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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

Top consumer trends from Ericsson #MyThoughts

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Ericsson's trends


I love documents based on prediction, because they are beautifully hard to disprove, after all anything might happen.  I’ve just read Ericsson’s ConsumerLab report on the consumer trends of this year and it’s a fascinating look not into what scientists think is going to happen, but what the general public predict.

The problem with asking the (mainly non-science trained) general public about what they expect to happen in matters of science and technology is that they will always apply much shorter timescales to things than are generally realistic. I am possible only marginally more informed than the random sample, but here’s my reaction.

Ericsson says: Early adopters are less important

Absolutely. Innovation now happens so fast (because it has become much cheaper for people and companies to innovate) leading to so much choice, making it difficult to discern a consumer trend. This is because as soon as one product iteration has been released, it is just a few days before another spurt-of-the-new confuses the public all over again.

“Successful new products and services now reach the mass market in only a matter of years”

I think Ericsson are off with their timescales here.

With services particularly (I’m thinking software) this can actually happen in months.  The report notices the increased speed of mass adoption ‘the network effect’, but consumers are becoming more fickle. The ever changing market is teaching us to be technology magpies and we flit from one new shiny thing to another. Today it’s a smart watch, before that, Flappy Bird.

 ” as the speed of technology adoption increases, mass-market use becomes the norm much quicker than before”

I sense a tremendous marketing opportunity for services which can appear to be exclusive, whilst still benefiting from the economies of scale of a very broad appeal product. Blackberry used to know what this was like. Remember when ‘important people’ had a Blackberry handset? It was a status symbol which thanks to a quirk of its messaging service became hugely popular with the younger crowd. But then it became uncool (because we are fickle) and the brand was tarnished at the same time. The exclusivity was gone.

TV companies definitely know what this is like, and it’s why a broadcaster like ITV has diversified into a clutch of sub-brands each known for a particular specialism. ITV2 for new and trendy, ITV3 for people who prefer the way television used to be.

The kids are watching video on the internet – Streaming Natives

I fail to see why this is still worth mentioning. Its so obvious when you compare with another market like, well a market. Would you prefer to shop at the single butcher, baker or grocer for the limited amount of time they are open, or would you prefer to go to a big supermarket and do everything at once and benefit from the increased choice, the lower prices and the longer opening hours?

20% of 16-19 year olds watch more than 3 hours on YT daily

People like television, kids particularly so. When I was in my teens, my mum was forever trying to get me to stop watching TV. I watch even more TV now than I did then, mostly because it’s so much more convenient (and because I don’t live with my mum anymore and she can’t tell me off).

AI ends the screen age

No it won’t. At least not in the 5 year term predicted. First we will get more versatile screens that are bigger and that we can fold up in our pockets. As for talking to an artificial intelligent assistant. We already do that. Except we don’t. When Siri and her ilk appeared, my friends loved to experiment with it. They don’t do that anymore. (We are fickle).

Short instructions to AI systems seem to work much better. Telling my Echo speaker “Play BBC Radio 4” never gets old because I like listening to Radio 4.

50 percent of consumers think holographic screens will be mainstream within 5 years

Here’s that problem about the general public and timescales.

50 percent of consumers think holographic screens will be mainstream within 5 years? Really?  This is a technology that has yet to see life outside a lab. I have my doubts that internet-connected light bulbs will be mainstream in 5 years, and you can buy those today!

AI poll results chart

Strangely, the one thing that the general public thinks the least good of the ideas is the one I think will massively take off. VR dating. What a time-saver for the initial sift of potential spouses to happen remotely! No more uncomfortable and expensive dinners with people who are obviously not a match.

55 percent of smartphone users believe that homes will have embedded sensors within 5 years

Hooray, something I believe will happen. However, given the speed it takes to build and replenish housing stock, I don’t see this becoming anything like mass market for another decade. In the meantime, we will have to cope with a competing bunch of home sensor systems that will harm early adoption, along with the threat that your home can be hacked.

