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BBC reports ‘new record’ for mobile during US election coverage

November 9th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile

The BBC has reported a “record” number of mobile devices being used to access its web content in a day with “nearly 5 million” devices visiting BBC News Online on Wednesday (7 November), as results of the US election continued to be announced.

The broadcaster began measuring access via mobile devices at the beginning of the year. The record of almost 5 million beats a previous record from the week before of 4 million, recorded during Hurricane Sandy.

In a blog post BBC News website editor Steve Herrmann said the broadcaster’s election coverage also “brought the highest traffic to BBC News Online so far this year”.

On Wednesday (7 November) the news website recorded 16.4 million unique browsers.

Herrmann said this “makes it the highest traffic day of 2012 so far and rivals our two biggest previous days during the August riots and the March Tsunami, in 2011. During the England riots, on 9 August 2011 there were there were 18.2 million unique browsers”.

This comes just weeks after BBC News started to roll out as default its new responsive site on mobile phones to improve the experience for its growing mobile audience.

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Olympic figures: BBC reports 12m video views via mobile

August 13th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Traffic

The BBC has revealed the figures showing the number of people consuming Olympics news across four platforms: desktop, tablet, mobile and television.

The BBC Internet blog reports that the broadcaster saw 9.2 million browsers to its mobile site and iPhone and Android Olympics app over the course of the Games.

The post also reveals the BBC clocked up more than 2.3 million browsers using tablets.

Writing on the blog, Cait O’Riorda, head of product, BBC Sport and London 2012, said:

Consumption of video content on mobile has been perhaps the key takeaway from the two weeks: we saw 12 million requests for video on mobile across the whole of the Games.

Overall the broadcaster had “106 million requests for BBC Olympic video content across all online platforms”.

The blog post has several interesting graphics, including one to demonstrate how people used each of the four platforms at different times of the day.

The key findings are:

  • PC usage maxes out during the week at lunchtime and during mid-afternoon peak Team GB moments
  • Mobile takes over around 6pm as people leave the office but still want to keep up to date with the latest action
  • Tablet usage reaches a peak at around 9pm: people using them as a second screen experience as they watch the Games on their TVs, and also as they continue to watch in bed

The blog also reports that the video “chapter-marking feature, enabling audiences to go back to key event moments instantly, received an average 1.5 million clicks per day. The chapter marker for Bolt’s 100m final win was clicked on more than 13,000 times”.

The most-watched livestream of the Games was the tennis singles finals. There were 820,000 requests for live video of the matches that saw Serena Williams and Andy Murray take gold.

O’Riorda states in the post:

The peak audiences for Team GB’s medal moments were bigger than anything we’ve ever seen. Over a 24 hour period on the busiest Olympic days, Olympic traffic to bbc.co.uk exceeded that for the entire BBC coverage of FIFA World Cup 2010 games. On the busiest day, the BBC delivered 2.8 petabytes, with the peak traffic moment occurring when Bradley Wiggins won gold and we shifted 700 Gb/s.

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Tablets and mobiles boost BBC iPlayer use

The BBC has reported a 94 per cent year-on-year surge in the use of its iPlayer TV and radio catch-up service on mobile and tablet devices.

New figures covering the first four months of 2012 show 15 per cent of all programme requests made in April were on tablets or mobiles – some 28 million streamed programmes in a month.

The total number of requests for TV and radio programmes rose 24 per cent year-on-year to 190 million in the period from January to the end of April.

Radio use of the iPlayer was boosted by demand for football coverage on BBC Radio 5Live. Among the most listened-to radio programmes in April were 5Live’s coverage of the Champions League (Barcelona v Chelsea), Premier League (Manchester City v Manchester United) and FA Cup (Liverpool v Everton).

The BBC said it would publish iPlayer statistics on a monthly basis from now on. The report does not include requests for web-only content (such as online news clips) – only requests for full-length programmes which have been transmitted on a TV channel or radio station.

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Media release: BBC.com records 15m unique users across Europe in first quarter

May 22nd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism, Traffic

In a press release issued yesterday the BBC announced the latest traffic statistics for BBC.com, which was said to have recorded 15 million unique users across Europe in the first quarter of the year.

Figures relating to accessing BBC news on mobile devices were also reported, with visits of “around 8.5 million users” across the world visiting the BBC News websites and apps on mobiles or tablets “in an average month”.

See the full release.

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The future of video journalism: What will audiences be watching?

