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BBC Online Briefing Spring 2012: The Participation Choice

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Holly Goodier Holly Goodier | 12:34 UK time, Friday, 4 May 2012

Video of Holly's presentation added 9th May 2012:

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One of the defining characteristics of digital media is interaction. It enables us to be active, make choices, build connections, express ourselves and exercise a new level of control over our media experiences.

But how active is the UK online population really? And how might this change in years to come?

With these questions in mind, my team and I conducted a large-scale, long-term investigation into how the UK online population participates using digital media today - from sharing links, to writing blogs and uploading photos. And it revealed a fascinating, and at times, surprising picture.

Like the population itself, the picture is nuanced but six striking themes emerged:

  1. The model which has guided many people's thinking in this area, the 1/9/90 rule, is outmoded. The number of people participating online is significantly higher than 10%.
  2. Participation is now the rule rather than the exception: 77% of the UK online population is now active in some way.
  3. This has been driven by the rise of 'easy participation': activities which may have once required great effort but now are relatively easy, expected and every day. 60% of the UK online population now participates in this way, from sharing photos to starting a discussion.
  4. Despite participation becoming relatively 'easy', almost a quarter of people (23%) remain passive - they do not participate at all.
  5. Passivity is not as rooted in digital literacy as traditional wisdom may have suggested. 11% of the people who are passive online today are early adopters. They have the access and the ability but are choosing not to participate.
  6. Digital participation now is best characterised through the lens of choice. These are the decisions we take about whether, when, with whom and around what, we will participate. Because participation is now much more about who we are, than what we have, or our digital skill.

Through these insights we have developed a new model of digital participation: The Participation Choice.

The model of Participation Choice identifies four key forms: passive, easy reaction, easy initiation and intense participation. These are illustrated in the graphic below and discussed in more detail in the talk I'm giving at the BBC Online Industry Briefing today. As with my previous briefings (Beyond the Screens and Changing Audience Behaviours), the video of my presentation will be available for all to view on the BBC Internet Blog, next week.

The Participation Choice of 7,500 UK adult online users surveyed over 18 months from September 2010.

Together, these insights help us at the BBC think anew about both the nature and the potential of digital participation - and pivotally, inform how the BBC creates the most rewarding programmes, products and services for our audiences.

Methodological note: the Participation Choice is a synthesis of primary and secondary research conducted over the past 18 months. The data published today are all taken from the most recent, large scale survey of 7,500 UK adults - representative of the UK online population.

Holly Goodier is the Head of Audiences, BBC Future Media.

The Participation Choice BBC Online Spring Briefing is available as a PDF download.

Read Jem Stone's post 'Radio 1 and Digital Participation' over on the Radio blog.


  • Comment number 1.

    'One of the defining characteristics of digital media is interaction.'
    Of course, that is rather constrained by what is introduced to be interacted with, and how that interaction is handled.
    It can still be quite tightly controlled, with moddings, House Rulings and, of course, 'early closings' at whim of authors and editors whim...
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17180361 (closed at 2... within 24hrs)
    Or it can be more 'free', though the file and forget format can have its downsides...
    Or there is simply farming it out to others...
    Though the content generated thus far seems.. less than inspiring in number or quality terms.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sadly, if you review the numerous 'blogs' (all closed) & responses to the changes to various BBC Sports websites, there seems to be little real interest in addressing general negativity from most respondants.
    A 'Blog' is only of use if interactive & so I would ask that you please see Ben Gallop's promise to return with updates regarding the (awful in my opinion, amongst so many others) changes to the Sports site:
    It was made in February & still no updates from him or others on the issues raised, neither has there been any indication anywhere of the results of the site survey (so what use was this & at what cost?):
    Sorry, but already it would seem there's no use really in users/posters providing feedback to the BBC if it's summarily ignored?

  • Comment number 3.

    2 - Interrossiter - excellent point made and I totally agree.

    I found this Blog Post fascinating and one of the first that I have thought that at last someone is 'getting the gist' of what participation means. And how you judge the success of participation? In order to do so - you need to analyse each strand separately - they are very different beasts. Take BBC Blogs - Twitter Accounts - FB pages and other mediums individually.

    Let's start with Blogs. What are you measuring your success of participation on? Number of comments? Amount of traffic on a Blog - 'passive' Readers and Lurkers? How do you know?

    As you will know, I'm a blogger on the Being Human Blog - over 45,000 comments were posted on that Blog since the end of Series 3 to the start of Series 4 - with only 2 Blog Posts in 6 months.

    So when I see the amount of glossy Blog posts spent on Eastenders - with hardly any comments - it makes me wonder. Are you saying that the amount of 'traffic' on the Eastenders Blog justifies the amount of money spent on daily updates? Are they really engaging with the public? Is this your passive audience?

    But once again - I want to say how interesting and brave this Blog Post was. Thank you. I think the BBC underestimate how much people have to update their skills in the wake of social media - get to grips with twitter, facebook, blogging... it can be quite scary - and the only BBC programme that helps the public is Click on bbc news on a Saturday morning. Can you all not make TV programme that would help pps that would like to participate - but don't feel confident to do so? We were lucky - Our Blog Masters helped us right from the start - Barry Pilling, Garret Keogh and now Rebecca Denton. Others seem a bit 'adrift'.

    Thanks again. Really great Blog Post.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm studying this subject at the moment so would be very interested in a look at a detailed report (I assume there's an internal document/report that your presentation is based on?) There are a few unanswered questions–notably, is there a demographic bias in who chooses to engage and how do you define people who participate (is that a measure of people who have “ever" shared and participated? Or have done so within a certain time frame?). Unfortunately, your PDF of your presentation isn't really usable for someone who has not been actually at the presentation and a video of the presentation itself alone is a little “time inefficient" to look over, although if that's all there is I look forward to it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Excellent analysis Holly, great job. But it would be a million times better to release the data too.


  • Comment number 6.

    Very interesting and I would add my voice to asking for the release of the data.

    Are you though comparing apples with oranges a little when involving the 1-9-90 rule which refers to participation within an online community whereas your data seems to refer to the UK's use of the web in general rather than just their participation on the BBC site.

  • Comment number 7.

    Does anyone else think its ironic that Holly Goodier is writing a piece on online participation but has no social media accounts with which to engage in online participation?

  • Comment number 8.

    Well, the 1% rule may be on the way out for the web generally but it seems to be increasingly the norm for BBC blogs. As I look down the 'More from this blog...' section below, the blogs with the most hits show 88, 66, 47 and 28, with the rest in single figures. A few years ago some blogs had literally thousands of comments. There was debate, mostly in my experience intelligent and well informed, sometimes without doubt a bit off the rails. It was often critical of BBC policy, but the fact that the platform for such criticism was being afforded by the BBC itself was clearly valued by the contributors.

    Ruthless heavy handed 'moderation' put a stop to that. Post #1 provides the detail very well. (I'd add that the Points of View messageboard complaining about DOGs has after many years been moved recently so that nobody can find it.) If you insist on corporate boosterism and chucking bleach on everything that doesn't match up within very narrow limits you will end up with colourless user contributions. And who is interested in that?

    BTW I only came upon this blog by chance, out of a sudden sense of nostalgia, via an old bookmark. I never visit the BBC blogs these days. I hope the message the blogger has brought to official attention get noticed and proper engagement with viewers can start up again. I'll look back in a year or two.

  • Comment number 9.

    No edit button--should obviously have said "the blogs with the most [B]responses[/B] show..."


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