Local is important but only the BBC can do it

Simon Dixon gave me a useful heads-up to a very interesting snippet in Helen Boaden’s speech to today’s big Future Of News conference. Apparently the beeb have the go ahead for a project called My News Now.

This will be a service which allows highly sophisticated personalisation – so whatever your age or interests, you can get the subjects and the styles of news which you find attractive – when you want them, for the present moment or to download for later.

Simon thinks that the Beeb may be the only news organisation with the local resources to be able to do this properly.

Truly personalised news, down to ultra-local level, takes huge resources. If you’re going to offer news about my town, even my suburb, you need an organisation with someone in my town or suburb to report on it. With its local radio network, the BBC is the only organisation that comes close to this depth of coverage on a national scale.

I don’t agree. I think a lot of the regional media groups could give the beeb a run for its money in terms of content. But it does follow that the beeb are the only ones who could have the brand leverage to make it work across the uk and as wisely says:

Curiously, the only possible rival is the audience itself..?

Jeff Jarvis picks up on this point as he laments the ” long-time-coming closing of Backfence” and in explaining the necessity for sites like Backfence highlights a model for collaboration:

Newspapers will produce journalism, I hope. Individual bloggers will produce reporting, I hope. And people who are doing neither will want to contribute what they know to this pool of information without having to have their own sites. So we will need a combination of models and platforms: Newspapers will have local sites. Local bloggers will do their own thing. There is a need for group sites like Backfence or GoSkokie, which helped inspire it, where people can contribute. There is a need to organize all this; I hope Outside.in can do that (disclosure: I’m an adviser).

5 Replies to “Local is important but only the BBC can do it”

  1. Andy, Agree. Other than its advantages for branding and marketing hyperlocal/personalized news, where are the economies of scale and learning that would give a behemoth like the BBC an advantage? Actually, I think they will be at a huge disadvantage because they are a government-controlled monopoly that has never had to learn how to be entrepreneurial and compete (Steve Boriss, TheFutureOfNews.com)

  2. I agree with some of that Steve. It has never learned how to compete.

    But consumers have never had to learn to go to shop around. Good old trustworthy beeb will be there to sort it out. This will be the problem the commercial companies run in to. They want a return on the investement and in this isntance that means exploiting the very people you are hoping to attract. Not many web savvy people geenrating content will want to buy in to that kind of relationship.

    But that all may be redundent. As Simon says “Curiously, the only possible rival is the audience itself..?”. No one, not even the beeb has worked out what the change in relationship betweem them and the audience is all about. And that will be the sticking point for anyone who tries this kind of thing.

  3. The trouble is, it doesn’t matter how much you personalise a service – the service can only be so good as its content. While the BBC does a great job of providing general programming, I think there is a huge amount of potential for niche content companies to really squeeze in here. 2c.

  4. Thats true Brian. I think that the Beeb have a lot more content than most band niche companies can squeeze in but I think we are forgetting the biggest niche company(if that makes sense) of all – audience plc. Thats who will be the big players.

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