65 percent of smartphone owners are interested in an emergency app, which would alert them in a crisis or disaster, and provide verified, rumor free information

Only 65%? I wonder what the rest wanted? This is clearly a new and necessary role for public service broadcasters. I see a renewed need for organisations like the EBU (aka Eurovision) to provide links between trustworthy newsrooms and maybe have direct access into their various apps to provide and share exactly this kind of infomation.

Everything gets hacked

It’s fascinating that people have caught onto the probability that consumer electronics security is an if not when event. I know many professionals who haven’t worked that one out. Although again, the thing they rate as least likely, wearables, I rate the opposite.

Hacking poll results chart

I wonder if people are actually rating the effect a hack might have on them and seeing wearables as immaterial. Either way, they are wrong.

One statistic stands out to me: 43 percent think we will be required to identify ourselves whenever we use the internet within the next 3 years. The creeping surveillance state propaganda appears to be working.

In summarising, the report (like many) quotes William Gibson: the future is already here. Though it suggests that future is much more evenly distributed this time round.  I am not so sure.

The things that still matter, are still the things which require the most effort, or the most money, or both: A breakthrough medicine for HIV, replacements for the ticking timebomb of antibiotics, a reusable rocket, the self driving car or what we end up doing with our rubbish.


Written by Robert

19 January, 2016 at 8:57 pm

Data security in newsrooms is a massive unknown – the worst thing we can do is ignore it

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There are two types of newsroom. Those that have lost data, and those that will.

Last week I was at Eurovision’s news conference – NewsXchange. It’s a fun and thoughtful annual gathering of leaders from (mostly) public service broadcast newsrooms across (mostly) europe.

I produced a session about two currents threats to journalism as I see it. The first is that journalism is increasingly put into the same category as terrorism when it comes to government investigations. This has massive implications for protection of journalists’ sources. If we are unable to keep a secret, because terrorism legislation forces us to reveal it when asked by authorities, how can we expect a whistleblower to trust us with information which is absolutely in the public interest?

The second threat is that large media organisations are increasingly seen as a prestige target by hackers. One example: TV5 was taken off the air for around 18 hours earlier this year.

At the start of the session I asked the audience a set of questions about their news organisation and security of their data. They voted using personal push-button handsets. I want to share the results here as we didn’t have enough time in the session to analyse them in detail.

If you are relatively new to data security threats, they might shock you. Sadly, for the most part myself and the experts I had with me on the panel found some of the results all too predictable.

I should stress this is not a statistically accurate survey, it is simply meant to be an indication of the thoughts of the people in the room at the time.

Using a VPN

VPN use: An easy one to start with, and I’m pleasantly surprised that over a third of people use a secure connection on their own computer.  However the number of people effectively saying ‘I know I should, but I don’t’ is where I expected it to be.

Data safety in the field

Data safety away from base: I asked here specifically about how reporters treated any data-carrying equipment once it was out of the office. How well do they stick to the IT rules?

I was particularly interested in the results of option two, as it’s an indicator of the extent to which corporate IT policies get in the way of newsgathering workflows. In many cases side-stepping the rules temporarily in order to speed the story back to base is acceptable as long as you’ve assessed the risks well enough.

I wasn’t prepared for a full two-thirds of the voters either not knowing when their reporters might be taking risks with important data, or not knowing what procedures were even in place!

Mobile phone data safety

Mobiles: I’ve seen this on many occasions.  A reporter can’t get their work phone to do what they need it to, so they use their own phone, and half the respondents do not think this is an issue! The danger here is that a personal mobile phone is far more likely to be a ‘leaky’ data device. For a start, what happens if it gets lost or stolen with contact details of anonymous sources on it?

Newsroom data breach expectations

To what extent are you expecting a data breach: I am glad to see that most people are realists. It is extremely hard to prevent attacks, what matters is how you prepare for one and what you do afterwards. (The data theft from UK phone company Talk Talk had occurred just a week before. It was the third such attack and the company head didn’t even know if the data was encrypted or not! Astonishing.)

Effectiveness of protection systems

How effective do you think your corporate systems are: At least 20 percent of the respondents have a false sense of security, half need to ask better questions of their IT chiefs. Only a third of those who pushed a button are ready to properly plan for the attacks that will certainly come.


