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BBC Three moving online is a massive audience gamble

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BBC3 EPG online

Not quite gone, not yet


By the time you read this, the television part of BBC 3 will be dead.

The reasons are well documented: the UK Government – which controls the BBC’s funding – has effectively cut the BBC’s budget by 25% over the last six years.

Imagine your income dropping by a quarter, what you would stop doing? Eating out? Buy fewer new clothes? Spend less on media?

The BBC is cutting right across the board. For instance, while the BBC 3 decision has been getting all the attention there are significant cuts to other youth services. Radio 1 live events coverage has been slashed by over 80%.

BBC 3’s TV stats are very good. It gets nearly a quarter of the UK 16-34 age group watching every week, for well over 2 hours. It has the 2nd highest audience appreciation rating, just behind BBC 4.  That is an enormous amount of attention that has just been abandoned.

BBC 3’s problem now is to remain discoverable by its audience, and that’s a huge, huge challenge.

With so much choice available to the target audience this is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem. We are decades into a multi-channel TV world but most people watch fewer than 17 channels regularly (US data).  Similarly the number of close friends you have in the real world is around 15.

BBC Brands in iPlayer

In a post-TV environment BBC 3 is planning its own smartphone application, separate from the main iPlayer one.  This is sensible, it needs a big bold front page and you can see above iPlayer has too many different brands to represent as it is.

However the human usage limits of TV channels also apply to apps.

You probably have dozens on your phone, but how many do you regularly use? Again, US data suggests only around 25, although the time you spend using them is increasing, but it’s nowhere near TV watching hours.

Our media usage is limited because there’s a limit to the amount of information your brain can process, and the number of hours in the day aren’t increasing.

Which is why I think losing the TV part of this brand is an enormous risk. The advantage of having the anchor of a TV channel is that it is still a useful way to stand out.  Even if you don’t watch it (although the stats say millions do) seeing it on the EPG, or encountering it during a channel flick reminds you that it exists.

By going online-only BBC 3 is competing with every other piece of content on the internet, and there’s a lot more internet than there is BBC 3.

I’m being picky here, but the recent name / logo change doesn’t help. When personal referral is so important, how do you expect people new to the brand to tell their friends, when the mark is unpronounceable?

Question: ‘Where did that come from?

Answer: ‘It’s on the line-line-exclamation-mark channel on YouTube’. Not helpful.

Getting your audience to remember you are there is most of the battle, and unfortunately, due to constant media noise, it’s a battle you can’t stop fighting lest something new comes along to distract your audience.

Getting someone to install an app on their phone is one thing. Getting them to remember to use it regularly is quite another.

Our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to new things and the brain rewards us with feel-good chemicals. To make this worse, we also suffer from recency bias: the brain puts more importance on new things when making decisions.

For marketing budgets, its expensive to acquire a new customer and you have to keep spending to retain them. I predict BBC 3 is going to have to spend far more on external advertising than it thinks it does if it’s going to keep its audience share the way it is.

Unfortunately that is more money not being spent on programmes, precisely the opposite of what the corporation wants.



Written by Robert

16 February, 2016 at 1:02 am

Digital marketing: Little and often

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A hypocrite speaks

This afternoon I had the pleasure of chairing a seminar hosted by the Media Trust all about how small charities can take advantage of using the web in general and video in particular to further their communication.

There were some fascinating examples from both Greenpeace UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

We discussed:

  • Video’s ability to explain complex ideas and express emotive messages
  • The underlying importance of social networks, particularly finding enthusiastic supporters who can at as ambassadors and help a charity develop
  • Using existing tools, going where the audience already is and not re-inventing the wheel
  • Not spreading your efforts too thinly
  • Supporting material for the main message – video has more impact if it doesn’t stand alone

What is clear in modern marketing is that big campaigns still have some use, if you can afford them, but they suffer from a long preparation,  followed by a large but short-term impact.

However, you can get a very worthwhile result from regularly putting small and simple messages out there. You’re playing the long game.

My top tip is actually very simple:

Keep a weblog. Add info it regularly. (Sharp eyed readers will notice that I don’t actually manage to do this myself. Oops!)

Link to pictures, video, other writers who resonate with your cause. Use other tools like Twitter and Facebook to send people back to your blog.

Quite apart from the conversation you can now start to have with your supporters, a weblog is a great way to prove your diligence in your chosen field. It’s also a great way of reminding yourself what you’ve been doing for the past few months.

In short, it’s a planning tool as well as being a your archive of actions. Need to get that Annual Report out in half the time? Keep a weblog and you’re doing the work throughout the year rather than in one exhausting block.

Written by Robert

17 March, 2010 at 12:01 am

Posted in marketing, Media, tools

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HuffPost tests headline efficacy

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The one above probably won’t win any awards

Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab is pointing out a very clever strategy the Huffington Post has used to discover which headlines get the best clicks.

It’s been A/B testing in realtime. Half the users see one headline, half see a different one. After a certain amount of time, the headline which has got the most clicks so far becomes the one that everyone else sees.

That’s smart.

Written by Robert

14 October, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Why would I want to be friends with a corporation?

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Sentry Parental Controls has just asked to be my Facebook friend. And this irritates me.

I don’t add people I haven’t actually met, and I don’t know Sentry from the Horseguards, so the answer’s a big fat finger on the ‘ignore’ button. But I’m annoyed that they would just send a friend request, to me in my personal space, without so much as an additional message explaining anything about them or why they might be relevant to me.

Sentry are friend-spammers.

I’ve no problem with marketing, but they’ve got completely the wrong strategy here. I haven’t heard of them before, but my first contact with them has been negative, so it’s likely that my first contact will be my last.

Why would I want to be friends with a corporation? Can’t think of many reasons, although Macfans will be able to tell you, but I bet an iPod lover’s relationship with Apple started small and personal and on the buyers terms and subsequently grew into something more meaningful. Like real friendships in fact.

Or is this the way digital relationships happen now? I hope not.

Written by Robert

9 July, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Business, marketing, social