Although covering breaking news and offering analysis has been at the core of the BBC’s output for decades, the broadcaster has spent the past three years creating a better editorial strategy to fulfil the needs of its global audience by responding to six user needs.
The 41 language services at BBC World Service now categorise articles in the following ways: update me, give me perspective, educate me, keep me on trend, amuse me and inspire me.
It is a way to reach younger audiences while differentiating themselves from publishers around the world – ones that BBC languages just cannot compete with.
“At some point, BBC languages stopped growing internationally as competitors came in and overtook us,” said Dmitry Shishkin, formerly digital development editor, BBC World Service, at the Google News Innovation Forum on 7 December 2018. Shishkin has left BBC in January 2019 and he is currently working as chief content officer at the UK media startup Culture Trip.
“Every person that wakes up and consumes the news will have already seen the headlines of the local providers, so the BBC has to be delivering something different.”
The six user needs come from BBC research into audience behaviour around the world, which showed the needs vary depending on where you are.
“The majority of newsrooms still think that ‘update me’ is the most important need, but through data, we have seen if you start addressing the other needs on a regular basis, you grow,” he said.
“The markets are quite different – there are markets of want and markets of need – but now it is great to see journalists are not pitching just the story, but also what user needs they will be applying.”
In 2017, the broadcaster undertook its biggest expansion since the 1940’s launching 12 new language services in Africa and Asia in just nine months.
Audiences expect news publishers to satisfy their needs in six ways:
1. Update me
2. Give me perspective
3. Educate me
4. Keep me on trend
5. Amuse me
6. Inspire me@dmitryshishkin says we need to address these different needs in order to reach younger audiences #GNILondon pic.twitter.com/CYmL1NLXWu
— Caroline Scott (@CScottVideo) December 7, 2018
The six user needs were implemented as soon as each new team was set up, whether it be in India, Ethiopia or Eritrea, for example.
With the established newsrooms, Shishkin’s team would analyse three months worth of content and then come up with an action plan and recommendations.
In one case study, BBC Russia was found to be producing 70 per cent of ‘update me’ stories, even though they were only bringing seven per cent of page views.
“We have been addressing this in the last two years, with old teams and new teams alike,” he said.
“It is useful to get a bunch of editors in a room, and ask them for three headlines for each user need on a particular topic – you suddenly have loads of interesting ideas you didn’t have before.”
Shishkin explained the six user needs have revolutionised the way the BBC has projected itself around the world and the way they are trying to carve out media niches in different countries, from Indonesia to Latin America. Roksa
“You will only succeed if you understand why you exist in the market, and what your niche is,” he said.
“Interpret the data, take out the key learnings and explain it to the rest of the company – if you pull together in the same direction, the growth will come.”