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News on the go

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 13:45 UK time, Monday, 24 November 2008

How do you get your news at different times of the day? When do you want headlines on the radio and when do you sit down and watch a TV bulletin or log on to see what's happening? And, of particular interest to us right now, how do you keep up to date if you're out and about or commuting?

A graphic of the BBC News websiteWe've been carrying out some audience research to ask people these questions, and we've been specifically asking whether and when they use their mobiles to get news (or sport, or weather or travel). And if they don't, whether they ever would.

As part of the research, volunteers were asked to fill in news diaries, drawing a chart to show when and where they normally get their news.

The results showed:
• Most people were getting their news and information in a whole variety of different ways and from different places in the course of a day or a week
• The researchers described each person as having a "news ecosystem", where an individual might read several papers, hear news on the radio, look at various websites and/or TV channels for news
• The habits of the modern news consumer were described as "increasingly eclectic and multiplatform"
• As for mobiles, people were typically using them for headlines, major stories and areas of specific interest

BBC mobilesAs mobile devices get smarter and connectivity better it seems reasonable to expect that people will increasingly be using them to do some of the things they already do on a desktop PC - look at a map, check a train time, buy something online, look at headlines or football results.

Take-up of news on mobiles is indeed increasing. For the BBC's mobile services overall, there are currently about 3.2m UK users a month, and this has grown by 25% over the past year.* But that number is still very small compared with those accessing the BBC website overall (22m unique users per week**). My colleague Paul Brannan wrote about some of the possible reasons for this earlier in the year - cost (data and handsets) being one of them.

But on the basis that more people might take to getting their news via mobile if they try it, we're running a campaign over the next few weeks to publicise how to get the BBC News website on a mobile phone, and simply to tell people it's there.

Here's what we'll be showing on the website. What do you think? Do you have a "news ecosystem"? Will your mobile overtake your PC one day as the way you get online news and information - or maybe it already has?

* This is claimed reach on the M:Metrics monthly survey; it was growing faster up until Sept 07, but is now 26% year on year (Sept 07-Sept 08).
** Unique users are not the same as "people" so the figures are not directly comparable but this is now our currency for reach.


  • Comment number 1.

    Granted that my habits will be far from usual, but the number of times I've sat down and watched a live news broadcast during 2008 could be counted on my fingers. No need for thumbs.

    I've listened to plenty of radio news while making the dinner or commuting in and out of work.

    And I've read a lot of BBC News articles on a PC at home and in work, and thumbed through plenty of text only news on a Blackberry's shrunken screen. Blog feeds a plenty too - from a wider range of news providers.

    But the main video news has been clips embedded in blog posts, news articles and the BBC News front page. Of course, fast forwarding through the interesting bits of The Andrew Marr Show or The Politics Show leads to news consumption too ... but set-piece, on the hour bulletins on TV are for digesting in smaller chunks on demand and not in real-time.

  • Comment number 2.

    Twitter is increasingly becoming my news-on-the-go source.
    With official news sites posting to twitter, I get short headlines, an opportunity to learn more if I need, and easy availability from just about anywhere in a host of formats.
    Plus I get updates on friends (and relative strangers too!)

  • Comment number 3.

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

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    "Do you have a "news ecosystem"?"

    Hmm.. I thought I did, but I've used the cream, taken the antibiotics and all seems to be fine again now...

    Where do you dream up this tosh ?

  • Comment number 6.

    Steve, could you please tell me what song that is playing in the advert you have included in your article? Thanks.

  • Comment number 7.

    I am in the USA like millions of UK Citizens / Expats. I still have a house in the UK and pay my license but BBC restricts what I can watch whilst travelling abroad.

    There seems to be NO answer except a total BAN. I can have a Slingbox that works. I can use one of proxy/DNS routers. Given there are so many work-arounds and many TV shows you CAN show abroad why don't you go international.

