Tag Archives: mobile content

BBC Mobile: Carousel of Content

Extract from my post today on the BBC Internet Blog…

Mobile homepage carousel

Mobile homepage carousel

If you’ve looked at the BBC Mobile homepage today, you’ll have noticed we’re giving you more choices than ever. Yesterday we launched a carousel of content in our top promotion area so that you can scroll through a range of content we’re highlighting across BBC Mobile. It’s available to a limited range of handsets right now but will roll out gradually to a wider range as we develop the technology.

Read the full post here…

Looking ahead to London 2012, the mobile Olympics

As part of the BBC Internet Blog’s day on mobile, I wrote a post about what we’ve been doing in terms of planning for the 2012 Olympics and mobile.

Here’s an excerpt and a chart from the work.  You can read the full post at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/06/looking_ahead_to_london_2012_t.html .   Please let me know what you think of the work and if you want to know more!

2012 Olympic Scenarios for Mobile

2012 Olympic Scenarios for Mobile

This is just one page from the much larger report/piece of work.

Full blog post here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/06/looking_ahead_to_london_2012_t.html

All The News That’s Fit to Print (in a Tweet)

Here’s a great little (no pun intended) experiment that I think is really cool. All the day’s news – in one Tweet.


The tweet takes you from “tinynews” to a site with (only slightly longer) “fullernews” and makes for interesting, if brief, reading. Check it.

BBC iPlayer on Mobile wins Global Mobile Award @ Mobile World Congress

BBC iPlayer on mobile (which was produced by the BBC Mobile team, which I am part of) won a big award last night – Best Mobile Music or Video Service.  I won’t gloat but this is a big deal and really exciting.

Check it out: http://www.globalmobileawards.com/winners.shtml#winner_cat1b

Mobile Usabilty – a view from Jakob Nielsen

Jakob Nielsen has just released a new take on mobile usability based on testing he’s conducted and the results are interesting.

The good news, for me, is that what he recommends is very much in line with what we do on the BBC Mobile site – publish different versions appropriate for different devices.  It’s not great, of course, that he feels mobile usability isn’t moving fast enough – but it’s always good to have a challenge, right?

I think the most interesting point he makes is his final one:

“…not all sites need mobile versions.”

This is a point I’ve made when talking to people who create desktop (or ‘full fat’ as I like to call them) sites.  Trying to offer the full functionality and content of every site simply doesn’t work – even if you have an iPhone.  He sites that users only use their phones for a narrow range of activities and therefore these are the sites/activities for which mobile sites are most needed.  I’d love to know what activities he found people were using them for in the testing.  I’d hazard a guess they’re around: communication (social networking and web mail), news/sport/weather information and some basic transactional stuff.  If anyone knows, let me know.

Mobile predictions for 2009 from Fjord

Christian Lindholm and his team at Fjord (whom the BBC have worked with on a number of occasions) has released a set of predictions for the mobile world in 2009 – and if they’re right, it sure looks like an exciting year ahead. In fact, taking an optimistic view of the trends, you might even say this could be THE year where mobile really comes centre stage. In the spirit of these being ‘Fjord Thoughts’ I wanted to share some of my own thoughts, which I’ve gathered under the headlines from the report. Make sure you read the full report and not just my comments – it’s really good stuff!

App Stores are digital Innovation Bazaars

The app stores are clearly going to be a crucial access point between consumers and content/services for their devices – there’s no doubting that. However, what I thought was really interesting here was the prediction that “The long tail of the App Store will allow the iPhone to attract great content and emerge as a true mobile gaming platform that puts pressure on the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.”

Sure, you’ve been able to download and play games on a range of devices before and sure, many portable games consoles can connect to the internet, but I think this blurring will be particularly interesting. First, interesting to see which devices become prefered/dominant with which types of users but, moreso, from my perspective because its potentially where content and gaming can come much closer. Anyone fancy an alternate reality game that gives you clues in news stories based on where you are and the proximity of other players?

