Business of Multiplatform workshop – Bristol

As part of series of workshops and panels hosted in Bristol by the BBC and the Anchor partnership (under the heading New Tools), Paul Appleby and I produced a session entitled the Business of Multiplatform.

Multiplatform is an increasingly elastic term which is applied to wildly differing projects originating from very different organisations, to the point where the terminology itself is part of the resulting confusion.

Surrounded by a lack of common understanding of what multiplatform content actually means, we tried to frame a discussion around both the common elements to all multiplatform production and an understanding of the current, and future, landscape for audience engagement – in an attempt to clarify and hopefully better define.

Around 40 people, mixing BBC and Independent, TV and Digital, and including 3 BBC Multiplatform commissioners, discussed and debated a variety of multiplatform ideas across a matrix: controlled vs uncontrolled; short term vs legacy; experimental vs conventional; commercial vs public service.

Interestingly, as more and more experience is gained in this space and the digital platforms mature and scale, there is marked shift away from content being driven by technology, to content being enabled by it – and with this shift the jargon falls away.

The TV and Digital businesses are still slightly confused by each other’s models but common ground is appearing and over the course of the session the focus of conversation was on the principles of any media project: how do you gain audience attention?; where do you find them (and digital technology allows you to go to them rather than vice versa)?. Key words through the evening were empowerment, dialogue, fulfilment, authenticity, control – not linked to technology or platform.

The exemplar for this type of audience engagement and empowerment is often overlooked. Radio has always created the opportunity for the dialogue with its audience to both shape and constitute the content of the programme, it is just that the communications channels have continued to evolve.

The opportunity within the digital landscape was nicely encapsulated by Jo Twist, BBC Multiplatform Commissioner – “TV is bound by scarcity”, whereas digital platforms are not ruled by schedules or timeslots and provide the ability to massively extend the experience.

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