    The US broadcasts all the time to the UK (I Know, when I'm in the UK, I can watch US TV).

    Please, rather than think of ways to block us, think of ways to help us.

    Heck, we'd even pay !

  • Comment number 8.

    I used to spend my whole day with BBC News 24 on in the background on a TV (originally the cable TV only service, then via ONdigital and Sky Digital, then Freeview) but the only time I ever watch it now it is online, either from or from (better picture).

    The BBC News Channel (as it now is) seems to lack the "personality" it used to have, so I find it less essential for breaking news, as this seems to be handled by the web much better now.

    It is still a shame that the BBC News Channel audio can't be fed to DAB Radio, because BBC Radio 5 Live is not a news service any more. Today on Radio 4 is great in the morning (aside from the pointless and irritating religious slot) but the station just sounds "old", even compared to the great BBC World Service Europe.

    The other thing now is that I never access BBC News from the site itself, I use the RSS feeds for the things that interest me and scan them directly from Google Reader.

    Often the stories that interest me come via Google News's agrigation service, which finds just "my things" for me and stuffs them into more RSS feeds.

    I've finally got myself a Google G1 mobile phone with "unlimited" internet and I find this great for reading my RSS feeds on the move.

    The service I use the least is that of the "BBC Red Button" service on Freeview and Freesat. This only ever gets used "when the internet goes down" AND I get stuck somewhere with no reception.

    This service is very third rate, with headlines but no depth whatsoever. Which is a shame as it people with digital TV should really expect to be on the "right side" of the digital divide as everyone has to pay the same TV Licence.

    Still, this is all about devices and access - the quality of the BBC news is still generally very high.

    So don't forget about the "digital poor" who have no computers and mobile devices, improve the Freesat, Sky and Freeview digital TV news to include depth for these people. Even if they have to wait a little while like with Ceefax.

    (and why is it "BBC Red Button" what is the matter with the 30-year trusted "Ceefax" brand? iCeefax perhaps for digital TV - great name I think).

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 9.

    Radio has always been a much more versatile media than television, fitting as it does into whatever else you may be doing. BBC's Five Live has been, for the most part, a reasonable attempt to provide "news on the go" whatever the programming content may have predetermined. But it does have major shortcomings and lacks depth on anything that is not "major".

    Using the Internet is a fine way of obtaining different and deeper interpretations of the news. The BBC has much valuable information on its website although it is not always the best source of informed comment and, in my opinion, lacks neutrality far too often. Too often the BBC appears to copy the commercial market's need for "sensationalism".

    My criticism of the technology at the present time are the assumptions made by broadcasters offering a services. For example the BBC has increasingly favoured text messages via a mobile instead of emails or phone calls. Broadcasters (including the BBC) seem to focus on particular expectations of their audience as if they are focused on a profiled target audience rather than true diversity. This is not something the BBC should do and is a breach of their Charter. Commercial stations are targeting for advertising revenue but the BBC has no such excuse.

    Because the BBC has spread its services so wide it is ignoring many in its audience who have no access to additional devices (as described by Briantist).

    We no longer have news services that offers much more in depth reporting. On programmes like Breakfast and Drive the familiar interviews are present but the depth and cutting edges are absence. It is almost as if the presenter assumes a deeper knowledge of the subject matter beyond the headline article without providing this on air. We do not hear adversaries having a ding dong battle on air which often yields much more than a muted conversation between presenter and contributor.

    I feel that broadcasting lacks passion in its content. It is as if a PC wand has been waved over the air and emotions are something that we must not savour (unless of course it is a distraught "victim"). I find this negative and bland and a good reason to turn off the broadcast and find passion elsewhere - down the pub maybe!

  • Comment number 10.

    Imv, affordability determines.
    Which begs the question, who is the news aimed at?
    Au moment, I bet the mobiles of money folk are red hot.
    Me? I have the time for BBC News -on line and Freeview. I only buy a Sunday newspaper.
    So where does that leave you?

