Posts about british

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.

Back to paper

The Times of London is now printing in New York. Below, I link to a report that the Guardian is going to put out constantly updated PDFs available for printing. The Guardian also prints a fax edition in the U.S. now and there are reports they’ll be printing more.

Ain’t that ironic? They move from paper to digital to paper.

I’m not sure what the strategy is but I think that for different reasons, it’s actually a forerunner of what we’ll see here eventually: Print as value added and a promotional vehicle for the real business, online.

So far as I can tell, the only reason to print the Times of London here is to get it promotion and presence … and for Rupert Murdoch to brag that he has presses — at the New York Post — and the other guys don’t.

Clearly, the strategy behind The Times edition has nothing to do with advertising: They kept in the UK ads filled with couches and refrigerators all available in pounds sterling. Yesterday’s Sunday Times, printed broadsheet while the daily is tabloid, had a British Airways ad on the front page and it touted flights to New York, when flights from New York might have made more sense. Clearly, they’re not selling the ads and I’m not sure it will ever be worth the effort to try for a tiny circulation.

Still, the Times U.S. edition looks good. And it has lots of good reading for the subway. It’s a bit pricey for $1, considering that much of it doesn’t pertain to me. But when looking for something to read on the commute when I’ve finished my other papers, I’ve picked up the Times and enjoyed it.

But here’s my primary reaction: I wish to hell that our New York Times and other U.S. newspapers would put out tabloid or Berliner editions instead of their unwieldy broadsheets. It’s so convenient — so pleasant — to be able to read Rupert’s Times on the subway without bumping into fellow passengers or at the lunch table without overturning glasses on the table or anywhere without having to perform intricate origami just to turn the damned page. The switch to tabloid helped every European paper that made it. Clearly, readers prefer it — this can’t be cultural — and not listening to them is an act of stubborn willfulness by newspaper executives. There’s no reason why U.S. publishers should be ignoring this clear data — except that, once again, they hate and fear change. But the size of the paper is the least of the changes facing them. Having no paper at all is a much bigger change.

(I’ll write more later on the British invasion of American news media.)