What!? We’re saying that you could look to the BBC, that bastion of guidelines, policies, multiple reporting lines and warring fiefdoms, for a lesson in decisive, agile product launches? Strange times indeed.
This is a special case, though; BBC News Online, before the iPlayer, made the single greatest argument for the BBC’s ongoing value in the digital era. It reaches huge audiences, the content is top notch, as is its user experience.
On the 15th anniversary of the BBC News Online launch, UK tech site The Register has the inside story of how a handful of brilliant political operators, nuanced technical architects, and journalism visionaries navigated Aunty’s byways to build one of the worlds greatest news services.
Scoop! The inside story of the news website that saved the BBC has four parts:
For me, who worked in a similar bureaucracy for twelve years, The Register’s story raises an interesting question. Now, we can clearly see that the BBC news online team’s political effort, conflict, and compromises were, for all the pain they caused at the time, a minuscule price to pay to start the service. But that’s partially because they were leveraging a gigantically powerful and valuable journalism operation; the BBC. If you had to fight the same-sized political battle in a tiny news operation, there’d be a temptation to start a new business outside old practices and organizations, and you’d expect the cause of journalism to be better off. Bureaucracy is a fact of life at a big organization like the BBC, to be minimized wherever possible, but inevitable at some level. There’s clearly a continuum between a small-town newspaper and the BBC, and somewhere along that continuum the reward for political effort is greater than the cost. Where’s your company?
Twitter is not just a closed coffee shop among friends. It goes out to hundreds of thousands of people and you must take responsibility for it. It is not a place where you can gossip and say things with impunity, and we are about to demonstrate that.
Andrew Reid, lawyer for Former Tory Party treasurer Alistair McAlpine, to the Daily Mirror. Tweet revenge: Tory to sue 10,000 Twitter users who branded him a paedo.
The News: Earlier this month the BBC’s Newsnight aired a program about an unresolved sex abuse scandal that took place in UK children’s homes in the 1970s and 1980s. In it, Newsnight linked an unnamed Conservative Party member to the crimes but, oddly, never actually named him.
Soon, however, Twitter users were identifying Alistair McAlpine as the unnamed politician. Which he isn’t, or wasn’t, as the case may be.
In the aftermath, the BBC’s director general George Entwistle resigned and two BBC news executives, Helen Boaden, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell have “stepped aside.”
Now, McAlpine intends to sue those who tweeted and/or retweeted the allegations. The Daily Mirror reports that 10,000 people have been identified.
Today, I also read the diary written for the BBC (in Urdu) and published in the newspaper. My mother liked my pen name ‘Gul Makai’ and said to my father ‘why not change her name to Gul Makai?’ I also like the name because my real name means ‘grief stricken’.
My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was. My father said that he smiled but could not even say that it was written by his daughter.
14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, in her 2009 diary for BBC Urdu, about life under Taliban rule.
She wrote the series under a pen name until the Taliban were driven out of Swat, after which her identity was known and she won a national award for bravery, as well as a nomination for an international children’s peace award.
On Tuesday, she was shot.
A Pakistani Taliban spokesman told the BBC they carried out the attack.
Ehsanullah Ehsan told BBC Urdu that they attacked her because she was anti-Taliban and secular, adding that she would not be spared.
Malala Yousafzai was travelling with at least one other girl when she was shot, but there are differing accounts of how events unfolded.
One report, citing local sources, says a bearded gunman stopped a car full of schoolgirls, and asked for Malala Yousafzai by name, before opening fire.
But a police official also told BBC Urdu that unidentified gunmen opened fire on the schoolgirls as they were about to board a van or bus.
She was hit in the head and, some reports say, in the neck area by a second bullet, but is now in hospital and is reportedly out of danger. Another girl who was with her at the time was also injured.
1. The model which has guided many people’s thinking in this area, the 1/9/90 rule, is outmoded. The number of people participating online is significantly higher than 10%.
Above is just one finding of 6 by BBC’s Holly Goodier, who has spent a good deal of time assessing online participation patterns in the UK. Here are the other 5, which she and her team culled from a general agreement that the former audience is becoming more and more active online:
2. Participation is now the rule rather than the exception: 77% of the UK online population is now active in some way.
3. This has been driven by the rise of ‘easy participation’: activities which may have once required great effort but now are relatively easy, expected and every day. 60% of the UK online population now participates in this way, from sharing photos to starting a discussion.
4. Despite participation becoming relatively ‘easy’, almost a quarter of people (23%) remain passive - they do not participate at all.
5. Passivity is not as rooted in digital literacy as traditional wisdom may have suggested. 11% of the people who are passive online today are early adopters. They have the access and the ability but are choosing not to participate.
6. Digital participation now is best characterised through the lens of choice. These are the decisions we take about whether, when, with whom and around what, we will participate. Because participation is now much more about who we are, than what we have, or our digital skill.
See here for more on the 1/9/90 rule.
On March 1, parts of the BBC were unable to access e-mail and other internet services, possibly due to an attack caused by its systems being overwhelmed by a flood of external communication requests.
Recent attempts were also made to disrupt the Persian Service’s London phone-lines through multiple automatic calls and to jam two BBC Satellite feeds into Iran.
Though Director General Mark Thompson would not comment on the details of these attacks, he did write a blog post last month on interference and harassment of BBC Persian service by the Iranian authorities.
via BBC News:
The revelations follow Reporters Without Borders “Enemies of the Internet” report which was released at the start of the week.
The free-speech lobby group reported that Iran and some of the other countries on its register “censor internet access so effectively that they restrict their populations to local intranets that bear no resemblance to the world wide web.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard created a “cyber army” in 2010. Hundreds of net users have been arrested and some even sentenced to death.
The BBC is the world’s greatest broadcaster, but it isn’t perfect and it does sometimes get things wrong.
BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten.
So, to ensure amends are made more quickly and apologies are administered when appropriate, the BCC is launching a corrections and clarifications page online, and due to recruit a new chief complaints editor. BCC Trust has also outlined 7 new proposals to improve the efficiency of the complaints process, which are open for public assessment.
This comes as titles in the newspaper industry introduce such columns within their printed pages, as launched by the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the Metro last year. In evidence to the Leveson inquiry at the beginning of this year, editor of the Telegraph Tony Gallagher also said he “may need to consider” the introduction of a corrections column ”in due course”.
The proposals can be viewed here.