  • Comment number 11.

    The mobile news content is excellent, and I view it all the time. I don't, however, understand why you pretend to give me a choice of format under "preferences", but in actual fact I am not allowed "desktop version", despite the fact that my device (an N95) is capable of viewing it. Nanny BBC again.

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

    As a self confessed news junkie since 16, I catch up on News on a variety of platforms. BBC News Channel remains the number one spot, which I like to watch from time to time. Sometimes you just want news, sometimes you want analysis (so hence I watch Newsnight regularly) Then there is the BBC News website which is the home page on all the computers I use. Radio is very good for breaking news, particularly when I am out and about and although I agree Five Live isn't great, it does serve it's purpose for my news needs. Finally there is BBC Mobile which I use now and again, when I am too far from a television or broadband connection. (Or just cannot be asked to switch on either)

  • Comment number 14.

    @andyteg you said "sometimes you just want news, sometimes you want analysis" which reminded me of frustrations the day after the US election.

    Though I don't want to wait to half ten at night before getting access to analysis - even it will be timeshifted the next day!

    News Channel seemed intensely reluctant to allow any analysis to develop in the Washington studio, and flipped between quick snippets in the US and UK. Any time someone started a serious conversation (eg, paper review between two US journalists discussing how the old fashioned press had affected the campaign) it was curtailed and the focus was thrown back to London.

    @Briantist you say "It is still a shame that the BBC News Channel audio can't be fed to DAB Radio, because BBC Radio 5 Live is not a news service any more. "

    You share my frustration between the end of Breakfast and the start of the soon-to-go lunchtime news and Mayo/Drive!

  • Comment number 15.

    I would agree: multiple news sources are crucial if you want any hope of knowing what is going on.

    I don't think the major news sources lie - ie deliberately tell us something they know is not true. But they do filter and spin.

    For example - on here you may read the US dropped a bomb in Afghanistan, it killed five people and some local person says they are all civillians. On the Times website you will hear that the house which was bombed was a taleban HQ and 3 of the 5 were tier one taleban leaders.

    No one is lying, but they choose what to tell you to push their own agenda.

    Read both versions and you (may) have some idea of what is going on.

    (Shame no one will employ a good mix of journalists with a variety of politics so we get a variety of versions from one source.)

  • Comment number 16.

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

  • Comment number 17.

    Problem with added analysis -- it adds more fuel to those who try to gather evidence that the BBC is biased. Analysis almost always features opinion -- not matter how it's written. A minefield for the BBC.

  • Comment number 18.

    My ecosystem... The Today Programme, R4 for lunchtime news, and then PM on the way home; The Guardian (print) during the day in bits; 6.30pm I go online, check the BBC website, the Guardian website and the al-Jazeera English language section. Later on, normally just after midnight I will return to these, with added Times of India if I have the time. TV news? Never, unless Ipswich have been playing and there's a chance the evil that is Look East might show snippets.

    I have a separate eco-system for tech news that I inhabit in a similar way. Never considered myself to have eco-systems before, I quite like it!

  • Comment number 19.

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

  • Comment number 20.

    For me I tend to have the BBC News Channel on during the day when there's nothing else on. I'll certainly watch it more than I would a regular news bulletin on BBC1. What I don't like about the channel is the way it gives up at the weekend and shoves half hour programmes like The Weather Show and the utterly useless Your News. I don't understand why the running news service can't be continued during the weekend! (Although Click is greatly appreciated!)

    If I've just come in and I can't be bothered turning the laptop on I'll get the headlines from BBCi, though I agree that articles should go into more depth than the two pages of info and the two "In More Depth" articles.

    On my old phone before Vodafone started charging for even the most limited internal WAP sites I'd quickly use ITN's page to get the latest, though reading a large article on a small screen has never appealed to me. I've visited BBC News on my mobile once or twice but still the charges put me off, even if it is a few pence! I'd only really use it if I was in the middle of nowhere for a good few hours and desperately wanted to know something.