The Cloud puts digital life at your fingertips

“The PC is displaced as the hub and takes its place as a powerful but non-mobile client.” When I first read this, all I could think was, “Wow!” and then “But REALLY?” Much as I’d love to believe this and it would be great with relation to what I do for a living, it seemed a little implausible – reading on into the report, this is refined a bit to talk about teens and people in developing countries, and I think this is more likely. We see this happening for a small wedge of UK users – a growing minority – but I don’t see a full reversal of hub/client devices this year for mainstream audiences. Watching the behaviour of those audiences who DO make this switch will be interesting though. My youngest brother and a teenager I work with already can’t see the point of having a laptop (nevermind a desktop) when they can have a Blackberry.

I think the other interesting thing about how ‘the cloud’ will affect our experiences that will emerge will be around how entertainment and media cross between equally connected clients. With over-the-air downloads from the iTunes store, does the music ‘live’ on your PC or your iPhone? And will this be the year that delivers on the dream of being able to ‘take’ a programme you were watching on TV away on your phone when you leave the house?

TV finally goes mobile

I can’t write about this report without being grateful for the praise that Fjord has given the BBC in this section naming us as one of the players who will help drive this trend. Nice. We’re already seeing “mobile couch potato” behaviour growing – peak time for the use of BBC iPlayer on mobile is between 8.00pm and midnight – times when people are relaxing at home (possibly in bed) and using their reliable, fast wifi connections. This is different to what’s seen on the desktop version of BBC iPlayer and later than peak time for traditional TV viewing so very interesting to keep an eye on.

I recently saw another presentation (by another company) looking at mobile in 2009 that predicted that Mobile TV was dead. At first these seemed contradictory – but actually, they were in agreement. What the other presentation meant was that TV on operator portals was dead; and that its time for other TV/video services to emerge – perhaps like BBC iPlayer on mobile and the others that Fjord are suggesting. Wouldn’t it be cool if we stopped watching video on our mobile screens this year and that its when “video goggles” (aka virtual retinal display) takes off?

Location becomes the new service bedrock Sure, I buy this. BUT… the editor in me would modify this prediction slightly. I think there’s going to be a proliferation of applications that use location – but I’m not convinced they’ll all be very useful or as easy to develop as some people think. I talk to a lot of people who make the assumption that if something’s near you, it’s automatically relevant – this isn’t always the case, and even if it is, it might not be what you want.

If I’m searching on my geo-aware device for information about an upcoming business trip or holiday, I definitely DON’T want information about what’s currently nearest to me. I’d probably like to know what hotels people who LIVE near me stayed in when they went to my destination – but I suspect working out these types of subtleties and the user experiences that make them excellent will be a little bit of a way off and that we might see a lot of gimmicks in the meantime (excluding maps, of course). And worse, the top 10 headlines near me, might actually do me a dis-service if it turns out that the raging fire a few towns over is the 11th story, meaning I never get to find out that my home is in danger.

Proper Messy and Steven Fry: Cool stuff the BBC is doing with mobile messaging

Happy New Year, gentle readers.

I wanted to write a quick post to flag up something very cool that another part of the BBC has just launched using mobile messaging (SMS).  Right up front, I should say I had nothing to do with this so can’t take credit for it.

Mobile Phone Drama

Mobile Phone Drama

Proper Messy is a mobile-phone based drama for teenagers, proudced by BBC Switch.  Along with video content, the service lets users get messages from the character of their choice and lets them interact with the plot.  I won’t say too much more since the story is live right now but look out for some cool stuff here. 

With SMS being such a pervasive and natural medium for teenagers, it seems like this could be a big hit.   The messages I’ve seen thus far have me hooked – I’m dying to know who was involved with the fire…


In more news of things I can’t take credit for, Stephen Fry (a famous BBC presenter) has been Twittering away on his journey leading up to his next series, Last Chance to See.  Which is about his quest to see endangered sepcies for, perhaps, the last time before they become extinct (or not).  Last week he  linked one of his Tweets to the official BBC Mobile site for Last Chance to See and sent a load of traffic our way (thanks, Stephen!).  Here, he talks about why he enjoys Twittering so much.  He’s got 50,000 followers already – Lily Allen, eat your heart out (she’s only got 648 followers).

And speaking of BBC talent on Twitter, here’s links to Steven’s page as well as the one from BBC bad-boy, Jonathan Ross.