May 16th, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Mobile, Multimedia

Still from 1929 film Man with a Movie Camera directed by Dziga Vertov, via Wikimedia Commons

I was asked to give a talk to a BBC Global Video away-day on the future of video, looking at what their audiences will be watching in the coming years.

The Global Video department was launched last year and makes video to run cross-platform in multiple languages on all the BBC’s Global News outlets: World News, BBC.com and 27 World Service language services. The team never makes a video just for one language or site, changing the voiceover and translating the film into two or more languages.

The future of video journalism

Below is an outline of the talk I gave on the day:

What will audiences be watching?

There are countless examples of innovations in video journalism, including many from the 40 videos a week produced by Global Video.

Here are a few examples of trends in online video journalism and innovations using emerging technologies.

Documentary:  Just as long-form journalism has a place in the digital sphere, so too do long-form video documentaries using TV and cinema conventions of storytelling.

For example, here is the Guardian’s 32 minute ‘I will never be cut': Kenyan girls fight back against genital mutilation, which recently won a Webby award.

Web native: As online video has developed, it has found its own style and some filmmakers are telling stories using a new set of rules. Multimedia producer Adam Westbrook has written many articles arguing for online video to encourage subjects to look directly at the camera, abandon the “noddy” (the way video often hides an edit by showing a clip of the interviewer nodding) and instead add a flash to white or black, acknowledging the edit to the viewer.

Storytelling: With the advent of online came new storytelling techniques such as audio slideshows, graphics and ways of visualising data. The BBC Global Video unit has its own fantastic examples, including this video made by Tom Hannen using Adobe After Effects and brilliantly telling the story of blood doping.

The Economist too is experimenting with storytelling in words. Here is an example.

Videos filmed on small, cheap cameras: The Global Video unit itself is equipping its journalists in the field with video news gathering skills. Elise Wicker from the department has written about how she has been training staff overseas to use Kodak cameras to capture footage.

Here is an example of an Al Jazeera documentary filmed entirely on an iPhone. Syria: Songs of defiance is a first-person film made by a journalist who spent many months in Syria but could not risk being seen with a video camera. This film, complete with time lapses shows how a great film can be made in the process of the edit.

Contextual video: Advances in web browsers allow new possibilities. Here are three examples made using Popcorn JS, a JavaScript open-source library from Mozilla allowing video to link to real-time web content such as tweets, Google Maps and Wikipedia entries.

History in the Streets is an audio recording uploaded to SoundCloud with locations linked so that when the audio refers to a place, the viewer is taken to that location on Google Street View and can navigate and explore.

Open Images, Open Data is a Dutch film showing a video surrounded by real-time links to content from several sites, including Wikipedia.

This example of a film about freedom of the press in France links to the source documents, demonstrating how journalists can link to data or research to back up a claim.

Development of Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker tool could allow video journalists without coding skills to produce similar video.

How will audiences be finding and sharing content?

Social sharing is key to the future of video and the format lends itself to a social experience with YouTube demonstrating how videos can go viral.

Social is overtaking search as a way to discover content. Facebook overtook Google in March as a traffic driver to the Guardian, largely down to the news outlet’s “frictionless sharing” Facebook app.

New audiences will be finding and frequently watching video on social networks, whether they be Facebook, Twitter, or Chinese site Renren.

Video is often a component of a wider narrative too. Storify is a free tool allowing anyone to curate a story by dragging in tweets, Flickr photos, SoundCloud audio and video from YouTube and Vimeo.

And platforms such as Storify, YouTube, Vimeo, Bambuser, and many more have their own communities and networks too.

Here is an example of what Mark Boas, one of the Knight-Mozilla Fellows, is doing. He is embedded within the newsroom of Al Jazeera and looking at how you can socially share content without detracting from the experience of viewing a video.

Boas told me that part of what is driving this is social, partly the second screen, partly web-enabled TV, partly browser technologies.

He is experimenting with social sharing text from within The fight for Amazonia. Content is pulled live from a Google Doc, he explained.

Writing on his blog, Boas describes the possibilities of social.

Technology is available now to allow people to chat and comment over the web. Certainly this is an experience we could build in. Imagine if you could see all the people currently watching the same programme as you and interact with them.

Boas believes this social layer is key but that it should not “significantly distract from the main content”.

He thinks the social experience benefits from integrating existing social networks and will “perhaps create new ones surrounding the video medium”.

People like to share their experiences in general and this certainly seems to hold true of video and media in general.

He has ideas for future implementations, including “the use of word accurate hyperlinked transcripts, full support for mobile devices and second-screen synchronisation.”

