Is the BBC really falling out of love with blogging?

From reading recent media news you might think the the BBC’s passion for blogging was cooling.

First off, we learnt (via the Times initially, and then confirmed by the BBC) that the corporation is to significantly cut back its web content and reduce the number of online staff.

Then on Tuesday evening, BBC political editor Nick Robinson said he no longer read the comments on his own Newslog. Rather than widening the political debate, commenters were “people who have already made their minds up, to abuse me, to abuse each other or abuse a politician”, he said at an Election 2.0 debate at City University London.

Finally, as academic and blogger Alfred Hermida flagged up, the BBC Strategic Review labelled the blogosphere as “vast and unruly”. The report says:

Above the vast and unruly world of the blogosphere, professional media power may actually concentrate in fewer hands. Individual plurality may increase but collective, effective plurality decrease – with societies around the world left with fewer reliable sources of professionally validated news.

Professor Hermida, who specifically researches the BBC,  was surprised by the language and suggests reminding director general Mark Thompson that the BBC is part of the blogosphere itself:

Perhaps Forrester analyst Nick Thomas when he says that “Mark Thompson does not ‘get’ digital in the way that even his much-maligned predecessor John Birt did.”

But before we get carried away with the BBC’s blogging / web apathy, let’s take a step back. Malcolm Coles’ easy-read guide to the Strategic Review comes in handy here.

For one, as Coles notes on Econsultancy, halving the number of sections on the site is not quite the same as halving the size of the site. “The overall quality will be improved by closing lower-performing sites and consolidating the rest,” he reports.

And proactive web interaction will be developed. From Coles’ post:

The BBC also plans to open up its programme library (outside the areas with high commercial value) “over time” within BBC Online as a publicly accessible ‘permanent collection’.

The review says it will make programmes available on demand “alongside the component parts of those programmes (segmentation), programme information (full catalogue) and additional, complementary content (programme support”. And the site will look to deliver audiences through propositions like the BBC’s Wildlife Finder “which maximise the public value of archive programming”.

(…) It’s pledged to “turn the site into a window on the web” by providing at least one external link on every page and doubling monthly ‘click-throughs” to external sites: “making the best of what is available elsewhere online an integral part of the BBC’s offer to audiences”.

Anyway, read the report – or Coles’ summary – for yourself. PDF at this link.

2 thoughts on “Is the BBC really falling out of love with blogging?

  1. Peter

    Getting the impression the BBC, having embraced much, is more falling out of love with bloggers.

    In addition to the points noted in the piece, in complement there do seem to have been some moves to reducing that pesky ‘other viewpoint’ problem, especially when ball and pitch is controlled (ironically even if co-owned by those being controlled) by them.

    Perhaps the key is in the name: British BROADCASTING Corporation.

    Doesn’t really lend itself to input or engagement really.

  2. Jem Stone

    I work for the BBC in this area however its worth noting that the Strategic Review doc also says: (Malcolm missed this bit !)

    “Audience input or feedback—whether before
    or after content is created—is becoming an increasingly valuable creative stimulus for
    producers. Entering into a dialogue with the audience around BBC content, responding to their
    comments, enabling them to rate content and attach descriptive labels or tags to it and
    recommend it to others, is a powerful—and as yet mostly untapped—resource.

    Participating in,
    linking to or otherwise showcasing the public discussions that audiences have about BBC
    content is also important; the BBC does not have to host the discussion itself.

    These characteristics of digital public space are transforming the BBC’s relationship with
    audiences. Some of the unspoken truths on which the BBC has often operated—that
    professionals know best; that control is always the way to ensure quality; that audience
    contributions are valuable but must be crafted or editorialised to be of most value; that the
    audience must only be given the finished product; that professionals will create more content
    than the audience—are being contested and overturned. To fit itself for the future, therefore,
    the BBC must demonstrate a willingness and an ability to engage in an open discussion about
    itself, its values and its operations. How the BBC fulfils its public mission will become a dialogue
    between the BBC and its audiences and contributors—meeting the public’s demands for greater
    levels of visibility, openness and accountability. ”

    and then on page 60

    “It will strive for greater
    transparency in its editorial decision-making explaining, where appropriate, the editorial
    decisions and dilemmas faced by teams across the BBC while protecting its creative
    independence. Initiatives like the Editor’s Blog…. show the way, creating
    opportunities for the public themselves to question and challenge the BBC’s decision-makers in
    an open forum. “

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