Fixing the BBC Sports Web Site: Part 2

Three Leaders We Deserve subscribers made further contributions to the recent post dealing with the challenges facing the BBC in changing its Sports web-site

Contributors: Paul Hinks, Susan Moger and Conor Glean

Paul:

September 1 2016

I really enjoyed your blog about the BBC commentary of the Olympics in Rio. In terms of the BBC generally I’m a big fan -great value, still a world class service and still a leader in my opinion – but I agree with the sentiment of your blog.  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

The BBC sports website needs to do better.

Great Britain is a sporting nation – we are passionate sporting participants – and equally passionate spectators. What I liked about the Rio coverage was the way the BBC celebrated success in a genuine (un-British stiff upper lip way). You captured this observation perfectly in your blog.

In terms of the other BBC products – there perhaps is room for improvement. I see the BBC website as a flagship product. It would be great to see the BBC deliver more innovation and creativity in a way that provided genuine engagement but also provided expert high quality analysis. This is not an easy achievement, and perhaps one that is easy to highlight when absent, but easy to overlook when present.

The BBC is almost a de facto home page for news, sport, politics, weather, etc.  It has credibility that provides the benchmark for others to reach, yet like you, I’ve also noticed their sports section has really weakening over the past year or so.

Navigation is less intuitive. Content and coverage is thinner than previously noted. There’s a move to media clips rather than written script. The media clips haven’t quite worked out in my opinion. There’s just too many of them, and again the quality and depth is often lacking. It’s a shame because the BBC still beats Sky hands down in my opinion.

The bigger picture for me is that while the Internet maybe (has) disrupted journalism – there is a risk that the quality high-end coverage is being lost/eroded.

We’ve already seen printed press struggle to compete against ‘free’ online coverage – and yet often the online material is a poor imitation of the quality broad sheet journalism that provides carefully positioned arguments from alternative perspectives.

I’ve mentioned previously that this is where I see huge value add in LWD. LWD is very high quality material Tudor – and yet it’s almost a public service. There’s other high quality sites out there too. I suspect they also face the same dilemmas. [Thanks: The editor]

There’s a paradox within IT. Information Technology is inherently extremely complex with many dimensions to it. It is expensive to run and operate – and yet the perception is that IT is free and should be very easy to use. I suppose the BBC faces the same dilemmas as the wider public sector in terms of how it justifies its budget. How do you keep squeezing more out of a forever diminishing pool of resources when expectations continue to rise? A very challenging proposition.

September 2 2016

Susan:

Thank you for such perceptive comments.  I agree with your observations; I think the sport section of the BBC website is really suffering because it is in many ways still following the template of a previous generation of sports reporting and I don’t think there is the resource, and possibly the understanding, about how to work with the website more effectively.  It’s like the established banks trying to offer digital services which are add-ons and not part of the bank’s DNA, as it were. Of course, Sky has set the standard and the expectations of what sports broadcasting now looks like.

I listen to the BBC World service a lot, and I think the same this is happening there; the budget cuts mean that there is a huge effort being made to get more with less and at the same time the ‘digitisation’ phenomenon hasn’t been embedded so it sits awkwardly with the more traditional offering.

The ‘new’ BBC website seems very clunky to me,  and it probably would have been better to have stuck with what they had.  For me the BBC stands for integrity of information and of presentation

I agreed that LWD now has a similar status in that its longevity and the breadth of coverage mean that it can be trusted and in these days, I think that is a very rare thing indeed!

September 4 2016

Conor:

Hi guys, my comments are somewhat echoing those already made but I feel that in a world of constant, instant headlines from the social media sphere, we are used to knowing ‘the box’ of what happens as it happens via a tweet from anyone (e.g. Serena withdraws from US Open) and expect ‘the contents’ (what, where, when why), which come from the news outlets and require time if to be done well, to come at the same rate – resulting in a diluted quality of story in order to be relevant.

I think this relates to the ease of use of the BBC sports website, because, although you can specify which sport you want, the number of ‘box’ headlines in all sports clutter not only that specific sport’s page, but the homepage, causing for what seems like a poorly put together site which confuses when it’s just trying to keep up with the demands of 2016 sporting journalism.

I don’t think that the issue is exclusive to BBC as (to my shame) I’m a sky sports news mobile app user and since not having a smart phone for the last few weeks, I downloaded the Sky Sports app on my friend’s phone to see an average rating of 1 5- 2 stars out of 5 (it was the only outlet I’d ever used so I didn’t notice if I was up to date or not). Also, when trying to find stories that I knew had broken during the transfer window on sky sports’ website as opposed to the app, I experienced some of the issues you have highlighted in using the BBC’s.

September 5 2016

Paul:

Great note by Conor with many relevant comments.

I agree that in general terms online coverage of events can improve – but equally I feel it’s important to highlight and acknowledge that technology – and how it enables the effective dissemination of information – has come a long way in a relatively short timeframe.

Mobile computing is here – it’s maturing quickly – but there is more to be done.

You make a good point in that the BBC is not alone in terms of opportunities for further improvements to its website – I still believe that the BBC could do more, but they should be given credit. The BBC site remains a leader in my opinion. Consumer expectations are being set higher all the time – it can be difficult to reconcile those expectations with the reality of here and now. Particularly in a world of finite/reducing resources.

The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.

Editor:

Thanks to Paul, Susan and Conor for these follow-up contributions to the earlier post. There seems to be consensus around several points The BBC retains the admiration of the contributors but as Paul put it:  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

All three note the difficulties of competing against sites with much larger budgets. Susan noted a similar problem with the BBC World Service.

Paul continued his defense of the BBC with his closing remark that The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.

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