Although covering breaking news and offering analysis has been at the core of the BBC's output for decades, the broadcaster has spent the past two years creating a better editorial strategy to fulfil the needs of its global audience by responding to six user needs.
The 41 language services at BBC World Service now categorise articles in the following ways: update me, give me perspective, educate me, keep me on trend, amuse me and inspire me.
It is a way to reach younger audiences while differentiating themselves from publishers around the world – ones that BBC languages just cannot compete with.
"At some point, BBC languages stopped growing internationally as competitors came in and overtook us," said Dmitry Shishkin, digital development editor, BBC World Service, at the Google News Innovation Forum last week (7 December).
"Every person that wakes up and consumes the news will have already seen the headlines of the local providers, so the BBC has to be delivering something different."
Watch Dmitry Shishkin speak at the GNI Innovation Forum
The six user needs come from BBC research into audience behaviour around the world, which showed the needs vary depending on where you are.
"The majority of newsrooms still think that 'update me' is the most important need, but through data we have seen if you start addressing the other needs on a regular basis, you grow," he said.
"The markets are quite different – there are markets of want and markets of need – but now it is great to see journalists are not pitching just the story, but also what user needs they will be applying."
Last year, the broadcaster undertook its biggest expansion since the 1940's launching 12 new language services in Africa and Asia in just nine months.
The six user needs were implemented as soon as each new team was set up, whether it be in India, Ethiopia or Eritrea, for example.
Audiences expect news publishers to satisfy their needs in six ways:— Caroline Scott 🎥 (@CarolineScott91) December 7, 2018
1. Update me
2. Give me perspective
3. Educate me
4. Keep me on trend
5. Amuse me
6. Inspire me@dmitryshishkin says we need to address these different needs in order to reach younger audiences #GNILondon pic.twitter.com/CYmL1NLXWu
With the established newsrooms, Shishkin's team would analyse three months worth of content and then come up with an action plan and recommendations.
In one case study, BBC Russia were found to be producing 70 per cent of 'update me' stories, even though they were only bringing seven per cent of page views.
"We have been addressing this in the last two years, with old teams and new teams alike," he said.
"It is useful to get a bunch of editors in a room, and ask them for three headlines for each user need on a particular topic – you suddenly have loads of interesting ideas you didn't have before."
Shishkin explained the six user needs have revolutionsed the way the BBC has projected itself around the world and the way they are trying to carve out media niches in different countries, from Indonesia to Latin America.
"You will only succeed if you understand why you exist in the market, and what your niche is," he said.
"Interpret the data, take out the key learnings and explain it to the rest of the company – if you pull together in the same direction, the growth will come."
Note: Dmitry Shishkin has left BBC in January 2019 and is now chief content officer at UK media startup Culture Trip. Join us at Newsrewired on 27 November 2019 to see Shishkin's keynote speech on leveraging data, automation and machine learning. More information here
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