How an ‘old’ company has stayed relevant: The BBC Case Study

 “When you interact live, you feel connected in a more personal way. This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it’s going to create new opportunities for people to come together”  -Mark Zuckerberg

Communication took a dramatic turn in 1439 when the printing press was invented by Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (Gutenberg). The invention was dramatic yet limited in scope, simultaneous coverage and interactivity. Then, the Radio, Telephone, Cathode Ray Tube (CRT – from where our Television came) Technology (and the evolution of the TV away from CRT to Plasma, LCD, LED and OLED), Cable Television and the Internet (with various chat or messenger features), it seemed that mankind would have arrived at a point of satiation. Alas, Social Media, XML platforms, Web 2.0, 3.0 (4.0) came and news and media have been transformed forever making many media outlets across the globe to lose relevance.

The reality today is that, everybody is now a reporter which implies that not only must news be captured live, but it must be authentic and fluid to the point where witnesses and ‘breaking news’ followers track and interact with the news as it breaks and develops, and all of these served in an individually personalized way. The old order which has been marred lately by a lack of credibility (otherwise known as ‘Fake News’), essentially thrived on who was first to ‘Break’ the News; what we have now is an ‘all-comers’ affair which means that every smart phone is a TV Camera and every individual can create, share and discover content anytime and anywhere.  

The challenge now is:

  • How does a Media Company survive in a world of information overload and cognitive surplus (apologies to Clay Shirky)?

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) founded in 1922 (95years old) has been able to ride on the back of technology to deliver rich content via the traditional channels, digital and mobile in keeping with their strategy of global storytelling animated by a thinking with regional and local focus.  This strategy is reflected in these areas:

Traditional news that integrates professional journalism with citizens reporting:

  • Is the “old” form of journalism about to go extinct?”

Authenticity is about finding out your ‘standout’ point and sticking to it while remaining flexible to the movement of the grounds on which you stand. The ‘old’ form of professional journalism is not about to go extinct, NEVER! There would always be the need to tell a story in a robust, well-rounded manner that reveals all the sides to a story; after all, every important thing is over-determined. A stand-alone story captured as it happens (breaking news) reveals nothing of the backstory which necessarily is the basis of objective reporting. The BBC World News- Global presenter, Mr. Matthew Amroliwala had this to say when he was asked by Rashi Bisaria of Exchange4media to explain the process of News presentation on the BBC; “For us at the BBC, breaking news is just a start. We believe in verifying information and giving local stories a global perspective. Crucial facts have always been important for us which is why we have journalists in more than 100 locations to gather and verify the news.”  Oluwashina Okeleji is one of the BBC’s journalists in Nigeria.

  • The BBC style

“Even though news gathering and reporting have changed, there is still place for traditional news sources like the BBC and that’s because the BBC has evolved with time. We still answer the most important questions for viewers. If they see it on BBC they believe it. We have innovated to remain relevant in a complicated eco-system,” he added. The failure to place emphasis on the new while throwing out the traditional would amount to chasing trees for the forest. The human experience can only be enriched through news reporting when storytelling, objective truth and empathy meet at the intersection of technology.  The BBC’s style focuses on telling a story no matter how remote (geographically) and communicating the importance to the lives of every human being on the planet.”

Digital thinking that prioritizes interactivity across all platforms and defines new programs

  • Prescient works and the BBC stance

World renowned Innovation experts, Drs. Jonas Ridderstrale & Kjell Nordstrom in their bestselling book ‘Funky Business’, submitted that companies stay competitive by being different and being ever-willing to change. There is no doubt that the all-pervasive impact of the digital revolution has left media companies contending with their core identity (or shape) and rolling along with change. In a world where all the media platforms are being integrated what makes the BBC relevant despite its age and state-owned history? The BBC’s Global News Director of Sales, Marketing & Distribution, Chris Davies told Saif Ahmad Khan of Exchange4media that the BBC’s key strategy is to provide converged content that works for their audiences.

