Research & Development

Posted by BBC Research and Development on

BBC Connected Studio have partnered with the World Service on a programme of work aimed at producing innovative digital pilots that could help grow the reach of BBC content in Africa, as part of the BBC’s target of increasing its audience to 500 million by 2022.

The programme capitalises on the technical and creative skills of digital agencies within Africa, to develop pilot projects around the themes of language technology, chat app platforms and audio content distribution.

The World Service has an extensive and in-depth understanding of global audiences, and this has been pivotal in establishing the themes that are most appropriate for the areas being targeted based on content formats that are popular with consumers in the target area.

Connected Studio works with the World Service to write briefs for the programme and to form the structure for the process, including producing events that bring together digital agencies from across Africa and beyond to participate in generating ideas around the brief. Proposals that meet the criteria have the chance to receive funding to be developed into pilots and hosted on our audience-facing test platform, BBC Taster, where they gain exposure to BBC audiences and gather feedback, which can help shape the direction that the pilot could go if the idea was taken further.

As part of Connected Studio, BBC News Labs provides development tools; such as APIs and BBC content resources, as well as technical expertise, to assist participating teams with the integration of BBC content as part of their ideas around formats for delivering it.

So far the programme has consisted of three events; in London, Nairobi and Cape Town, from which two pilots have currently been produced. BBC Minute CatchUP was devised at the event in Cape Town, and is a player that sits on web browsers and hosts BBC Minute content, which is a 60 second news bulletin that updates every half an hour. The second pilot is BBC Drop – set to go live soon - which is a website that allows users to select the topics and social feeds that appeal to them, which then is further personalised as it ‘learns’ what a user likes as they select more content.

The next phase of the programme is currently underway, featuring a kick-off event in Lagos, Nigeria, in search of further digital ideas to help grow the reach and availability of BBC content across Africa, this time focussing on West Africa, to help shape the way they receive and access information that is relevant to them.

This has so far been an exciting programme to be involved with, as the collaborative nature of it – across BBC departments as well as with researchers, education facilities, commercial firms and small digital agencies across the world – has shown how effective a process can be when it uses the multitude of skills available across both organisational and country borders.

Whilst we continue to seek out opportunities to implement and grow the usage the ideas developed by those within these target markets, we hope to offer even more chances for people in Africa – and beyond - to get involved in projects that help shape the future of the way in which audiences consume content across the globe.