That said, Twitter isn’t all fun and games – the BBC used it for its news coverage on US Election night by having members of the BBC bureau in Washington, DC using it.  We also used it during the Mumbai attacks – here’s two links to posts about it from editors here, including one about where it might not have gone so well.

Twitter and a classic picture by Rory Cellan-Jones

Mumbai, Twitter and Live Updates by Steve Herrmann

An ‘interesting’ use of 3G video – Video Hookers

One of the dirty secrets of the new media industry is that a lot of major technical advances that have been made (especially with regard to digital video distribution and billing) have been developed largely to fuel the online adult content market.

Now, I’m not naive enough to not know there was plenty of porn for mobiles out there. But, I have to say I was pretty darn surprised the other night to see this new service – PlayDate – advertised above a urinal (sorry ladies – they really do put ads at eye level above urinals):

Video escorts

Video escorts

It’s not just video porn for mobiles, it’s actually a way you can preview an escort before you meet her.  Could this really be legal?

I can’t say I approve (though I have to send kudos to whoever did the copywriting on the poster) – but it does lead me to think whatever will these wacky kids thing up next?

I guess, as they say in Avenue Q, it’s true, “the internet is for porn.”

Thoughts on MobiThinking’s ‘Best of the Mobile Web’

It was great to get some more recognition for what the team I work in is doing here:


Of course, we normally promote our services as bbc.co.uk/mobile - but, MobiThinking are advocates of the .mobi domain, so not really surprising they called us bbc.mobi.  Anyway, praise is always welcome.

Here’s some more information about it (and an interview with the boss!).

Other than being appreciative for the praise they’ve given the site I work on, this report is interesting because because it names great examples and poor examples on the mobile web. So, I decided to take a look at what they thought was some of the best of the rest to see what I thought and look for some inspiration.  I haven’t gone through all of them here – there are alot – but these were some that I really admired and that gave me something to think about.

‘Make Sure It Actually Works’: Winner: ESPN: http://www.espn.mobi

Sport is one of the most popular things the BBC does on mobile and I think we’re lucky we’re not in direct competition with ESPN’s site on this front.  The site is incredibly user friendly AND its content is increidbly deep – not an easy balance to get right on mobile.  There’s an incredible amount of linking throuhout the content, which makes player profiles, stats of all sorts, etc easy to access.

‘Solve a Real Problem’: Winners: http://www.nwa.mobi and http://google.mobi (maps)

Simplicity, and doing something useful is key on the mobile web  – users tend to be incredibly task oriented and don’t want much interuption and both of these do this.  NWA’s site (for an american airline – not the band NWA!) is deceptively simple and straightforward looking considering how much fucntionality it provides.

‘Maintain Laser Focus’: Winner: http://www.fidelity.mobi and http://www.obamamobile.mobi

When I first saw this category name, I thought I’d missed the boat on the memo about how to turn your mobile into a laser gun.  While the little boy inside me was disappointed, I was happy to see that it was talking about highly targetted services with one mission at their heart.

I talk to alot of web producers who are used to working to create deep, rich experiences on the web, with an unlimited canvas to work on, where users have the luxury of time and space and the comfort of their home or office to explore sites.  The opposite is true on mobile – when you’re standing in the rain (hey, this IS London) trying to find that one tiny piece of information you need, the last thing you want to do is explore or browse one page more than you need to.  Fidelity clearly provides this for its busy banker target audience.  ‘Do one thing and do it well.  Don’t try to do everything you can do on the ‘full-fat’ web.’ is something I tell people frequently.

Content is King… but in small bites : Winner: http://mobile.nytimes.com

I’ve always loved The New York Times and just about everything about it and their mobile site is no exception.  Simple and elegant, its got some great features others should envy.  Pagination that works really well for mobile users, send to another mobile feature (US only, sadly),  resized graphics and photos (which most sites strip out), and some podcasts that really serve mobile user needs.  Some of their navigation is clunky, but the site is so slick it hardly matters.

BeeB Camp (aka BBC Camp)

The BBC camp?  Never.  This was BeeBCamp.

