Bringing the BBC Manchester Blog Project to an End (is only the beginning...)
- 28 Mar 08, 04:06 PM
The BBC Manchester Blog will be closing on Sunday. When Richard Fair and I launched it in August 2006 we had high expectations, not just of the blog itself, but of how the blog would help us to trial a new model of how the BBC and other broadcasters could engage with what the industry calls "user generated content". Our first post explained:
"For years, the BBC has been looking at ways to engage more directly with it's audiences. We've promoted email addresses on air and asked for photo submissions, we've stuck comment forms on the bottom of articles, we've spend countless hours building message boards and community platforms, our staff have reviewed and approved millions upon millions of messages - and what have we learned? That all this is expensive business.
In the past, whenever the BBC has sought to do something with user generated content we've built new platforms, taken on the role of managing all the content that floods in, asserted some rights over that content (although not ownership in the vast majority of cases) and, some would argue, exposed the BBC to legal and moral risks. Furthermore, doing things in the old way had a bit of a sting in the tail - if a service really took off, and sometimes they did, the BBC would actually face increased costs because our services often don't scale well.
This project is an experiment in doing things a bit differently. Rather than building platforms, we want to help people create their own stuff on existing third party (non-BBC) platforms. Instead of contributors sending us content members of staff here at the BBC sifting through that content in a bid to find the good bits, we're simply going to ask contributors to tell us where they're publishing their content online and we'll keep an eye on it. The BBC won't claim any rights over the content and won't own anything..."
As part of the project we ran a blogging workshop and organised some informal blogger meet-ups. And then you invited us to yours. We read your blogs and invited some of you to read your posts on the radio. We quoted from and linked to your posts and many of you linked back. Basically, we did what bloggers do through their blogs and comments and links - we had a conversation.
We have yet to write the final review of the project, in part because our time to work with the model came to an end a long time ago but the blog has carried on under a different guise. That said, below we've provided a brief summary of some of the key things we've learned from the project:
- Being part of the community by participating as equals, as opposed to participating as a broadcasting organisation keen for new content but not interested in the community, brings with it many editorial and personal rewards.
- Even if you use time saving tools such as RSS, social bookmarking and technorati, sifting through content and write posts that quote from and link to the best bits.
- People don't necessarily blog or post content about the topics, stories and events that media organisations might hope they would - and, in our experience anyway, rarely post about news and current affairs.
- As a stand-alone proposition, the amount of staff time and effort spent was high in comparison to the quantity of content generated and size of audience served. But, when we were able to use the contacts and content we found through the blog on-air that equation immediately changed. That is, in resource terms, the blog was costly as just a blog but much more efficient as a driver of radio content.
- The best way to get noticed online is links and the best way to get links is to give good links yourself. That is, you have to play by the established rules of engagement and, online, that means linking prolifically.
Many of the ideas, tools and techniques we used as part of the BBC Manchester Blog have since been embraced by other BBC Blogs, websites and programmes. Indeed, word about the model we created for the BBC Manchester Blog has traveled far and wide, sometimes taking us with it, influencing a number of interesting projects elsewhere.
We'd like to thank all of you who took notice of or participated in the BBC Manchester Blog. You'll find links to some great Manchester blogs in our sidebar.
Finally, we'd like to say a special thanks to our good friend Kate Feld who, for a few months at the beginning of the project, became the BBC's first ever local on-air blog reviewer. If you want to delve beneath the surface of Manchester by reading it's blogs, Kate's Manchizzle is, in our opinion, the epicenter of the local blogging community.
Best wishes - and happy blogging.
Robin Hamman and Richard Fair
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