Category Archives: bbc blog network

BBC’s first twenty years on the World Wide Web – or how to try and tell a digital history.

A couple of years ago I had the idea to chart the history of the BBC’s first twenty years online as a research project.  Why? A couple of approaches to me since leaving the BBC in 2008 and as Professor of Digital Media and Innovation at WMG made me think.  First could I answer a few questions to help a then PHD candidate at Kings College London Department with some background for his research on Blogging and War reporting and the BBC?  I gladly helped out and it was fascinating to see how contemporary history is codified.  It’s somehow different when its your own history that is being laid down however.   It compelled me to turn to my own archives of how we set up the Blogging Platform at the BBC , who came to me first with the idea  and what the confluence of influences were that brought the platform out into the open.  I shall write about that separately another day.

The second approach was from Tim Jones, an Innovation Expert and practitioner whom we had worked with at the BBC but who ran an Innovation practise and who was working on a group of people writing a book called Growth Champions: the Battle for Sustained Innovation Leadership.  Someone had got sick or left the project and I was asked to co-write a chapter at very short notice in the summer of 2011.  My chapter was about Apple and Lego  subtitled “Bringing Magic to the Everyday” the book looked at how companies kept sustaining their innovation leadership.  It was a great time to look at Apple rising as high as it gets.  I had a  problem though.  They don’t grant interviews.  They didn’t even reply to my email request which is a bit of a first in my experience.  To cut a long story short I turned to desk research to start out.  And what did I find?  Only people who loved Steve Jobs, or people who did not love Steve Jobs – hagiography and its opposite.  Then thankfully I found an open archive in Stanford containing Engineers memos and then I found Folklore.org.  Far from ideal not being able to get new material but it taught me a big lesson and raised a few questions.  How is the story of digital change being told?  Is it only CEOs who get to publish their autobiographies, or have their biographies written? In the age of the computer where is the history kept? On hard drives? But the stories prior to blogging where are they? Don’t suppose many people are writing memoirs or keeping diaries in the digital age, or are they just taking other forms?

Anyway it got me thinking about the BBC, how it tells its own story and how others tell it.  I worked there from 1993 to 2008 and witnessed and took part in a very exciting period of organisational transformation.  I felt sure that a lot would have been kept visible via the website from 1997 , in the written archives , perhaps in the oral history archive, and importantly in staff memories and experiences published on their own blogs or on BBC blogs.   I took my idea to Roly Keating, then Head of the BBC’s archive and Online Editor and now Director of the British Library and we talked it through.

Many moons later  I have now started the project  with the BBC History Unit and the BBC’s oral history archive and many of my assumptions have been squashed as I explain on the BBC’s About the BBC blog and develop further here.  Before April comes around again there should be a web page up with some excerpts of the oral history interviews we have conducted so far.  The first step to creating a time line that I had supposed would exist somewhere on paper!

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Filed under bbc, bbc blog network, corporate history, history, memory, oral history

….three years on.

It’s been a while.  I am very grateful to a few people nudging away to get me back into writing.  Even reading my own blogroll tells me a lot about how times have changed.   I have been Professor of Digital Media and Innovation at WMG, University of Warwick for almost three years, albeit working part time.  I’ll be blogging about my work and the digital media and innovation landscape from now on.  But first the credits!  First thanks to Daniel Bennett a PHD candidate at Kings College, London who asked me to review a chapter of his PHD thesis about War reporting and BBC Blogs.  Second to Dr. Tim Jones, who asked me to step in a co-author a chapter in the forthcoming book “Growth Champions” to be published by John Wiley early in 2012. Third to the Berkman centre for Internet Studies whose blogpost round-ups keep me informed and excited by new work in this field all over the world.  Why thanks? With time and money short there seem to be fewer and fewer people writing and blogging in depth with their thoughts.  Facebook and Twitter have changed the day to day landscape of communications beyond the graphs of early analysis. So to review in depth work like a PHD chapter or two on the history of the BBC and Blogging or to contribute to a discussion about what makes certain companies excel in Innovation leadership forced me to step back from the everyday hurlyburly and think about the last five years , or 10 years or in the case on my chapter on Apple , 35 years!  More of which to come in time.