Today I attended a really interesting event (‘unconference‘) with various other ‘digital types’ from around the BBC to discuss, well anything we wanted.  I attended a number of self-organising sessions, and here’s some of my notes and thoughts:

Session 1: The BBC’s first MMOG (massively multiplayer online game)

This session was run by Dave Anderson from BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC) and he talked about a MMOG called Tronji that they’ve co-developed with BBC Children’s.  It was very interesting to learn about how this has been developed as its getting close to going into beta about how they’re hoping to build critical mass.

The big challenge for Dave seemd to be reconciling how his part of the BBC could find a business model and tech to support it that would allow them to commercialise the world they’ve built for non-UK users while making sure that license fee payers get a great free experience.  He’s not the only one thinking about this.  It’s come up in a number of projects I’ve worked on over the years and is always tricky and is a particularly live issue on one of the projects I’m working on now.

IP detection seems to work to an extent for us – but it’s not perfect and is far less perfect on mobile than it is for fixed-line broadband.  Issues like Opera Mini routing all its users through Norway and Blackberry using strange international proxy servers means that determining which country a mobile user is in is far more complicated than it is for a fixed-line broadband user.  I guess by the very nature of mobiles being, er, mobile, they’re harder to track.  There’s also the issue of what happens when a user with a UK sim card and subscription roams out of the UK and the issues of when a non-UK user roams into the UK.  (Nevermind my friend who’s phone picked up Orange France while he was standing in Dover recently…)

Session 2: What is the Common Platform?

Steve Bowbrick (who it turns out I worked with on a project called TotalTele.com way back in 1997 and haven’t seen since) is the BBC’s new ‘Blogger in Residence’ – but he’s not just blogging.  He’s advocating something he calls (somewhat clunkily in my humble opinion) the Common Platform.  He described himself as being a ‘critical friend’ – one who can be friends with everyone around but who won’t go native while he’s here – I liked this way of describing what he’s doing.

So what is it?

It seems to be a vision he’s creating for what the BBC could be and how it could provide value after the ‘broadcast era’ that’s centred around ‘openness.’  He said it should involve 5 things: Creation, Enterprise, Learning, Participation and Communication.  I can’t argue the BBC shouldn’t do those things but, I want to know more about what he’s got in mind – I’m sure alot of other people in the room have had those thoughts.

When pushed on the details of how exactly he imagined his vision manifesting itself, Steve elaborated that he thought it was like an ‘added layer’ on top of what’s already there on the Internet.  Interesting, but some would argue the Internet already exists and no one needs the BBC trying to control it and that as an organic network it will improve itself to meet the needs of its users.  I pressed him about whether he thinks the layer is something that the BBC should build or if its something that we can encourage the growth of by building our stuff in certain ways and he didn’t seem convinced either way.  Personally, I think there’s a greater case for building public value (did I just use that phrase?!) by building things well and setting examples that will build up better semantic relationships rather than trying to create some monster application that will try to ‘control’ a medium that clearly isn’t controllable.  Granted, the control Steve is talking about is enhancements that make it all better but I can’t help but be wary.

Session 3: How NOT to run an Alternate Reality Game

This session was really interesting – I didn’t even know the BBC had attempted an ARG before today – but it also annoyed me.  The speakers told us about how they had run an ARG around the programme Torchwood and about the lessons they learned.  They were (not direct quotes):

  • Don’t make any assumptions about your reality or the alternate one you’re creating – check everything;
  • Don’t underestimate how much work it will take;
  • Be prepared for there to be a change in the real world (say current events) that require you to change your alternate reality.

All very sensible from what I could see – and great to get these tips ‘from the horses mouth.’

That said, the speaker didn’t feel the work had been worth the effort (despite others in the conversation being fairly impressed with the stats!) and seemed to be advocating that the BBC not try an ARG again.  (He did suggest that we might do less elaborate “brand extensions” so wasn’t completely negative on the idea.)

Now, from my perspective, not getting something QUITE right doesn’t mean never do it again.  It certainly didn’t sound like a failure and I’d rather see us try to do better next time.

