360 won’t work at the BBC

In a previous post I was a little sarcastic about Mark Thompson’s use of the phrase 360 degree content creation as he tried to outline where the BBC needed to go.

Of course the concept of 360 degree content creation isn’t as stupid as it sounds. A journalist writes a piece that is picked up by a punter who, because of particular knowledge or just plain interest, does some leg work to get or already may have some related content – a blog post, video clip or image. The punter sends this stuff to the journalist who uses that to develop the story, all via e-mail, sms or other technology, and so we have a virtuous circle.

In principle it works well because it makes the best use of the digital medium; interactivity, multimedia and transparency are all in evidence. So what’s with the snide comments and accusations of management speak?

The issue here is not the possibility to create this loop. Im all for the BBC having a go. I worry about the reality of the ability and the will of the beeb and the industry in general, to make it happen.
The BBC is broadcaster. It needs to cater for a broad range of users. Passive news consumers, interested members of the public and expert alike will land at the beebs door looking for content. However, once you engage in a loop with one of your audience all the usual journalistic imperatives associated with the broadcast model take over. Where is the broad appeal in this? Why would this be relevant to my audience? You would look to filter the content the individual perspective brings, integrate it with your content and present it based on the broader view.

The problem is that the 360 model, at least in a digital environment, is in its basic form a narrrowcast model, perhaps even a monocast model.

If your main market is broadcast then there is no room for 360 as an overriding strategy. It could work as part of your acquisition strategy, and more power to the BBC if they open up those channels in a more transparent way. But the reality is that the output process is always going to be that linear, traditional broadcast model. It strikes me that it would be impossible to have that 360 process work across the BBC unless the whole editorial structure changed.

And here is the rub. For all the talk about citizen journalism the BBC will never recognise a punter as an authoritative voice – they wont even recognise their own journalists on that basis, choosing instead to front news with correspondents and editors. That means that they play no part of the content creation process as anything other than a source. And so we end up with pieces like the journalism.co.uk piece – producers using the web to pick up story ideas, just as they have done in the past with newspaper ads.
On a broader scale this reinforces a worrying trend.

Having successfully crippled the term citizen journalism with endless debates and turf wars, the industry seems to want to embrace the term Open-source journalism. The sad thing is that they haven’t embraced the open source spirit. For the industry it’s a resource that’s free but they use it in a system that doesn’t recognise the source.

For a journalist that would seem to be a fundamental mistake.

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