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Filed under bbc, bbc blog network, Blogging, innovation, research

“Behind the Scenes”: how we make media @ the BBC

I’m working on a new project and in the early phases of scoping what it might be. It’s been described formally like this:

The Director-General informed the Trust that he has commissioned a major new online project which will enable the public to explore how contemporary media content is produced. The BBC believes this will be a major contribution to media literacy in Britain.”

So I have been looking at what other organisations are doing, and what BBC people (past and present) are already doing by way of talking to audiences about how they make what they make.

I’m tagging what I find on the internet on my delicious stream. Current told us how to make media from the start. Four Docs from Channel 4 is also telling you how to make but also asking you to comment.

On the media is from NPR and they say ” For one hour a week, the show tries to lift the veil from the process of “making media,” especially news media, because it’s through that lens that we literally see the world and the world sees us”

I like MediaShift by Mark Glaser at PBS. Recently he interviewed Patrick Ruffini on the use of mobile and social media in the US by Presidential candidates. And while this post is not about how we make media, it is about how media shapes our lives which is the media literacy part of the project. Looks like he has started a new area called IdeaLabs whose tagline is “Reinventing community news for the Digital Age”.

I see that Dan Gillmor is writing there, about bringing entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour to the creation of new journalism projects, though not from Beijing where I think he is right now!

In my next post I’ll describe more what we are already doing at the BBC and how some research conversations are already leading to people talking more, and showing more, about what we do “Behind the Scenes” which is the working title of the project. Alright it’s not very original. But it does what it says on the tin. Also how other people talk about us and what we are up to.

But I’d love to hear about what else is going on in this area. Who’s doing what? And any ideas about what you’d like to know about too.

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Filed under bbc, bbc blog network, Behind the Scenes, channel 4, Current, innovation, media, media literacy, npr, pbs

Blog feeds right to the new beta front page

What a week to miss back at base – check out the new bbc homepage beta version here.

The thing that leapt out at me was the prominence given to our blogs – and how you can customise which feeds you want to see right up on the front page. This is a bit of a landmark as I instigated the project in 2004, then a research project, to get the BBC into the blogosphere. We got our framework together in 2005, started the trial in 2006 and have just come to the end of an 18 month trial – you can see written about here and here. Martin Belam has been writing about the early days – but I really want to pay tribute to two or three key people. First I really have to thank Julie Adair , now Head of New Media in BBC Scotland soon to leave the BBC to work with Disney. It was Julie who pushed me hard to send her off to BlogerCon but also importantly to get some new development work commissioned for Scotblog and Island Blogging in Scotland. Julie is very persuasive (in this case though she was pushing at an open door) and she also went on relentlessly (as I recall) to push me to organise a pan-BBC blog event internally to push everyone forward a year before we did it. I also want to thank Richard Sambrook (the first BBC divisional boss to start blogging inside the BBC firewall) for agreeing to be the internal Champion for the project that launched the Blog Network. Kevin Anderson was lured over from the US by Nic Newman to help encourage BBC News to take the plunge, Ben Metcalfe (an actual blogger at the time…) helped advise – and even the people who argued vehemently that it was not the route for the BBC to go down helped us all move forward. Six divisions agreed to go forward for a trial and happily Jem Stone had some money to pay. We modelled ourselves on the BBC Podcast and Download Trial (now a service) and set out to try a few different things. I am sure there is more to be said about the research commissioned to look at the trial so far. What interests me is some of the softer metrics, harder to measure. How blogging has or hasn’t affected correspondent’s TV or radio styles? How examples of things tried with the audience on one blog may be transferring to other blogs or programmes. How the experience of blogging may be changing how we speak to our audiences and, indeed, each other?

Note to self: must go and thank Richard Titus for the icing on the cake! blog network feeds front page

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