For years, the BBC was the proverbial elephant in the room no one wanted to talk about. And until recently, UK newspaper publishers considered themselves safe to go about their business publishing in a different medium.
Then, as so many of these stories go, the Internet arrived.
According to the Economist (sub req’d) UK newspapers now find themselves in danger of being stampeded by a once-lumbering giant, who, as it turns out, is smarter and faster than anyone had imagined.
For those of us Stateside, here are a few facts about the BBC you might not know:This public-service broadcaster’s improbable success has collided with the realization that the UK’s newspapers must support flagging offline sales with aggressive online news revenues. (Total newspaper readership has fallen by 30% since 1990 and, predictably, the overall readership has aged.)
• $27 million spent this year on its news website
• $93 million spent on its other 524 sites (such as this)
• 5,000 journalists worldwide
Breaking even has been a bit of a challenge for the other news sites. None have the depth of content that the BBC has or the ability to keep readers on their site for more than few pages. (The Guardian, which is the most successful news site, gets only about half as many visitors.)
And fewer page views means fewer opportunities to monetize readership. Yet some papers, The Guardian included, are finding ways to make a profit or get close to breaking even. And the BBC has even been making an effort to link to other paper websites. But, unless they get creative, the trickle-down approach to readership growth will likely be of little comfort.
And when you consider the BBC’s continued skill at providing multimedia and user-contributed content, UK newspapers and, perhaps all Internet newspapers, are in for a jolly good time.
The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth by Cory Doctorow: “Unlike Hollywood, the BBC is eager and willing to work with a burgeoning group of content providers whose interests are aligned with its own: its audience.”
I have recently been allowed by the BBC to set up a blog “outside its universe” yet linked to and promoted by the program I work for (Newsnight, the nightly current affairs flagship): the blog is at www.newsnig8t.com and will cover the run up to the G8 Summit in Scotland next month. I’m using proprietory tools, not the BBCs, and the editorial regime relies more or less on self-restraint. It’s the first time anything like this has been tried inside the corporation and we’ll be trying to draw some lessons from it once the Summit is over. AFAIK only the Guardian newspaper in the UK has fully embraced blogging, although others are about to launch. I am keen to hear and publish feedback. Also questions.
Thanks for sharing this Paul. Good luck with the project.