In an email Boas told me:

I think many like me are experimenting just now. I myself am very interested in making experiences that don’t distract too much from the principle act of watching video but I feel that the challenge here is to allow the viewer to choose the level of interactivity and make that choice as plain as obvious and seamless as possible.

3. What will people be watching video on?

Web-enabled TV: Web technologies and television are converging with the advent of web-enabled TV.

The New York Times earlier this month asked “Why can’t TV navigation be more like a tablet?” That looks likely with the next generation of viewing options, including video on demand available on games consoles and an increasing number of TV apps.

Web-enabled TV is expected to offer users an experience more like navigating using a tablet, with viewers able to control the screen by a series of touch screen gestures and swipes.

If rumours of the new Apple TV are to be believed, this may take the form of a Siri voice-activated TV made by Apple (a later development than Apple TV, a box which is plugged into a regular TV to stream iTunes content).

It is also reported that set-top manufacturer LG will be offering televisions with Google TV later this month, with features including voice activation, the ability for viewers to watch video-on-demand content and web videos and control of content by touch screen and swipes.

Google TV will also allow friends or contacts in different locations to watch video together as it will incorporate Google Hangouts, the Skype-like video option from Google Plus.

Desktops/laptops: BBC Global Video’s audience may access content on different connections than those that spring to mind when you first think of web video.

The number of home broadband connections are low in some of the countries covered by the 27 language services, with large proportions of audiences connecting with dongles and other 3G connections in some countries. Video may be easier to stream on a 3G connection at certain times of the day, and impossible at busier times.

Audiences may also use proxies to circumvent internet restrictions in countries such as China, which can give a slow connection.

Tablets: Tablets are increasingly popular in some of the countries served by BBC Global Video, and take-up is low in other countries.

Whether they become an important platform in poorer countries remains to be seen but there is no doubt that they have already become important for more affluent audiences.

And tablets can provide a beautifully tactile viewing experience, with readers encouraged to use the touch screen to play a video embedded within a news story.

Mobile: The popularity of mobile and likelihood of possibilities for video viewing should not be ignored.

It is worth noting that 87 per cent of the world population has a mobile phone, compared with just 8.5 per cent having fixed broadband. According to stats on Mobithinking, there are 5.9 billion phones compared with half a billion fixed broadband connections.

In Jordan the number of mobiles exceeds the population with 6.2 million phones to 6 million people, according to Ayman Salah, a technology expert based in the Middle East.

In Egypt there are 74 million mobiles for a population of 84 million, Salah said, with mobiles being introduced commercially in 1997. That compares with 11 million landlines, first introduced almost 100 years ago in 1920.

The BBC World Service sites and BBC.com are well served by mobile sites that recognise the phone type and format video accordingly.

But of course mobiles are not all Androids, BlackBerrys and iPhones. Smartphones are less common in poorer countries, and different brands dominate. According to the Economist, Nokia ranks with Coca-Cola as Africa’s most recognised brand.

So what is the future of video in Africa if smartphone penetration is low? I asked mobile expert Peter Paul Koch (also known as PPK online).

“Don’t focus too much on smartphones,” he warned.

Today’s feature phones are getting more and more functionality, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they add video in the near future. The line between smartphones and feature phones is blurring, and pretty soon we’ll see “feature phones” (as in cheap) with “smartphone” functionality.

And video is growing on mobile. Cisco predicts that two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2016.

Mobile video will increase 25-fold between 2011 and 2016, accounting for over 70 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.

Mobile is intimate. It is in your pocket, it is personal and is there when you have a spare five minutes to watch a web video.

What is the future of video? With a growing trend in social sharing, an ever-expanding range of devices and internet connections, including to mobile, the future is bright.

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FT: BBC officially partners with AudioBoo to add programme web clips

The Financial Times has reported that the BBC has officially partnered with AudioBoo to post sound clips from programmes onto its website.

BBC journalists have been using AudioBoo since shortly after its launch in 2009 and the Radio 4 Today programme has providing catch-up audio for some time, getting around 20,000 listens to the 24 “boos” it posts each week, the FT states.

According to the article, the deal will “result in a series of branded BBC channels using AudioBoo, which the BBC hopes will broaden its audience reach worldwide”.

The FT states:

The decision to back such a small home-grown technology company is also a big step for the BBC, which has until now limited its official media partnerships to larger companies, such as Facebook and Twitter.

AudioBoo allows users to record and share up to three minutes of audio using the iPhone app or website. It also offers paid subscriptions for those who want to record and share longer interviews and sounds.

