Bryan Weatherly tells me: “I was listening to a fascinating by a piece on “Broadcasting House” on Radio 4 on Sunday.
It was a feature on blogging and the internet, prompted by the anniversary of e-Bay and included an interview with Pete Clifton the head of the BBC’s news website who was interviewed by Broadcasting House’s presenter Phi Glover. It’s a perfect answer to the following ‘killer’ questions “Why do we blog? What’s in it for us as a company? Why should RBI treat the internet and blogging so seriously?”
Peter Clifton: “We’ve obviously moved on from the times when we pronounced from the mountain top what had happened and everybody had to sit at home and listen and watch and take it as read. Now our audience is very heavily involved in our news reporting so on any particular day people will e-mail us about what they know about a story we’re covering but on a very big occasion like July 7th or the current hurricanes that are going on, people are e-mailing us with pictures, with their eye-witness accounts, with videos—that becomes a central part of our coverage. It isn’t just something that we have around the periphery and it’s of passing interest. A lot of these images and comments and experiences are ones we’d never gather any other way.”
Phi Glover responded: “It all gives quite a lot of power to the consumer though doesn’t it? And you could equally say it enables us to have more choice but it would enable other people to put out more propaganda—you don’t always know what it is that you’re reading.”
Peter Clifton replied: “One of the main challenges for us as a site is the sheer volume of material that we get sent in. And if we’re going to make use of it within our news reporting and we want to share images, videos, text with other part of BBC news it’s a key part of our job to verify it before we do that. I think over time we’ll see within our site and many others we’ll see a much greater emphasis on the role the people out there—the readers—can play in our reporting. I think they’ll be more places on our site where you’ll be able to read a citizen’s view of what’s happened, their pictures their videos, I think the scale of it will only increase.
I think we’ll need to find a better way of representing it on our site—being more up front about our desire to have the input of the user and the BBC should aim to be over the next few years THE place where people go when they want to involve themselves in the coverage of the news. We’re seeing a fantastic start to that—but it’s only just the beginning.”
Take that last sentence. Change BBC to RBI and what have you got? The reason why we’re getting into the internet and blogging! Even a battle-wearing old warhorse like me can see that it’s the future for business-to-business coverage whereby we can enlist the firepower of thousands of correspondents around the world and leverage their inside-knowledge, their experience, their street-credibility. I can see this is the future. Can everyone else?