He said, “Integration is the way forward. Absolutely! There is no preferred platform. I think what’s important for us is to provide our audiences with all the platforms that they want and how they want to consume. What we are finding is that people are using television in slightly different ways than online, mobile or social. The important thing is to offer a viable product on all of those platforms. Television is far from dead anywhere in the world… When a global story happens, people go very much to their television sets to find out what’s going on and especially during breaking stories. That has not changed.

But what we are doing is supplementing that viewership with further in-depth analysis online and then making sure that news apps are regularly updating users with news alerts so that they are constantly in touch with breaking stories. It’s about making sure that we have that converged offer that works for audiences where they are, how they want to consume and when they want to consume. That’s absolutely the key strategy.”



  • The BBC strategy

It is quite obvious that the BBC deploys all the four archetypes (website and Apps) namely: content, lead generation, ecommerce and self-service across all their digital platforms. The original model is content (and it is sacred) because what a media company produces and/or sells is content but like many have found out, sticking to a content archetype can be limiting. The BBC uses the ecommerce archetype to catalogue every topic in recent time that’s related to the content you choose to look up and just makes the quest for knowledge on a subject matter easy to accomplish. They deploy self-service archetype across their apps to enable you customize or personalize their content and deploy the lead generation archetype to press flesh with you (in a virtual sense), get to know you and serve you better content through questionnaires, surveys and polls across all their digital platforms. The goal is simple; get the desired content to the user in the shortest time possible!

  • BBC & Social Media

The BBC, like no other media company, maintains very strong social media platforms (you can tell how strong and authentic a brand is on social media by the number of clone pages there are) to reach a ‘millennial’ audience that is growing in influence and affluence. The BBC always integrates comments of their social media followers in the live reporting of sporting events and this instantly improves stickability. The effective use of celebrity (who are social media influencers) and renowned pundits (themselves former football stars) to predict scores for football matches delivers excitement to this demographic and draws in even more participation from the fans of these celebrities: a poster child for the collaboration of a strong news brand and a strong celebrity brand.

  • What BBC does with Big data

Just this transfer window, the BBC keyed into the use of data analytics to develop a weekly programme to track the transfer of football players across Europe, they also developed a Football Gossip Live Show on the BBC Sport Facebook page using Facebook Live feature. Even the BBC’s offline advertising draws from this analytics framework; drive into Victoria Island from Marina and you can’t miss the billboard which displays only the Hausa service (Radio) and BBC Sport online feature. There is no limit to what a brand can do to connect infinitely with their followers if the brand listens to them; The BBC has proved that effectively. Since CNN took the hinges off the delivery of personalized news through the acquisition of software makers Zite (which they sold off a year or two ago), it has been incumbent on every media company to deliver personalized news to its subscribers or viewers.

 The BBC does extremely well in this space providing more personalized, integrated service across all their platforms; examples of this are: during Euro 2016, users of the BBC Sports app were able to personalize their BBC Euro 2016 service on their devices by setting match alerts for all 24 teams and choose to receive notifications on the line-ups, kick-off times, goals, half-time scores and results. Users were able to add the Euro 2016 teams to their Quick Links for easy access to all the content about their favourite national teams. Digital audiences were able also to customize what type of content, and how much content will show on their homepage on the BBC Sport app and online, via the My Sport service. The BBC also launched two interactive features for Euro 2016 – The Match Predictor and the Team Selector and what an immersing experience it was for the BBC users!

The result of these ventures for the BBC according to Chris Davies is, “Globally, we reached over 100 million unique browsers around the world for our sports content which is a new record for us. But the really interesting story is that the BBC Sports Facebook page during the period of Olympics reached one in four of all users on Facebook,” The fact is, the old, established paradigm still works; where great content lays, loyal surfers visit – and where there’s an audience – so follow advertisers Jonathan Gabay). The BBC, even though it is against their policy to reveal their revenue figures, must be smiling to the bank.

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