A quick note to the results: I’m displaying the questions in the order they were asked, but I don’t know the total number of votes that were counted, and of the 180 or so people in the room, not all would have voted and not all might have voted for all the questions.

I always welcome insightful comments. If you know something which would add to our understanding of these results, please let everyone know.



Written by Robert

3 November, 2015 at 12:29 am

My radio apps choices for Radio Festival’s Techcon14

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On behalf of the BBC Blue Room, I’m presenting a couple of sessions at The Radio Festival and Techcon (for engineers and technicians).

This morning I outlined some apps I think show interesting trends for the radio and audio industries, and for reference, here they are, with a couple of additions I didn’t get a chance to show.

The first three are all examples of text-to-speech developments. There are many organisations trying to achieve reliable mechanisms to automatically create speech radio.

Soundgecko – for Android and iOS

This takes any webpage or RSS feed and turns it into speech. The computer voice is surprisingly listenable!

Newsbeat – for Android and iOS

Newsbeat adds many more options for customisation and features a combination of computer speech and real human voices to. Weirdly, I find it hard to tell the difference sometimes, not because the computer voices are so good, but because the human voices can be very robotic.

Umano – for Android and iOS

This requires subscription to unlock all the features, but even without a mobile you can get a good idea of what’s it’s like by looking at their website.

Umano is fully human speech. How do they achieve this? The power of crowd-sourcing! You can audition to become an Umano reader, and then upload your finished readings. The users themselves select the stories they think should be turned into audio.

A couple of examples of content companies who have looked at the trends in online music listening and are seeing how they can use those in speech radio.


NPR diligently tag all their live radio and their app creates a live-sounding news and current affairs station. You can tell it what you like, it will start to give you more of that. I like it a lot.

CBC Radio – just for iOS so far

It doesn’t have the personalisation features of NPR, but if you want programme segments, rather than hour-long chunks of radio, this is a nice way of doing it.

Storytelling with audio at the core

Operation Ajax – a comicbook-style docustory. Listen with headphones. I would happily plug in and spend hours going through, not just the story, but all the supporting material as well. An excellent example of genuinely multimedia storytelling.


Vio, is a live vocal processor for iOS. Headphones are a must. Hate the sound of your own voice? You won’t with this!

There must be many other interesting apps for audio and radio, if you know of others that you think are progressive or innovative, do let me know in the comments 🙂


Written by Robert

13 October, 2014 at 10:27 am

Found in a drawer: Palm m125

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Palm m125And it still works perfectly!

While rummaging in the back of my odds and ends drawer today, I came across my old Palm device.

Welcome back to 2001! Palm called this a ‘handheld computer’, although I think I thought of it as a digital diary. I put in a couple of AAA batteries and it powered straight on (no proprietary batteries or connectors – yay!).

The m125 had a 33Mhz processor, was the first Palm to include an external memory card. It sold for $250 thirteen years ago, about the cost of a top-end Nexus 7 or a mid-spec iPhone 5S today.

Incredibly, you can still buy them new from between $50 and $150!

Although, before you decide you should read this excellent review from Ed Hardy.

The memory card in mine was still in place and still had applications installed!

Let’s see what we have:

Palm m125 screen and applications

AK Mirror: Could turn your palm into a torch. Maybe on a different model. This has no camera, no flash and a black & white screen. AKeysoft now nothing more than an abandoned WordPress page.

Avantgo. Now part of Sybase and appears to be some kind of mobile content pushing system, if it’s even still being used. That’s a shame. Avantgo was the RSS and Instapaper of its day. – still around and same logo. was bought by Rakuten.

And a couple of games. Dopewars is basically a free-market simulator. It’s still around online, and mobile.  Here’s the Apple version with modern graphics, and an android version that’s much closer to the original.

And just to prove the thing does work, here’s me playing Hardball (a version of Breakout)

Written by Robert

21 March, 2014 at 3:16 pm

How to give your lost phone a much better chance of being returned

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Gecko iPhone toolkit - An entirely unsophisticated brute force passcode crack.

Frankly I’m surprised any lost phones make it back to their owners at all.