The game, as it was described to me, ran exactly alongside episodes – so was in some ways still essentially linear and only had the length of the series to attract an audience from TV.  I’d like to see one where the story is less linear and that can last over a longer period of time to catch on virally.  The game also sounded very PC-based (though there were clearly links into the real world) and I’d like to experiment more with what we can do with mobile and out-of-home content to see if we can create ARGs that manifest in the real world away from the PC.  I think there’s a connection to be made with geocaching here too… somehow.

I’d love to know about any great examples of mobile ARGs that people have seen!

Session 4: Does the BBC need a games strategy?

Really interesting conversation here.  The general consensus here was that yes, we do need one.  The audience are crying out for them and will abandon us if we don’t engage with gaming.  But, more interestingly, we discussed the fact that even amongst the people around the table, everyone was talking about something different when they talked about a ‘game’.  Console games, mobile games, virtual world games, ARGs, playground games, board games, web-based games, puzzles, the list goes on.  It wasn’t until the end of the conversation when I mentioned Celebdaq that anyone really discussed the fact that this is probably the most successful game the BBC has done to date.

I think a great outcome of this would be for someone to put the type of games into some sort of simple framework and then say what our business strategy for each type is.  One serious fly in the ointment was the that the BBC is in a tricky space from a regulatory perspective when it comes to games but, interestingly, the ways of working in this space that we talked about almost all included collaboration with the games (or other) industries, which I think show how we could create beneficial partnerships across the range of games and I think that if this was mapped against the framework for the types of games we could produce it could be a powerful way forward in a space that’s traditionally been very difficult.

There’s probably already a bright spark someplace in the BBC that’s already done this so if you’re out there, please, come out, come out wherever you are…

Which reminds me – if nothing else – today was a great day for meeting and connecting with alot of smart folk from around the business I work in.  The type of day that makes me really happy to work for the Beeb.

Session 4: My session! – Should We Bother With Bluetooth?

I lead a conversation with a few other people about whether or not we should try to use Bluetooth as a distribution mechanism.  The conversation basically centred around the fact that Bluetooth is widely used by teens and a free technology which makes it even more attractive to them.  In fact, one report I read said that UK teens and young people use Bluetooth more than their peers in any other country.  All that said, when we’ve tried to do projects using Bluecasting, the results have been underwhelming.

Bluecasting and users Bluetoothing content to each other are clearly two different ways of communicating and what I took away from the session is that we should move our Bluetooth efforts towards trying to fit with the natural behaviour that teens have – sending stuff between themselves – rather than trying to be a, errrr, broadcaster pushing content over-the-air to them in a linear fashion (Bluecasting).  We talked about trying to create a non-linear narrative that was distributed this way and how you might be able to use it in conjunction with a ‘hidden camera’ or game show…  If anyone has any ideas, please shout!

A few thoughts on how the day was shaped

It was great that people took the time out to organise the day and, as I said above, it was a really good one that made me happy to be working at the BBC.  But I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the format since creative facilitation is one of my interests.

The day was billed as an ‘unconference’ that was self organising.  The ‘un organisers’ put a grid of times and tables on the board and asked people to talk about something or pose a question for people to join them to talk about.  It reminded me of the ‘Open Space’ methodology which I’ve seen used other places with slightly different executions.

Open Space aims to be light touch and when you have a bunch of like-minded and engaged people in a room works well but, there’s a few things that still could have gone better:

Ground rules.  You gotta have em.  I know that no one likes them and thinks they know them, but there were a few times today when I thought it would have been good to remind people that in this type of setting ‘no idea is a bad idea’, etc.  We were told ‘No Powerpoint’ upfront – which was a godsend.  I also felt like it would have been helpful to have a few neutral facilitators around to help slow conversations build up momentum – or even just some pointers about unconference techniques that work well, for people who felt ‘stuck’ during their conversations.

Also, moving on from these types of events is always hard.  We talked about this a little bit at the end, but a mechanism to help people try to take something concrete away might have strengthened it.  In any training on how to run these types of things, one of the thing you learn is that you should ‘record everything’ and I really agree with that.  Lots of people were making notes today – and I’m sure I’m not the only one blogging by any stretch of the imagination – but I still feel like some great stuff might get lost – purely because there was just SO much good stuff!