Web 2.0: Chris Vallance

Radio Beyond the Phone-in: Social media and broadcasting
iPM is a radio programme that grew out of the PM programme, tagline: share what you know. If you’re broadcasting on R4, you’re broadcasting to people who know a lot, and to try to harness some of that information. Blog and a podcast, broadcast on the weekend.

iPM: try to go beyond the audience, try to harness knowledge outside of the audience, because not everyone listens. So look for interesting stories, try to involve audience in production of show. What ideas have you got? Do you have expertise that might help us produce that?

The blog is central to iPM. The audience can coalesce around it, people can comment, suggest ideas to look at, or suggest info for things they are working on. Not a replacement for traditional journalism, but is us listening and getting ideas for doing our job.

Approach is collaborative. Why? If you look at news there’s a mainstream agenda that everyone is doing. Want to try and find stories that are original, that haven’t been reported or have the attention they deserve, that the audience care about. Inviting people to contribute, helps us find those stories. Audience get a chance to participate. Helps build a community around the programme.

What we don’t want to be: There’s lots of talk around interactivity, and it would be easy to be tokenistic.

Don’t want to be gratuitous, “Tell us what you think” with no purpose. We think there is a purpose, want people with tips and info to contact us, and there are plenty of experts, smart people, who aren’t listeners, and we want to bring them in.

Web can bring people in from places that are quite hard to get to. One extraordinary experience was a group of doctors blogging during an Ebola outbreak in the Congo.

Blogs – myths. Blog is a way of publishing stuff, not a way to lump people together. Tremendous diversity in blogging. People from all sorts backgrounds.

Blogs are everything from ICanHasCheezburger to What I Killed Today – a blog from a vet. Economics – The Becker-Posner Blog, judge who blogs. An Iraqi dentist.

iPM interviewed the Iraqi dentist, then spoke to the US forces spokesman, and a journalist. Iraqis were saying that Suni militia were turning on Al Qaeda, and were organising Awakening Councils. The dentist emailed some audio, describing his experiences, in one case of a suicide bomb going on.

One example of how the blogs helped.

Also done a lot of crowdsourcing. Try to go beyond the traditional BBC areas. So have a map mash-up where people can say what the credit crunch means for them. 22k participants. Outside London, people worry about fuel, inside London it’s house and food prices. Map didn’t lead to the biggest story, but got that from email – turns out heating oil has gone up way more than petrol, and that story really connected with the audience.

Fraudband Britain, before changes in advertising, when people were buying fast broadband and getting very bad speeds. had an online test up, had people test their connection speed, then talked to various indrustry people.

Tips and suggestion. Sometimes ask for direct things, sometimes don’t. Do talk about the sort of things they are interested in. Couple of weeks back they talked about mobile phone location data, apps to track people. Someone came back to them with a story about how he’d been made aware of changes in the way the police can monitor communications data, and that became a big story. Later on, Information Commissioner came on, on another news programme, to say that if the changes went through it would be a step too far. Then newspapers picked up on it.

[Plays audio clip]

So a suggestion from a listener helped form the wider news agenda.

Another example: AQA (exam board) axed a poem by Carole Anne Duffy from an English exam, which is about a psychopath and knife crime after an invigilator complained. Teacher who was a bit upset about this called them. They blogged it, told the guys at BBC News Online, they write a story, gets picked up by Press Association, then the papers. That Saturday, have a programme but the Guardian got a poem from the poet attacking the invigilator and had to change their programme.

You have to give your stories away if you work collaboratively, but this reaps rewards.

Benefit of engaging with the web is a way of sharing what you do with the wider community, and working collaboratively with that community. And different places treat a story differently.

Did an interview with Clive Sinclair. Press organiser said he doesn’t use the internet, so did an interview, talked about computing, and where he say things going, and his feelings about the internet. In the course of the interview he said is “Always been fascinated with flying cars”. Everyone remembers the C5, so did a bit on iPM about flying cars, and his thoughts on the internet. Newspapers of course pick up the flying cars. BoingBoing posted the whole interview and picked out the computing stuff. Very different approaches, and it’s good to have stuff picked up by them, rather than it goingn the other way.

Friends online will help you produce the programme. A podcaster called Dean Whitbread who also produces John Cleese’s podcast, and John agreed to talk with Dean for iPM.

Why have a dedicated programme? Could do this with any programme. All we’re doing is engaging with the online community, and increasingly news programmes are doing that. But having a dedicated programme creates a community, it’s a place to get something a bit different, and helps develop expertise.

Big question is the 133m blog question – there’s a lot of content out there. How do you monitor it? Built a Yahoo pipe to help do that, and its’ very complex. Add it all together it’s a lot of information to process. Very hard challenge and one there’s scope for improvement in.

2 thoughts on “Web 2.0: Chris Vallance

  1. “A podcaster called Dean Whitbread who also produces John Cleese’s podcast, and John agreed to talk with Dean for iPM.”

    Always find it weird to be defined by a distribution mechanism, as if podcasting is the only way to distribute media. I’m a producer who podcasts, rather than the other way round.

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