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March 04 2010

14:57

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.

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