Strands, platforms and the Voyage of Content Discovery

BBC Music iOS app screenshot (BBC Media Centre)

Today the BBC launch their new ‘BBC Music’ app for iOS and Android. The application promises to be a showcase for cross media content, featuring music-related video and audio from BBC television programmes as well as content from the national music radio networks 1–3, 6 and 1xtra.

The launch of this application is part of a bigger project by the corporation to establish ‘BBC Music’ as an umbrella content strand that stands above the traditional TV and radio channels and it’s an interesting shift which shows a better understanding of the way media consumption is shifting.

As people move to a combination of on-demand and “linear” broadcast consumption, I believe the outlet from which it is consumed is less important. The important issue is that of content discovery. Aggregating content discovery around a genre or category aides this process. Indeed other broadcasters are also following this pattern, with Channel 4 launching “Walter Presents” as an online and television strand to flag-up prominent new drama programmes — it provides an easier way to discover the new dramas in a schedule, via an app or online in a way that, they hope, will change the brand value of “Netflix”.

Where traditionally this approach would be employed by launching a new dedicated channel, or perhaps relaunching or rebranding an existing property such as Film4, this new approach of creating strands within platforms is smarter and more agile. It removes the ability to fill 24 hours of a broadcast platform, you can focus on quality and not quantity.

Does this mean the approach for the likes of BBC Three to completely disregard the broadcast platform is the right one? I’m not so sure. Broadcast, linear content is still the largest way of consuming audio and video content and it’s well established the strengths broadcast continues to command over IP delivery. But importantly I feel as we move to a mix of broadcast and IP this ability to strand content across platforms is crucial.

But what lessons does this hold for radio? Large market stations and networks typically try and appeal to as broad a range of interests as possible and often focus on wide music policies to do this. But as radio continues to get pushed by streaming music platforms, it’s obvious that clever or entertaining content around the music is the differentiator. If the content can be standed across brands, it can be produced more cost effectively and can exist on social media or in dedicated apps in a way that pulls people across a portfolio of brands rather than just one.

As an example, Bauer which owns properties like Empire could integrate the film across radio brands within movie features. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a novel idea, the crucial bit is to not run these features in brand sharing silos. A film that fits the demographic of Absolute Radio, for example, could be produced in to a co-branded feature for on-air or with video for social media, but that content should be shared and distributed within the channels of Empire too — offering a better return on investment, promoting multiple brands and hopefully driving trial of complementary offerings from the organisation.

We are continuing to see more of this move away from the direct link between content and distribution platform and it’s exciting to see the way it can be used more efficiently. I’m still not convinced that a full abandonment of broadcast linear output is the right strategy, either. The important thing to always consider with these platforms is the classic analogy of the “entertainment tap” — there is no concious thought required beyond turning the radio on and being effortlessly entertained with content until such time that you turn it off again. It becomes the shop window to all the great content your brand produces.

Produce great content without thinking specifically about the platform. Some of this should absolutely should be compelling audio content, but may also be video or articles or interactive games.

Identifying or creating the strong umbrella brands that can cross multiple platforms or channels is a useful tool with this strategy. Most crucially we need to escape the mindset that radio stations produce content for on-air and anything else you can do with it is a bonus. Produce content for producing great contents sake, choose the right platforms for the right exposure. Use the most valuable asset — the on air output to showcase the best and encourage trial of the other things your brand are offering elsewhere.

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