Speaking to students at Salford University on Tuesday, Pete Clifton said more social media features – including the possibility of passport-type registration and user profiles – are being planned for the BBC website.
Two questions being repeatedly raised at today’s Society of Editors (SoE) conference:
- stop talking about the nationals, how can regional media get in on the digital act?
- what to do about the BBC – or the ‘boa constrictor’ as Mail Online’s editorial director Martin Clarke called the corporation.
Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall told delegates that there is a model for the local press, focusing on hyperlocal.
“There will be models that emerge: investing in SEO, local press have to do that. There’s an opportunity for local press to go very local and build revenue around this. There are models, but it will have to be off a very different cost base,” said McCall.
She went on to describe Channel M – the television offshoot of the Manchester Evening News – as ‘a good model’ for local media that could be replicated in the future.
The business risks associated with online and sustainable digital business models, she added, need to be shared regionally and locally.
Regional media will have to take ‘a real hit’ on their bottom line when it comes to online to if they are to maintain standards of quality journalism, she added.
Malcolm Pheby, editor of the Nottingham Evening Post, took up the regional press’ baton in explaining how the NEP had successfully integrated its newsroom with staff now trained to treat all news stories as rolling news to be broken on the web.
But the pervading theme of the day has been the opposition from regional newspapers to the BBC’s proposed local video plans.
Pete Clifton, head of multimedia for the Beeb, did his best to defend criticisms of the plans, saying that the proposals are subject to assessments by the BBC Trust and suggesting that the BBC could forge stronger relationships with other news providers.
Still it was comments from McCall and Clarke, whose affiliate Northcliffe added its voice to the debate today, that received impromptu applause.
According to both, the BBC’s plans present unfair competition to the local press
Cue videojournalism evangelist and consultant Michael Rosenblum, who promised to teach the audience how to beat the BBC at its own game. Key to this he said is embracing technology, in particular video, wholeheartedly and not incrementally.
In response to a question from a Rotherham newspaper publisher, which currently has no video on its website, Rosenblum said there was a demand for the content and the potential for partnerships with regional broadcasters like ITV local.
Speaking at last night’s Media Society event, ‘Broadsheet vs Broadband’, Pete Clifton, the BBC’s head of editorial development for multimedia journalism, shared the corporation’s views on user-generated content (UGC) and citizen journalism.
According to Clifton, asking for and receiving UGC helps the Beeb understand what news items have captured the audience’s attention and what stories out there are not being covered.
“It’s gathering in insights that the audience have that we can make sense of and then making it part of our newsgathering process,” he said.
On moderating the vast amounts of images that get sent to bbc.co.uk, Clifton stressed that verifying these was an enormous and serious task. A team working on the BBC’s UGC ‘hub’ have been trained in Photoshop fakery and verifying contributors for this very purpose, he said.
“The day we just put those up without any questioning of whether that’s right or not is the day we’re in very serious trouble.
“It’s gone through all the filters that our journalism would have gone through. It’s quite labour intensive. We’ve another arm of our newsgathering operation – it can ultimately add to the richness of what we do, but we shouldn’t take it lightly.”
Providing an outlet for this UGC and navigating a path through it is all part of the site’s wider remit as a ‘guide’ to alternative views and content online, said Clifton.
Speaking at yesterday’s preview of the Telegraph.co.uk redesign, both chief information officer Paul Cheesbrough and digital editor Edward Roussel said the new site was aimed at ‘deeper engagement’ with users.
Both declined to comment on whether the new site would bring success in terms of ABCe figures, even suggesting the amount of content/page views per user was more important at this stage than an increased numbers of visitors.
“If we have doubled the amount of content that each person is consuming [by the end of the year] then that’s great,” said Roussel.
The current average for the site is 16 page views per person per month, he added.
A raft of improvements have been made in the new design to address the issue of engagement. Firstly improved search and navigation features to help users find the content they are after more quickly and keep them on the site.
Changes to the site’s servers have also been implemented with a series of international servers set up so the experience of accessing the site is the same wherever you are, Cheesbrough explained.
These changes were made necessary after ‘power outages’ on the site last year, which brought Telegraph.co.uk down for prolonged periods. In contrast the site is now the fastest news site behind the BBC, Cheesbrough claimed.
One of the most significant changes for me – and the one which lends itself most immediately to both engagement and traffic goals – is an increase in embedded video.
Following hot on the heels of the BBC and FT, who have both made the move to embedded video, the new Telegraph.co.uk will embed its video content within articles across the site and lose the standalone Telegraph TV player box on the homepage.
The BBC’s Pete Clifton told Journalism.co.uk previously that the conversion rate – the number of people reading the text article and viewing the video footage – was around 40 per cent for embedded video and only 2 per cent when video was housed in a separate player.
Initial trials of embedding on Telegraph.co.uk have produced similarly positive results, said Cheesbrough, with a 30 per cent conversion rate for embedded videos compared to a 3 per cent rate for Telegraph TV.
It’s a logical progression that boosts views and keeps the user engaged for longer, and is part of what the team behind the Telegraph redesign refer to as ‘the concept of the article as the homepage’.
This shows an awareness that the homepage is no longer the main point of entry – around half of the site’s traffic comes through aggregators. Putting as much effort into the design and accessibiilty of every page of your site, as most publications put into their homepage, could well be a winning strategy for both traffic and engagement.
Pete Clifton, head of editorial development for multimedia journalism at the BBC, has said 47 per cent of the 17 million weekly unique users to the BBC News website come from outside of the UK.
Around half of these users, he told the Online Publishers Association conference, are from the US with a strong ex-pat following, but growing interest from US nationals in the BBC’s news coverage.
The site is also popular in India and Canada, Clifton added.
The BBC is to phase out the pop-up player that it currently uses to host the majority of its audio and video content in favour of a newly developed embedded Flash player.
The new player has been developed jointly by the journalism and iPlayer teams, so says the BBC Internet blog, as a replacement for the pop-up which relies on using Real or Windows Media formatted video.
Use of the new payer has so far been limited, but over the coming weeks embedded video is expected to become the norm.
It’s hardly surprising, last year Pete Clifton, head of BBC News Interactive, talked to Journalism.co.uk about the experimental use of embedded players across the BBC News online.
During that interview Clifton said that initial tests had shown up to a 40 per cent conversion rate, where people reading stories were also watching the embedded video.
In its standalone player format, he added, the conversion rate was about two per cent. Channel 4 News found about the same.
But he also touched on a another significant point; video embedded into stories, he added, was proving to be popular with audiences as these videos tended to dispense with the traditional news ‘package’ format, instead just showing the footage necessary to enhance the text story sitting beneath the embedded player.
Getting this right is as important as changing the technology to a more user-friendly approach.
So it’s win-win. Better standard of content and technology for the user, fewer headaches for the developers having to reformat all the video
The Crown Jewels indeed.