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Reflecting online buzz around BBC programmes: update

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Dan Taylor Dan Taylor | 11:16 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Last June I wrote a post on this blog about Shownar - a prototype which aimed to track and reflect online buzz around BBC TV and radio programmes. I stated that "If the prototype proves successful, we are hoping to integrate the functionality of Shownar into bbc.co.uk".

Well, the prototype did prove successful and whilst it's taken a little longer than I'd originally hoped, I'm pleased to announce that buzz modules will soon be rolling out on BBC programme pages.

Indeed, the buzz pages which sit behind the modules are already live, and a few bloggers have already started noticing them (I think On An Overgrown Path was first to the punch).

So, first things first, What is buzz?

Buzz is what people are saying about a programme. In this release, working with Nielsen Online as a data supplier, we're linking back to blogs which discuss BBC programmes. We're also linking to the relevant twitter hashtags, forums and other online communities where the programme is discussed, and bringing all of these useful links to the programmes page.

Why is the BBC looking to reflect what people are saying about its programmes on its website? To quote from our About buzz pages; we believe "programmes are improved by connecting them to the wider discussion and their audience. We want to help you discover and get involved with the conversations other people are having about your favourite programmes on the web". It also supports the ambition laid out in Putting Quality First of "turning the site into a window on the web by providing at least one external link on every page and doubling monthly 'click-throughs' to external sites".

The details of how it works, including how links are found, moderated, linked to and then highlighted if they're relevant, are all explained in an extensive FAQs section.

We won't link to blog posts which are offensive, unlawful, spam or behind a paywall, and you can read the guidelines for a more comprehensive description of how we decide what to include. It's also worth noting that, while we're providing links to buzz for many TV and radio programmes, the project doesn't include every single programme we broadcast. We'll be reviewing what works in the next few months and using your feedback when taking choices about what should be included in later versions.

To give some concrete example of the sorts of conversations buzz pages will help you discover, have a look at the buzz page for Sherlock, which links to a wonderful spread of discussion about the popular BBC One drama, with the most relevant links helpfully highlighted in yellow. Or check out the buzz page for The Proms, which reveals that the Doctor Who Proms are currently generating the most buzz.

The buzz modules, which showcase the most relevant discussion (as well as linking through to dedicated pages for 'all buzz'), will go live on programme pages in the next few weeks. Below is a screengrab of how the module will look. In advance of the buzz modules going live, you can already get to buzz pages by adding /buzz to the end of any programme page URL (e.g. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tffgy/buzz).


We're keen to evolve and improve how we reflect buzz around BBC programmes and fold the thinking into the development of the future TV & iPlayer and Radio & Music propositions referenced by Erik Huggers in his recent blog post on what Putting Quality First means for BBC Online, so please do contact us with any questions/suggestions or leave a comment below.

One element of Shownar which is missing from the current implementation of buzz on bbc.co.uk, is a chart showing which programmes are generating proportionally the most buzz - we'd be interested to hear if this is a feature you'd like to see reinstated.

It's been a real team effort to get this live, so thanks to Kat Sommers, Andrew Barron, Roo Reynolds, Rowan Kerek Robertson, Gary Andrews, Amy Shearing, Bruce James, Andy Shearer, Tom Robinson, Matthew Verrill, Cathal Coughlan, Jeremy Tarling, Ciaran Withington, Yuri Kang, Nancy Hoskins and BERG.

Dan Taylor is Senior Portfolio Executive, Internet, BBC Vision Multiplatform


  • Comment number 1.

    Buzz is looking great. I'm glad you integrated it with /programmes rather than minting brand new urls.
    Didn't Shownar also include twitter references? Why did you decide to drop them? (I'm not complaining - I'm just interested to know).

  • Comment number 2.

    I like that you're not using rel='nofollow' on the more relevant links. I think an important aspect of the beeb helping out other UK websites is giving them a boost in search engine rankings, even if this does mean that you have a bit more work to do keeping spammers at bay.

    I did wonder if there was any point in including the less relevant links at all, presumably it increases the likely hood of including completely irrelevant links.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'd want to see this integrated onto the iPlayer media pages, i.e. the pages that display the video with the "Click to Play" icon. Typically I don't look at the /programme pages but would really see the benefit of this integrated right into the iPlayer pages. Also, should the data from Buzz be used to drive the content selected for "most popular" feed, i.e. not just most requested content in iPlayer but also the most buzzed-about content on the web?

  • Comment number 4.

    Thanks for your comments.

    lucas42 - You're right, Shownar did include a tag cloud of programmes being discussed on microblogging services on its homepage, linking to aggregation pages on Twingly, although it didn't link directly to individual tweets. We are adding Twitter hash tags to buzz pages when we spot them (or you let us know) and hope to reflect buzz on Twitter in more sophisticated ways in the future.

