The Future of Multimedia Journalism at the BBC – Pete Clifton 5/2/2010


Pete Clifton works for the BBC in Journalism and Multimedia. He spoke about the BBC’s website ( and how it has changed over the past years and how they are planning to develop it and improve it further. The website was originally a peripheral part of the BBC, but now it is a central element to the BBC.  He spoke of how the BBC has been accused of being too big and trying to do too many things for a free service.

Pete Clifton spoke about what the BBC plans to do to update their website. How they feel that there should be a look at what happens online, that the website should focus on fewer things in the upcoming year and that it should focus on its duties as a public service broadcaster (PSB). He explained how in the last 10 years, the website had moved on from the small and bad quality videos on the site in 1997/1998 and thanks to broadband video quality online has been transformed. He discussed how he feels technology interrupts viewing structures, now that things such as iPlayer are available on games consoles. Pete then said that due to this it creates challenges for the BBC, as they have to keep thinking of new services and it challenges the BBC’s dominance in a decade of mobile computing.

He then went on to say that they have already begun to update their services with ‘Democracy Live’. This provides live coverage of political venues such as the house of commons. This kind of technology is a first and was originally used for sport coverage. This technology really is advance; there is voice detection and recognition that records the coverage and allows users to search for sepcific words and then watch the videos containing the search terms and view the videos from the point the search terms were spoken. Pete also said that this will develop over the world cup and winter olympics.

Pete also talked about how the BBC plans to develop the picture galleries as they are popular and tell a different kind of story. He also talked about the search engine optimisation – this is to be done by longer headlines and had actually been improved in the last 2 years already.

There are a great deal of users of the website already, which have grown gradually to 10 million unique users in the UK. 25% of these (which I thought would be a lower figure) are directed from search engines (mainly google). The BBC plan to re-launch the website after re-building content production system, updating and refreshing and making the site more flexible. On average, users view 4 stories per visit. Pete also spoke about project CANVAS.

Critical Reflection

I was surprised to learn that the website had been going for 12 years. I think Pete quite rightly he puts critics right who say the BBC’s website does too many things for a free site,  by saying the BBC’s website is funded by the licence fee so it can afford to do all those things. Even though the licence fee does not stretch as far as it used to and other channels are beginning to want a slice of it, as they feel it is unfair BBC receives all the revenue, it still is the BBC’s so they can really do what they feel is right with the money.

Some say the BBC should focus on its duties as a public service broadcaster (PSB) which I agree with, they shouldn’t forget their roots- what they were established on. Luckily for journalism, news and sport, they adhere to the BBC’s PSB responsibilities. In regards to the quality of videos online improving in the last 10 years, this is evident when you view the BBC website, as there are now a great deal of videos online, whereas just a few short years ago the videos would be relatively unwatchable due to slow connections. It is quite amazing how far online video streaming has come in just 10 years, although in technology I suppose 10 years is a long time, especially when you look at television, games consoles and mobile phones. Pete spoke of how now things such as iPlayer are available on games consoles, I feel this is a good thing though as it allows flexibility with viewing, which in today’s society with busy lifestyles people need else they cannot possibly keep up their viewing schedules. In reference to the BBC facing new challenges with new technology developing, this I think means new technology is a positive thing as it makes the BBC find new ways to communicate, thus keeping its services new and fresh and contemporary. Also ensuring to keep the younger audience, which is important as younger generations are the future and if they lose interest because the BBC fails to evolve, then the BBC will not have an audience in future years.

Pete’s description of the updates to their services with ‘Democracy Live’, I found interesting and surprising how advance this really is; the voice detection and recognition is pretty amazing!  This I feel is just the beginning of many things to come- where it will develop to I do not know- but at the beginning of a new year and a new decade, I think it is a very exciting start.

Pete talked about the updates to the picture galleries online which is a good idea as it attracts a different audience- those who want a quick update on news stories. And also again attracts the younger audience, as now younger people cannot be bothered to read a large amount of text, they prefer to look at images that tell the story in the same, but easier way. Which is a negative thing really, it still happens so the BBC is wise to adhere to this.

The search engine is due to be updated, which is a good idea, as that is something I have noticed, the search engine doesn’t produce the results you want. It often produces results that are nothing to do with what you searched, which does not make you want to use the search engine to find news articles on the BBC’s website. Which again, is a concern in regards to the younger audiences, who do not want to spend a long time searching through endless and useless search results.

It surprised me when he said that it takes 20 seconds from newsroom to website for the stories. Also that there are 1 million users accessing video and audio. Despite this, the BBC still want to improve their promotion of video, original journalism, new articles and local content and continue inproving distinct content of the site. On average, users view 4 stories per visit, which from my point of view is more than I thought, as I don’t find the website particularly helpful- possibly due to the search engine- but on the other hand, for regular users who like to search for and read news stories this figure was lower than I expected. Project CANVAS that he spoke of was also interesting; as I think it fits in well with the BBC iPlayer on games consoles, in the fact that it’s updating technology and in-keeping with contemporary technology.

In conclusion, I found this talk really interesting. I found it good to learn about the BBC; something I have studied briefly in the past for my course; from someone who works there and to find out about how the BBC is constantly updating and facing new challenges and rising to those challenges.


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Filed under 101MC, Coursework from First Year, Coventry Conversations

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