“We don’t own the news anymore”

Director of the BBC’s World Service and Global News division Richard Sambrook‘s speech at the We Media conference in New York last week continues to make waves across the blogosphere, with his bold announcement that "we don’t own the news any more" resonating for many people.

Like Buzzmachine I found Roy O’Connor’s reporting of Mr Sambrook’s speech  useful – find it here.

The main points that made an impression on me were:

  • Sambrook says that connected/citizen/social media "used to exist in the margins, but it is very quickly becoming central. We’re at the tipping point right now."
  • He also outlined three keys to the BBC’s emergent value proposition:
  1. Connecting audiences
  2. Verification of news
  3. Analysis, explanation and context addition

There’s also an online archive of an interview with Mr Sambrook on Radio 5’s Up All Night which makes for interesting listening here (not sure how long it will be there for – some BBC programmes are only streamed for a week after broadcast).

The interview follows on from his speech at We Media and expands on some of the themes. The following points he makes (paraphrased) are very interesting:

  • Easy to get it out of proportion:
    lest we get carried away, he cautions that some people might be over-excited about the scale and implications of social/connected media. A good point – some realism is very welcome when we all get a bit flushed by the pace and potential of the changes happening at the moment.
  • One of the problems of debate about the significance of blogs is
    that people are trying to define them as one thing, where in reality
    there "as many types of blog as there could conceivably be".
  • The relationship between mainstream and social media is not an "’either or’, it’s kind of an expansion of options" – it means news media are more open to the audience.
  • He has an internal blog at the BBC for a year now: "rather than send another newsletter" and he says it’s working well, adding: "you can’t fake it in a blog". Interesting, he’s a journalist and producer by trade, but also using a blog as internal communications tool – something I strongly recommend clients try out.

I don’t think I’m alone among those interested in developments in the media (connected and otherwise) that find the BBC’s direction at the moment inspirational.

The BBC is taking its responsibility as a leader in its industry very seriously and is being adventurous and bold in moving to meet the challenges and opportunities of new technologies and thinking about media. Whether its peer-to-peer programming or establishing a clear process for bringing citizen-generated content into traditional news, the BBC is an innovator and a pioneer still.

Because the BBC is not a commercial organisation first and foremost, it is able to accelerate change in new media. Unlike e-commerce, the social media revolution is about communication first, not commerce.

That’s not to say there’s not gold in them there Web 2.0 hills. There undoubtedly is, as recent deals in the US and Europe show. But maybe just for the moment, innovation and change is being accelerated because there is an organisation as big and powerful as the BBC to move things forward.


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