A piece of advice, don’t do it just because you can. As reported by Reuters a pre-release of Mark Thompson’s state of the BBC’s relationship-with-audience speech. He obviously makes references to the much talked about Integrated Media Player (again!) but interestingly talks directly about personalized content, echoing my question to Ashley a couple of weeks ago.

The BBC is in danger of losing the interest of the young generation unless it develops a new breed of personalized and on-demand programming, according to Director General Mark Thompson. “The BBC should no longer think of itself as a broadcaster of TV and radio (with) some new media on the side,” Thompson said in an advance copy of a speech due to be delivered on Tuesday evening. “We should aim to deliver public service content to our audiences in whatever media and on whatever device makes sense for them, whether they are at home or on the move.”

Yep, the BBC and every other heritage media brand are going through the same evolution pains and adopting emerging media as a plug-in or morphing existing elements, but this may work even for the BBC with its 2.7 billion GBP funding. Today’s new media is more about perceived ‘non-managed’ brands – users prefer corporate ands-off, DIY services. I was speaking recently at the Sydney Opera House and mentioned that MySpace attracts its users because on the surface it appears a non-corporate, computer controlled shell, brand and not one now run by the dark side, News Corp. The BBC though probably has no option. When I joined the BBC in the mid 90s we were actually running a BBC branded ISP called the BBC networking club – a few dinosaurs will remember that 😉 It had a cult, loyal following, mostly off the back of the academic clique of internet alpha 0.1a – but when it got too big the BBC decided switched and became push’er over the web rather than pull and get among the audience, it did become very difficult to manage (staff demands etc). But as I said there is no choice so on top of personalized content Mark goes on to talk about the other stuff the BBC plan to do – the usual mix of copycat social networking, media uploads and collaborative publishing that many larger broadcasters are ‘fiddling’ with:

As part of a shift in its online and digital media strategy, Britain’s publicly-funded broadcaster said it will revamp its Web site to include user-generated content such as blogs, music and home videos, similar to the MySpace service that is hugely popular with teenagers. The BBC will run a contest that asks individuals to redesign its Web page, holding up online services Flickr, YouTube, Technorati and Wikipedia as examples. Other initiatives include a plan to let radio listeners create their own customized stations, and the creation of a teen-focused brand that will span TV, radio and broadband.

I have a great deal of respect for Mark Thomson having worked with a few years ago in the early days of BBC’s digital revolution. He realises that when change needs to happen he quickly responds (well as far as the lumbering machine of 25 000 people can) and the BBC has a great deal to offer still (being the most responsible to its audience broadcaster in the world) – but I have concerns that artificially constructing social networks and so on will do it more harm than good. OK you can throw self-maintaining, AI controlled forum at the problem, but this is more about brand rather than ‘can do’. To raise an alternate voice, given the potential and likely rush of Fox advertising into MySpace, there may be an exodus from that particular island and the refugees may actually be ready to be shipwrecked onto the last ‘commercial free’ piece of rock in the progressive media ocean – BBCSpace. OK back to the argument…
The BBC brand has always been about trusted editorial, quality of service and its amazing archive – I feel that the BBC should ‘connect’ with its audience ‘primarily’ through its this media, and allow the discussion, network to grow organically around that, rather than justifying the license fee by akwardly running a large UK social network – which will grow to where much of it will be unrelated to its media. Also the BBC should continue to push the ‘form’ envelope with more cross-media innovation, Jamie Kane and beyond. Also the initiatives looking at the BBC long tail and attaching rich metadata should now have massive resources (millions of GBP and tens of people) thrown at it before it is too late – I shall leave the last word to Mark…

“The second wave of digital will be far more disruptive than the first and the foundations of traditional media will be swept away, taking us beyond broadcasting,” Thompson said.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

Just received the link to MediaGuardian article about the above…BBC unveils radical revamp of website