Has Ros Atkins turned the news upside down?
Many readers of this article who have a twitter account will have most likely come across the work of Ros Atkins & Co. of the BBC of late. The small, but undeniably talented team have been pumping out short form ‘explainer’ videos of current high-profile news stories from the UK (and beyond). The style in which these videos are produced are cultivated for the mobile-first reader; short, sharp & informative. This momentum has led to Ros and his team being recognised in the Guardian for their recent work, amongst praise from well known TwitterStars including James O’Brien, Henry Winter (and even Piers Morgan).
Why has it been a success?
We break the BBC’s new superbaby down into three key factors.
- It can be viewed on-demand, in a short, digestable format. This is super important for reaching a wide audience. Unlike myself, many people do not care to sit down in front of their TV and watch BBC World News. The way in which most people consume their news content is through who they follow on Twitter or the downstream effect from a meme created to make fun of the Prime Minister on WhatsApp groups. What these ‘explainers’ have created is a new genre of reporting, a short video for your commute, an opportunity to get up to speed in 4 minutes, all without leaving your favourite app.
- It allows viewers to form their own opinion. What is so unique and refreshing about this journalistic movement (dare I say) is that it takes a very different stance from the traditional way of obtaining factual information in traditional [News Anchor vs Interviewee] format. Historically, viewers are often left to sit patiently behind the cape of a broadcaster, and their ability to extract a ‘gotcha’ statement from the suspect. This jostling often leads to pre-scripted and bland answers from the other side of the table which leaves the audience a little drained from the whole experience (or even worse, simply disinterested in what is going on in the world). Step up Ros…. The balanced way in which the videos are produced allow the viewer to make their own calculated opinions on the issues that matter. Why is this SO important? There is more to it than meets the eye. By allowing viewers to make their own minds up, consequentially, this encourages debate and wider understanding of issues. In a way, it democratises the consumption of news to anyone with access mobile phone (and 4 min to spare).
- Stripped of ego & prejudice. Only yesterday, I was presented with a video on Twitter showing a newscaster on newly formed UK news channel talking AT the viewer with loaded opinions on why Christmas has lost its sparkle and their outright refusal to follow government restrictions. Whilst this may indulge a (literally handful) of viewers, the folks at Outside Source know where the wind is blowing - a clear, ego-free explanation delivered in impeccable fashion is rightly becoming the de facto way to watch the news.
So, has the news REALLY been turned outside down?
The short answer is yes. The viewing figures of each production are ranking #1 on the BBC website, as well as being watched millions of times on Twitter. Whilst this movement is in its early stages, there is a clear runway for Atkins and the team to fly here. The main question is whether the BBC will take full advantage? I am sure there are many indie-news investors wanting a piece of this momentum, although I doubt putting this kind of content behind a paywall will be palatable for any of Ros Atkins’s regular viewers, given how important they have become as a modern storyteller.
Ross Atkins (Twitter: BBCRosAtkins)
P.S. This was my first EVER article. Go easy on me!