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News & Views

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  • 16 June 2014
  • Howard Bowden

The Beeb Creates A Buzz

If I had a pound for every conversation I’ve had in the last month along the lines of ‘can we make the content a bit more like BuzzFeed?’, I’d have about 12 pounds by now. Which might sound a little, and might sound a lot – and is actually pretty significant, as more and more people latch on to the type of content that’s becoming ever more popular among clients, journalists, social media and even the BBC.

BuzzFeed, you don’t need me to tell you, is the New York-based social news and entertainment website ‘covering topics like Politics, DIY, Animals, Longform and Business’ (thanks, Wikipedia). Or in other words, it’s the go-to place for stuff like The 19 Most Highlighted Passages In The Hunger Games,This Is What The Best Night Of Your Life Sounds Like, and #AllMenCan Is A Hashtag Where Men Speak Up For Women. As I write, the top story is The 22 Most British-Sounding Words In The English Language (‘1. Bollocks, 2. Blimey…’ etc.).

I mention the BBC in the intro because at the end of last month, a new report on the future of its news output highlighted how it should ‘learn lessons from BuzzFeed in digital strategy’ – with BBC non-executive director Sir Howard Stringer pointing out that its web presence lacks ‘character and personality’ compared with younger rivals such as Vice Media and BuzzFeed (he also said the corporation is ‘punching well below its weight’ and needs to ‘add character and personality’).

And so what appeared on the BBC News Entertainment & Arts page a few days later? Er, The paintings ‘made better with cats’. Which possibly isn’t in the finest Reithian tradition for the Beeb. Or maybe it is – the BBC’s motto is ‘Nation shall speak peace unto Nation’, and if this is the digital language style which people increasingly expect globally, perhaps the BBC has no choice but to follow suit. Blimey indeed.

Howard Bowden

Head of Consumer Content