We created Connected Politics for the BBC, a vision for a unified approach to covering political news stories that has influenced how BBC News is organised and communicated within the organisation and delivered online.
Over 300 BBC journalists cover politics for dozens of different programmes, channels, devices. The challenge was to avoid repetition, reduce waste and reflect the extraordinary breadth, depth and colour of the BBC’s political news coverage, so that it makes sense to its audience across channels and through the day.
We interviewed editors and executives and worked for two weeks in the newsroom, analysing production practice and output.
Our analysis showed that the root cause of disconnected news was not just a design problem, but an organisational, editorial and technology challenge.
We found a legacy of Teletext that privileged four-paragraph text over image and video; a sharp division between teams built around ‘business’ and ‘politics’ or 'health' as well as a strict separation between ‘news’ and ‘current affairs’ that closed down editorial opportunities; and a reluctance to make digital news first because TV and radio had cachét and the CMS was too slow.
We asked, ‘What if journalists could work and produce news together across channels, formats and programmes?’ In other words, what if you could organise around the story, rather than the department or channel, to bring everything you do together on behalf of your audience?
Our team ran a pilot involving 25 journalists, 8 programmes and multiple channels (TV, radio, web and mobile, news and current affairs) covering just one news story for a day. We prototyped a simple editorial production tool that everyone used to input text, video, images, graphics and sound - whatever their preferred medium. We output the resulting content to a Storify-like channel.
The experience demonstrated to journalists and leadership the value of simple, fast editorial tools and a more collaborative workflow, defining the template for the BBC’s next generation CMS; it also encouraged a shift in the newsroom and current affairs programmes towards working collaboratively across shows and channels, and a desire to make news and break news first for digital output.
The success of this short programme rested on leadership participation, the direct involvement of journalists in the solution and a deep consideration of assets, capabilities, culture and audience. Rather than follow analysis with speculation, we built something real, something that people could use to test out new possibilities, and they found that there was nothing to fear and everything to gain from adopting new ways of working.
Robin Pembrooke, Director News Products BBC
In a very complex stakeholder environment Made by Many did an excellent job of understanding stakeholder concerns, winning confidence and adapting the editorial process so that it would work across BBC news.