Monday, May 28, 2007

Media in the Network Era: Can BBC 2.0 Deliver on its Vision?

BBC surprised many observers last year (March 2006) when Mark Thompson, BBC Director General delivered a talk titled-- BBC 2.0: Why On Demand Changes Everything. He outlined a bold vision that goes beyond what many media companies had done till then, which was to embrace the web. The following excerpt captures the essence of his vision for BBC.

The second chapter in the web's history requires other changes from the BBC: a much greater focus on content management and supported metadata to allow for sophisticated search and navigation, a shift of gravity from text towards rich audio-visual content across the piece, an engagement with user-generated content, user-recommendation and personalisation which goes beyond anything I've touched upon this evening.

And it requires a different kind of BBC, a BBC that continues to generate content which drives public value, but now content that can last and which can be repurposed over time and across multiple platforms. (my italics)

Not a traditional broadcaster with a rather good website but a deliverer of high quality content over the web and other digital channels with, yes, some rather wonderful traditional TV and radio channels still in our portfolio.

That's a transition that will take place over time but that's where we're headed: towards the BBC 2.0.

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I was wondering how BBC was transitioning to offer value in the 2.0 world and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had developed a set of fifteen principles for the Web. In the spirit of web 2.0, these principles (officially signed off by BBC management) are in perpetual beta! I think that list is a good starting point for any company that is crafting business strategy using the global web as the business infrastructure. The slides used by Tom Loosemore of BBC during a keynote in March 2007 are located here.

When I look at the following six principles, I see a consistent logic of principles that capture the essence of strategy 2.0.

Treat the entire web as a creative canvas (#5), Make sure all your content can be linked to, forever (#8), The web is a conversation. Join in (#6), Maximise routes to content (#10), Let people paste your content on the walls of their virtual homes (#13) and Link to discussions on the web, don’t host them (#14).

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BBC now has the approval to launch its BBC iplayer "which will make BBC Television programmes available for download, free for UK licence fee payers, at high quality, with no advertising, for up to a week after transmission." But, it is still limited to UK (perhaps due to some constraints of how BBC is funded) and does not use the global web as the creative canvas.. More importantly, it seized on the YouTube phenomenon by launching the BBC channel on Google's YouTube. BBC managers deserve credit for this innovative move.

Still, many of their content are not yet available for users to repurpose and upload to different websites in the spirit of principle #13 (letting users paste BBC content on their virtual homes) or #10 (maximize routes to content).

The media landscape is likely to be the sector leading the web 2.0 revolution and it will be interesting to watch the moves of the different major incumbents throughout the world as they recognize and respond to the opportunities and challenges of crafting winning strategies in the network era. BBC has clearly outlined its vision and commitment to 2.0. I--for one--will be watching to see how quickly BBC delivers on the vision reflecting the fifteen principles.

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