    I can't comment on the radio since I never listen to it.

    As for that advert, it's good but you have to remember that not *that* many people really know how to navagate a mobile browser. It took me ages to work out how to input a URL. All the advert says is that it's possible to access BBC News on your phone and then gives the URL. Perhaps you could direct people to a website that would give advice on how to actually input an address on your phone.

  • Comment number 21.

    BBC News Mobile will undoubtedly be another welcome means of accessing BBC news coverage - but have you completely lost your minds with the trail for this new service?

    scenes of death and destruction followed by the killer endline 'where will you be next time?'

    i have some suggested improvements...

    have a young couple snogging in a treehouse while they watch footage from a nokia of the last polar bear balancing on an ice floe.

    hallelujah sung by leonard cohen should soundtrack this

  • Comment number 22.

    My news habits:

    (a) listening to Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland every mornng (excellent program!);

    (b) dipping into BBC News website occasionally through the day if there's business/political/sports news I want to follow;

    (c) very very occasionally using my mobile (see below for rare example);

    (d) regular viewing of Channel4News/Newsnight/Newsnight Scotland/BBC News24

    (e) broadsheet newspapers

    (f) BBC World Service

    The only time I can ever remember using my mobile to check the news was last summer when I wanted to find out whether play was back on in the England/Scotland cricket match when sitting in a cosy pub was a better option than sitting in the rain...

    I watch BBC News at 1 o'clock/6 o'clock now only under duress - it's been so dumbed down than I'd rather get the news from the radio. Watching pretty young journalists of either sex gesture at a backdrop with powerpoint-style graphics whilst reading from a script about a subject they don't appear to know much about is not my idea of a newsreader. When the graphics are more important than the actual news, it's become entertainment rather than news.

    My general request of the BBC News team: please put as much thought into how you continue intelligent "talking heads" journalism as you do into new "soundbite" channels. It's what you can do really well.

  • Comment number 23.

    What really annoys me is when a radio station says something like the weather wll be cold more details on the website arrrrrrggggg no good when on the motorway.

  • Comment number 24.


    Whilst I would agree that most news providers are not "lying" in the strict sense of the word there is a fine line between misdirection and deliberate deceit.

    In this age of statistics and computer analysis it is far too easy for anyone to discover a "link" between one thing and another, or a "reason" to doubt the efficacy of something read or said. There is also dangerous preconception or bias on the part of presenters or journalists that goes unchecked by editors or producers. When programmes are designed around preconceptions, broadcasters are playing dangerous games. The hype before and after Obama's election is a very clear example of this, as was the "invasion" of Georgia by Russia.

    Taking Five Live as an example of this you can easily tune into one interview where the presenter is empathetic with the interviewee and another where the hostility is neither justified nor coherent. Much of the time responses or agendas are set by political correctness when balance is needed. Hence a discussion about a minority group may be unnecessarily and inappropriately biased in favour of the minority from the outset. I have particularly noticed biased handling of input in late evening shows - Bacon and Nolan for example - where there is little control of discussion when attacks are made on those who disagree with a presenter - this is clearly not neutral or balanced.

    The level of deception can be observed from soundbite news headlines where sentences change slightly with every bulletin. Often it is rather like listening to the description of a photograph developing when "getting in a judgment as quick as we can" is rather more favoured than waiting patiently to see "what" the photograph is. That suggests that the BBC behaves competitively rather than responsibly.

    The delivery of news on the go is itself a preconception that it is a "good thing" and probably comes from the idea of a "scoop". In my opinion it is the measured and comprehensive story that is the real deal. If we all lead our lives through sound bites we would be in a lot of trouble - come to think of it we actually already are.

  • Comment number 25.

    I put BBC1 on in the morning to catch the Reporting Scotland bulletins, but I don't really watch any other news bulletins. I do sometimes put News 24 on when there's nothing else on.