    Robert Clarke - yes, I'm really pleased were able to avoid using rel='nofollow' on the more relevant links. The main reason for including the less relevant links is to ensure transparency (i.e. every link which passes our moderation criteria should appear). We also suspect that the less relevant links may be of interest to some users, as well providing an interesting gauge of volume of links (which we may be able to visualise in some interesting ways in the future).

    lleyam - integrating buzz with iPlayer media pages is very much as aspiration, as the TV & iPlayer proposition evolves, as is using buzz data to power most popular lists and feeds. Watch this space!

    Dan Taylor (BBC)

  • Comment number 5.

    fabricoffolly - If you're looking for hashtags for BBC programmes, fanhubz has quite a few.
    (I use their SPARQL endpoint for replacing hashtags with the relevant programme pictures in my twitter client.)

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.

    Pointless when the BBC has already a "buzz" feature.
    It's called Points of View.

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    Are you planning to 'buzz' the messageboards, or is this considered to be uncool?


  • Comment number 10.

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

  • Comment number 11.

    9. At 5:43pm on 04 Oct 2010, Russ wrote:
    Are you planning to 'buzz' the messageboards, or is this considered to be uncool?


    Will Buzz be created automatically or like the "categories" listings on these blogs where they are included / chosen manually?

  • Comment number 12.

    lucas42: Thanks for that. We'll take a look.

    Russ: We're hoping to extend the scope of buzz in the future so we can link back to all sorts of conversations, not just blog posts. Messageboards are definitely on the list of possible future extensions.

    OfficerDibble: Buzz is discovered automatically and then manually checked. There's no manual categorisation except for whether the link is relevant or not.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Roo,

    "Buzz is discovered automatically and then manually checked. There's no manual categorisation except for whether the link is relevant or not."

    In other words the content is manually cherry picked. So, just like the Categories list, we will not know if it is a fair representation of the "buzz" because we won't know what the BBC considers relevant.

    I'll give you an example of my reason for concern: The Categories list at the bottom of all blogs has the word "Scrum" included. Of all the BBC blogs, scrum only appears on one blog (hardly a buzz nor relevant). Conversely, "DOGs" appear over a 1000 times on at least 5 blogs, yet is not included. So hardly a fair representation of the User generated activity, interest or Buzz.

    This makes me wary of the true value of any tool such as Buzz. If we can't trust it, the results are valueless.

  • Comment number 14.

    OfficerDibble - just to correct you on one point.

    The categories list at the bottom of this blog is not the same on every BBC blog. Categories are set manually by the blog owner of the individual blog and differ from blog to blog. For example categories on the BBC News Editors blog does not contain the word "scrum".


  • Comment number 15.

    It seems to me the content of many of the references given on your cited buzz page sitting behind the modules have little or no connection whatsoever with BBC programmes or any of BBC's public purposes or its new editorial priorities. Is the pursuit and promulgation of such pages not in flagrant breach of BBC Online's stated new direction and focus, and exactly the type of activity that Eric Huggers wants to stop?

    And can you show us a prototype buzz module for a BBC programme page?


  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Nick,

    I note your correction, but more relevantly, can you explain why the categories list (and maybe the Buzz in the future) is being edited so that it does not reflect the popularity of some subjects? The categories has different font sizes to give the impression it is like a proper ranked / prioritised list - but it is merely a list of "things we think you might be interested in". It is not a list of the most popular subjects, as I have already demonstrated.

    (Likewise the search engine ignores certain subjects too)

  • Comment number 17.

    OfficerDibble: re "In other words the content is manually cherry picked": No. Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. The links are automatically discovered and all which do not break the moderation guidelines are included in the buzz pages. Then, after that long list is published, we then manually check to see which ones we will highlight it as being relevant. Those are the ones which show up in the modules on the programmes pages, but you can still go to the full list at the /buzz pages to see all the relevant and the 'less relevant' links. Which means you *will* know what the BBC considers relevant because while the relevant ones will show up as highlighted, all the 'less relevant' ones are also still visible on the buzz page. The only ones you won't see will be for good reasons, because they broke the guidelines.

    Russ: both the buzz pages and the new modules on programmes pages are now live. So to use Dan's example from the post above, here's Grandma's House buzz page with the full list, and on the right hand side of the Grandma's House programme page you'll see the new 'Buzz about this programme' module which in turn links on to the buzz page ("See all buzz for Grandma's House"). In the module, only the three most recent relevant links are shown. In the buzz page, all links which meet our moderation guidelines are shown.


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