Last week I found a phone on a train. It was well after 11pm and with few people around, I took the phone home, aiming to try tracking down the owner myself, else hand it in to a staffed office.

Find him I did, but the whole exercise made me really wonder how any lost iOS devices ever get returned (assuming they haven’t been stolen).

I made a short film about what happened …

… but I want to use this post to detail a little more about how it was done.

I’d been on the train since it started in Brighton, and was walking up through the carriages after we left Clapham Junction when I found the phone, so I’m guessing that’s where the owner got out in a hurry.

It was an iPhone 4S, lying on the edge of a seat . There wasn’t anyone else in that part of the carriage. It was in flight mode, so the ‘Find my iPhone’ function would have been inoperable.

I don’t have an iPhone, but I’m prepared to bet there are lost property rooms packed with dozens of lost iPhones/Pads all over the world, particularly in airports and train stations.

They are unable to be reunited with their owners because Apple’s security features make it impossible and the owners themselves haven’t planned for their possible loss.

Here are the issues:

The lockscreen

This is the first hurdle most people will fall at. Unless you know the code, you can’t get into the contacts to start ringing obvious numbers, eg. Home, or Mum/Dad.

The simplest thing here is to take a photo of your contact details and use this as your lockscreen wallpaper. It’s in the Settings menu.

iOS wallpaper setting screen

I don’t know anyone who alters this.

There were a couple of other things I thought were worth trying before resorting to phone hackery.

SIM card details

I removed the SIM card and tried it in another phone. ‘Find my iPhone’ wasn’t running, but if the SIM was still enabled, the owner would hopefully try to ring their phone.

Alas, the AT&T SIM was either blocked already, or had never been enabled for the UK phone network. I also had a look for any contacts that were saved on the SIM. Nothing there either.

The hack

Now the technical bit.  Getting past the passcode is boringly unsophisticated. It’s a brute-force attack where your computer runs through every possible 4 digit combination and then tells you what the code it. It takes about 30 minutes, max.

I used the Gecko iPhone Toolkit for this.  This exploits a previous iPhone vulnerability, so you must also put the phone into firmware update mode and inject an earlier version of the firmware into the device.

The beauty of this hack is that it maintains all the existing phone data.

Once I had the code, I was immediately able to see the owner’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, so I contacted him on both.

In the contacts. I found a number for Mum/Dad. I also saw the phone did have the icon for Find my iPhone, so I turned off the flight mode and connected the phone to my own Wifi, so the phone could start signalling home.

Finally I flicked into the Email, to find that address too. Here I struck lucky.  With Wifi now on, the phone updated the inbox and the first message to pop in there was the copy of the online form the owner had filled in with the railway company.

It had a UK number in there as a contact point. Bingo!

I rang the number, and learned that unfortunately the owner was on a plane back to the USA, but his friend Nick, (who handily lived on the same tube line as me) would come and get it straight away.

So I found the phone at 2300 on a Sunday night, and it was in Nick’s hands by 1800 on Monday. Warren, the owner got it back later that week and was mightly pleased.

For the rest of us – plan for loss

I firmly believe that most people would do the right thing and try to get the phone back to its owner. But good grief, how many people would be as geeky as me?

I suspect many phones, even finding their way to an official lost property office, just languish there.

If you have a smartphone, take a look at it and think how anyone would get it back to you if you lost it. Why not put your contact details on the lockscreen right now?

iOS users can do this by replacing their lock screen wallpapers (screenshot above) .

Android users go to Settings > Lockscreen > Owner Info (if you have Jellybean).

Settings > Security (if you have Ice Cream Sandwich).

I always invite comments, or you can tweet me @robf.

Written by Robert

21 July, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Posted in Mobile, Technology

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New battery cover for Nokia N8 – DIY fix

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New battery cover for Nokia N8 by bbcbob

I dropped my N8, even though it was in a rubber protective cover, it broke the lug keeping one end of the battery cover on.

Ebay to the rescue – I found one online for less than £4, and with the great instructions from

I have now replaced the part 🙂


Written by Robert

13 April, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Mobile

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