    I sit in front of a computer all day at work, and I occasionally read through the BBC News website. Sometimes I do this on my iPhone if I'm at risk of cluttering up my screen to much if I do it on the computer. I tend not to read the news on the go all that much.

    Other news sources that I use, such as Ars Technica, are only available online.

    I get the Herald's daily headlines by email, which links to the stories on the website, but I also read the physical paper during lunch at work sometimes.

    I used to use RSS feeds a lot, but it started turning into a giant to-do list, and if I didn't tend to it daily it would become unmanageable. So now I tend to use the websites directly.

    I also used to listen to a lot of podcasts, but again found that I was downloading more than I had time to listen to. I'm going to try listening to the BBC's NewsPod and see how that goes.

  • Comment number 26.

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

  • Comment number 27.

    One big problem I have with the BBC Mobile website is that the content is so restrictive. Especially as my Nokia N95 has the ability to render full BBC web pages, especially when connected by broadband why not provide an option to view the full BBC website.

    As an example I saw a headline on twitter from bbcbreaking and clicked on the link. Now because I was in France it took me to the international web only front page and for the life of me I couldn't find an option to view eiither the full site or a UK page.

    Incidentally, the bbcbreaking twitter feed is a great way of getting headlines, just the right balance of really important/interesting stuff.

  • Comment number 28.

    I wonder if BBC will get removed from America...for breaking the house rules. I'll write the FCC and find out.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think you should give the opportunity for different points of view to be voiced.

    I want to see working class writers from all communities, ALL religions, and that includes single mothers, junkies, people on low wages etc regardless of colour. I want to know their opinion on everything, including these unelected community leaders or members.

    I don't know about you guys, but I'm getting fed up with reading about people from Cambridge or Oxford have to say. (apologies to those who do have something to say.)

    I wouldn't even mind writers from all classes who have had real life experiences.
    I am saying this because I have a suggestion ;

  • Comment number 30.


    A very good post that highlights the absence of truly representative news delivery. We need cross-class coverage because the license fee is not based on ability to pay - we do not get it because the media is occupied by the middle classes. How can anyone earning £25k or more know what the problems of someone existing on the National Minimum Wage are?

    The BBC deliver a protectionist service. The Corporation is insular and defensive, especially since the Dr David Kelly affair. It is not prepared to forage on the edge where Government policy may be encroaching on all our freedoms.

    I note that there is no Have Your Say or Blog on the subject of Damien Green and potentially insidious action by the Home Office and Metropolitan Police. Does this not suggest that the BBC has dirty hands courtesy of our ruling classes?

  • Comment number 31.

    I have no tv as i do not wish to pay to be indoctrinated with leftwing propaganda everytime i switch on.I do read the news online,but even there it is so biased as to be worthless for forming an opinion.
    I would also like to see more proper news,not celebrity adoration.

  • Comment number 32.

    It is nice to be able to get
    the news on the go!

  • Comment number 33.

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

  • Comment number 34.

    Apart from the 6 oclock news which i watch most days, its 50/50 my mobile and the internet.
    With the unlimited surfing on the mobile contracts for £5 ive been spending more and more time surfing on my mobile.
    Its Great
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 35.

    How do you get your news at different times of the day? When do you want headlines on the radio and when do you sit down and watch a TV bulletin or log on to see what's happening?

    I would say that in the morning when I am drinking coffee I usually skim the Internet to see recent news, then I try to listen to the radio. Through day I sometimes try to read press and in the evening. Oh boy in the evening I watch TV for about an hour to see what happened and what is going around the World. Just my 2 cents. Tom

  • Comment number 36.

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

  • Comment number 37.

    There seems to be NO answer except a total BAN. I can have a Slingbox that works. I can use one of proxy/DNS routers. Given there are so many work-arounds and many TV shows you CAN show abroad why don't you go international. Sarah-[Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


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