BBC Ideas: Three months in

It’s been just over three months since BBC Ideas went live, and after the white heat of the launch period I thought I’d share three things I’ve learnt over the past few weeks.

  1. There’s a clear audience appetite for informative short-form factual digital video. Despite all the audience research and preparation we’d done, when we first launched we weren’t entirely sure there would be a market for our eclectic mix of short-form video spanning genres across philosophy, ethics, psychology, opinion, anthropology, archive etc. Would people be interested in the things we were interested in? Would they watch them, share them, engage with them? Thankfully the answer has been an emphatic yes. We’ve been blown away by the positive response from the audience to our content — whether it’s been our on our ‘In My Humble Opinion’ strand featuring people like palliative care specialist Kathryn Mannix (‘Dying is not as bad as you think’) to the amazing unsung heroine animator Lotte Reiniger , to the quirky question we’ve all been wondering ‘Does my name match my face?’. Of course not everything we do goes viral, but every day we learn more and more about what our audience likes and dislikes, and this definitely feeds into our production and commissioning thinking.
A video featuring palliative care specialist Dr Kathryn Mannix was widely discussed on social media

2. Completion rates on our platform are high. The second thing we’ve learnt is around completion rates. When we started we said we’d be producing and commissioning videos that were between 90 secs and 15 mins. Most of our videos are between 3 and 4 mins, but we’ve also been experimenting with a longer length — eg The women who pioneered electronic music (6:09 mins) and The woman who transformed Alzheimer’s research (7:17 mins). Average completion rates for these on the BBC Ideas website are 63% and 67% — and overall our average is 65%. Some videos are as high as 80%. In a world of endless choice and ever shorter attentions spans, this feels a good place to be.

A video about the story of the @ sign had an average 80% completion rate

3. There’s a load of fantastic indie talent out there. And finally when we started we were keen to work with both internal and external suppliers. One of the big questions in my mind is there a short-form digital indie ecosystem that we could tap into? Would they ‘get’ what we wanted and be able to supply it within our budgets and to our specification? Thankfully the answer there is also an emphatic yes — we’ve had two commissioning rounds so far with a total of around 315 pitches and 45 commissions. Cordelia Hebblethwaite our commissioning editor is working with range of different companies, many from the smaller end of the industry, which is great, as well as several predominantly tv or radio indies who are moving into digital.

This animation about Lotte Reiniger was made by independent production company Infocandy

I could go on about these learnings (or lessons, as the BBC Ideas product manager Lloyd Shepherd prefers to call them :-)), but three seems a good number to stop at for now.

As ever all feedback or thoughts about BBC Ideas is very welcome, so do leave a comment or get in touch.