After launching in 2009, London-based AudioBoo gathered a loyal following of journalists and well-known personalities such as Stephen Fry who gave the platform an early boost.

AudioBoo founder and CEO Mark Rock told the FT that the BBC deal “took 18 months and 38 meetings to complete, because it was the first time a large media outlet had given official sanction to his business”.

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Norwich Evening News: An interview with departing head of BBC East Tim Bishop

April 16th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism

Tim Bishop, head of region for BBC East, has spoken about his decision to leave the BBC for his new role as chief executive of the Forum Trust in Norwich.

Bishop, who will take up his new position in June, told Emma Knights at Norwich Evening News:

I feel as I leave the BBC it is in a really good place in lots of ways. Radio Norfolk has now got more local born and bred presenters than it has ever had and it is resolutely and robustly about Norfolk life.

People are very keen to knock the BBC but we would all really miss if it went. I still love it – I see its faults as well but there’s something about it.

A world without the BBC would be a lot poorer.

Bishop has been at the helm of BBC East for ten years. The broadcast region incorporates Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Bishop was previously editor of Radio Norfolk and later, editor of Look East.

The full interview can be found here.

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BBC ‘not expecting any disruption’ during World Service weekend strike

April 13th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting

Picture: copyright BBC

Following a ballot of members, media and entertainment union Bectu has announced that some staff working in the BBC World Service’s network operations will strike for 30 hours this weekend.

Journalists are not taking industrial action.

Bectu warned that “output is set be hit” by the strike but the BBC has this afternoon issued a statement to say it is “not expecting any disruption to World Service programming”.

The union’s dispute with the BBC centres on the corporation’s refusal to allow around 15 staff to join a final salary pension scheme following their transfer of employment from a private company, Babcock Communications Ltd, to the BBC late last year.

Bectu feels demands should be met because it claims some of the staff involved were allowed to keep a final salary scheme when they transferred to Babcock Communications following the privatisation of World Service Transmission Operations in 1997.

Bectu supervisory official Helen Ryan said in a statement:

This is a classic case of staff pension provision being disrupted by contracting out. When these staff were transferred out of the BBC in 1997, the BBC backed their demands for continuing membership of a final salary scheme.

Now, 15 years on, the BBC wants to wash its hands of its responsibilities to deal with the disruption to pension provision which these staff face.

The BBC has said in a statement:

We are disappointed that Bectu members have opted to take strike action … we have only allowed access to whatever pension scheme was open to new entrants at the time.

It would set an unsustainable precedent to allow people transferring into the BBC to enter pension schemes that are now closed to new members.

The industrial action will take place between 3pm on Sunday (15 April) and 9pm the following day. The staff involved route programmes to transmitters around the world.

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Salford move for BBC Breakfast confirmed for 10 April

March 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism

BBC Breakfast news will be broadcast from MediaCity in Salford for the first time on Tuesday, 10 April, after the long Easter weekend, the corporation confirmed today.

The transfer north for the flagship morning programme on BBC One completes the broadcaster’s current move of some news output to Salford. BBC Radio FiveLive has already moved, as have the children’s department and some parts of BBC future media and technology.

BBC director of news Helen Boaden said in a release:

Breakfast completes our current moves of news output to Salford. The move means we now have 400 journalists based in Salford reporting locally, regionally and nationally, helping us find new emerging stars and better reflect our audiences right across the country.

From local radio to national current affairs this will be a lively creative hub for journalism bringing extra depth and richness to our reporting.

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#ftmedia12: BBC’s director of future media on plans for ‘connected studio’

March 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Online Journalism

Speaking as part of a panel on ‘technological innovation – shaping the future of media’ at the Financial Times’ Digital Media Conference today, the BBC’s director of future media Ralph Rivera briefly introduced the broadcaster’s new idea for a “connected studio”.

The plans were first reported in an FT report earlier today, based on an interview with Rivera ahead of his appearance at the conference.

According to the report, Rivera is “keen to bolster the corporation’s reputation as a finishing school for digital entrepreneurs”.

Mr Rivera is set to announce the creation of a £3m “Connected Studio” project which aims to connect BBC developers and producers with their commercial counterparts, and establish a new technical platform for outsiders to build digital services around BBC content.

Speaking about the plans at the conference today Rivera said “the studio is that space where technology and the creative storyteller come together” and that it “made sense” to “create a connected studio”.

He told the audience this could see the creation of a virtual space and possibly a physical one also.

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