Once again the BBC has stolen a significant and innovative march on its mainstream media competitors by launching its Manchester Blog. This is no ordinary blog but a serious attempt to involve others in the creation of content.
In essence the BBC will support other bloggers producing text, audio and video with advice, training and links that drive traffic in their direction. In return the BBC will have access to the content, within the fair-use rules, for broadcast and online use.
Robin Hamman, the BBC English regions’s community producer with responsibility for user-to-user interactivity, outlined the project in the first post on Wednesday. The plan in a netshell:
- We’re looking for one or two participants in each each of the ten boroughs of Manchester
- We’ll organise a series of workshops for participants. During the first we’ll talk participants through the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines and talk about about the BBC’s production values. Then we’ll ask participants what sort or content (text, photos, video, audio?) they might want to create and we’ll match them up with a BBC member of staff with production experience in that area.
- Participants will then be shown existing 3rd party, that is non-BBC, websites that will enable them to publish their content online.
- BBC Manchester blog staff will then subscribe to the RSS feeds of each participant and keep an eye on what they publish. We’ll always link to the front page of their content, so long as they don’t break the BBC’s editorial guidelines, and when they publish something we think deserves to be highlighted we’ll do so in the main body of the BBC Manchester blog.
And this is what Hamman says the bloggers will get out of it:
- The participants will get access to production advice and bespoke tutorials on creating and publishing content online using the tools of their choice. When their content is highlighted, they’ll get (hopefully!) a burst of traffic from the BBC Manchester website. We’ll do everything we can to help participants make their participation self-financing but won’t be offering payment.
- BBC Manchester will have the opportunity to build relationships with users/content contributors in a much more sustainable way in the past.
- The BBC Manchester blog will act as a showcase for the project and, in particular, the best content that’s been produced by contributors and highlighted by the BBC. This will be a “one stop shop” for BBC Manchester journalists who may want to read out content on-air, contact contributors for background information about a story, reuse a gig review on the website, or even ask a participant to go on Northwest Tonight (our regional TV news) to explain something they’ve covered online.
On his personal blog, cybersoc.com, Hamman says: “In a nutshell, those running or supporting the project hope that the blog will allow us to learn how the BBC can engage with people creating and publishing local content on third party (non-BBC) websites and services [eg. flickr, various blogging platforms, youtube, etc].”
I have quoted extensively from Hamman because this is a significant development which everyone in MSM should be watching very carefully. By providing support to bloggers and insisting on adherence to editorial guidelines this is a considerable step beyond the sort of participation in journalism we have seen in the UK up to now.
And the BBC is serious about it. The Observer today looks at Jana Bennett, the BBC’s director of vision (How does an organisation that comes up with such job titles innovate?), and quotes an anonymous former executive saying: “She is effectively deputy director-general.” She says: ‘I think we should be open to the idea of a channel becoming more porous and embracing user-generated content.”