The BBCs online output is to undergo transformation. It was announced today that the BBC will cut the service licence budget for BBC Online from £137 million to £103 million (a cut of approx 25%) and eliminate up to 360 posts.
As part of this commitment to change the BBC is seeking to clarify what it will do online (and of course, will NOT do online). This includes pledges to engage with the online publishing and TV industry twice a year about its plans going forward and to double the number of referrals to external websites by 2013/14 to around 22m each month. The BBC website is probably the UKs largest, and certainly ranks globally as a destination for global online traffic.
BBC Online’s plan will focus on 10 areas: News, Sport, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge & Learning, Radio & Music, TV & iPlayer, Homepage and Search. Changes will seek to create consistent design and technical features, improve navigation, and the ability for licence fee payers (the UK audience) to personalise and access content from a range of devices.
Internally this means new ways of working such as enhanced collaboration between editorial, technical and design teams and more (and hopefully better) audience research.
Editorial focus of the new BBC Online:
— Quality News and updates backed up by multimedia content from correspondents across the UK and the world
— Entertainment and Arts section will have more coverage (recognition perhaps that in terms of TV the BBC is neglecting this area?)
— Dynamic editions of BBC Online for each (UK) Nation to reflect the interests of the audience
— Clearer focus of local sites on news, sport, weather and travel
— Sport will focus on fast, reliable, in-depth news and dynamic coverage of the best live events to bring the nation together
— Safe, creative spaces for children (who could argue with that?)
— A single offer in Knowledge & Learning aimed at a wide audience, from adults pursuing a hobby or basic skill to children learning at home and school
— Radio output will focus on live music and discovering new music as played and recommended by BBC DJs and iconic musicians
— BBC iPlayer will become a unified tv offer, bringing together TV channels, programme information, live and on-demand content
— Selected archive content will feature in TV & iPlayer and Radio & Music
The BBC is announcing a set of closures and reductions in bespoke content, community and individual programme websites and the eradication of around 200 Top Level Domains
What BBC Online will and will not do:
— Will not launch a social network
— Will not offer specialist news content for specialist audiences
— Will not publish local listings
— Will not develop encyclopaedic propositions in Knowledge
— Will not provide continuing professional development materials for teachers or a managed learning environment for schools
— Will not become a video-on-demand aggregator in BBC iPlayer
— Will link to other on-demand providers (yes, that is a ‘will’)
— Will not produce online-only music sessions
— Will not offer track-by-track music streaming
— Will not invest in exclusive online sports rights
2013/2014 is still some way away. In the meantime the brutal truth is that much of the rest of online media in Britain is facing massive pressures. These pressures include brands becoming content providers, content charging, the advertising downturn / renaissance (depending on your point of view), the proliferation of platforms, the growth of localism and the impact of new social media approaches.
Let’s be honest, despite this initially welcome news the battle between the BBC and commercial online content creators is still on . . .