Exploding TV: The atomic bomb

At the Picnic in Amsterdam — which, sadly, I couldn’t attend because of various duties — Matt Locke, head of innovation at BBC Future Media and Technology, sings sweetly to this pew in the choir about the real structure of media. The Guardian’s Mark Sweney blogs it:

The good news is that the BBC turned out to be the most commonly referenced big brand [in blogs].

The bad news is that just 0.3% of the millions of blog posts analysed referred to the BBC.

What does this all mean? It means that what the BBC does, creating programmes, is just a tiny ‘atom’ in the new media world and how on earth can you grow that 0.3%?

The likes of YouTube and blogs equal cheap forms of production of content.

You can’t ‘own’ all the relationships audiences have in the web world so the best plan is to ‘atomise’ content, disintegrate, to ‘explode’ into places where they are.

Amen, brother. I said sometime ago that media is not about owning content or distribution. It is about relationships. And Locke is quite right: relationships are also not something to be owned. Sweney continues:

Here we go, he has four rules/lessons/options for large media companies, this ought to be interesting. Hmmm, I seem to have come out of it with 5 – perhaps one is an example.

1. The BBC is not making programmes it is making ‘atoms’, tiny elements going everywhere in the digital landscape. The controversial Creative Archive is an attempt to “unlock” elements, “atomise the archive”.

2. Decentralising production. BBC Backstage project. Not to get too techy but this seems to be where clever people are allowed to create applications. One chappy created a system that tailored the BBC news output into “moods” – good or bad – by scanning for key words such as ‘festival’. 90 have been built in the last year and some might get commissioned.

3. Host successful sites and communities and don’t try and re-invent the wheel by doing a “me too” MySpace or YouTube. They are already out there so provide content and engage with them. . . .

4. Be an aggregator. Like the MTV guy said yesterday TV channels can be aggregators. Example: Radio 1 site pulling in content that refers to the radio brand from the likes of Flickr and YouTube. . . .

5. Don’t panic. Linear TV is not disappearing. Broadcasters just need to take different strategies and roles in different media. Example: Creating a virtual festival complete with streaming video footage within Second Life of an event held in the real world.

I had coffee this week with Richard Sambrook, the BBC’s director of global news and world service, just to compare notes. I come away from encounters with the BBC impressed that even with its gargantuan size and leaden history, culture, and structure, it is still able to innovate and explode assumptions. Contrast this with the talk among American newspaper companies in a post I’ll put up shortly. You won’t hear them talking in such blunt terms about the fundamental change in media.

  • bittorent

    The thing that holds back the BBC is that every innovation must be checked and approved by the BBC Governors and the regulator Ofcom. The BBC iPlayer (which will offer seven days of viewing on a PC) would surely have been launched months ago if it wasn’t for this fact.

    ‘Auntie Beeb’ is under constant attack from the likes of Rupert Murdoch and other commercial vested interests.

  • Miso

    Biggest, most common reactionary mistake big media is making in response to the new media space…

    “4. Be an aggregator.”

    Wrong. If you are an established original content provider (i.e. NY Times, BBC, etc.), your status is only made more secure by aggregators. With the BBC’s of the world, aggregators have nothing to aggregate. After all, all their content is referential, not original. Right now aggregators are sexy, so everyone is panicking. But nothing trumps original content. If the BBC chief really thinks the path to success is becoming an aggregator, they will be spinning their wheels for nothing. Alas, becoming an aggregator (when you’re already an original content provider) is indeed doing a “me too” move, just as he advises against.

    Aggregators are great, but they can only survive with original content sources. Instead of getting scared, original content producers need to simply find ways to simultaneously open their content up for broader user-distribution, and find ways to brand that content so it is harder to strip away its branding identity. Open the content, secure your brand identity, and watch the others flounder in confusion.

  • http://www.rosenblumtv.com Rosenblum

    For such a large organization the BBC is probably the most aggressive in terms of its understanding of its necessity of morphing. This is driven by the fact that Mark Thompson and before him Greg Dyke understood all too well that the notion of a TV license fee, paid for the priviledge of owning a tv set in the UK is an anachronism that technology has obviated. While Ofcom has approved the next ten years of the BBC Charter, it is likely that it will be the last approval they will receive. If they dont reinvent themselves, they are likely not to survive. There is no rationalization for asking people to pay £120 a year to see ‘television’. Not in an era of broadband. The question now is whether the staff will be nimble enough to make the necessary changes.

  • http://www.test.org.uk Matt Locke

    Miso,

    You’ve got slightly the wrong impression about my use of the term ‘aggregator’. In the talk at Picnic 06, I emphasised that the BBC’s core strength was as a storyteller – making great content and being a platform for our audience’s stories. To illustrate the ‘aggregator’ point I showed an internal demo we’ve built that aggregates all the external content – youtube, flickr, technorati, google news, etc – tagged with one of our brands, in this case Radio 1. This was to illustrate that one of the ways we can reflect the conversations going on *around our content* was to aggregate these conversations, utilising the power of the generic aggregators that are already out there (flickr, youtube, etc).

    I didn’t suggest that we should move into ‘generic’ aggregation, but that we should be the best place on the web at aggregating the conversations inspired by our content. Of course, if we’re not making great content in the first place, there’s no point in us doing any aggregation…

    matt

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  • http://www.getshawty.com Kaitlin Nici

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