio together as there is currently.

    For example if I wanted to view all satire programmes available, both TV and Radio, I would have to look under TV and Then Radio separately. An annoyance as currently I can go through Categories to Comedy then Satire.

    I can understand how this might not bother most users, but an option at the bottom of the page to view them together would not be too difficult to implement.

  • Comment number 7.

    Accord to number #4"- In Windows 7 this is even more annoying: when an application has more than one window open, clicking on its icon in the taskbar doesn't switch to the window, it brings up an overlay which has to be clicked on again in order to go to the window. As I mainly listen to radio on iPlayer when I am in bed, and at an awkward angle to the computer, every additional click which I need to make to get at a window is torturous."

  • Comment number 8.

    I have not been using the BBC iPlayer for some time due to the poor sound quality. Now that, at least on Radio three, there is a better quality option I have started listening again. I suspect that there are many other people like me who "will not bother" if the audio quality is poor.
    Now to my point, no amount of analyzing the statistics from iplayer will have shown you that what was required to get me back was simply to improve the quality.
    I hope that such marketing findings as you do obtain by "analysis" are not allowed to override the opinions of those who know better, such as - your own engineering departments.
    Anything to do with music, of any type is always more enjoyable when you can actually hear ALL of the music.


More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.