The BBC, Flickr and the BJP mega mix post – shabba!

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Gavin and Cal
Gavin and Cal,
originally uploaded by

A very interesting day indeed.

First off, Cal Henderson very kindly came to give a talk to the BBC and very enlightening it was too. He made one really interesting point which I’ll come to later… (actually he made loads of interesting points on a great number of things). He also gave us a bit of back history to Flickr, I’ve done the odd presentation, and there’s nowt that gets a laugh as the BBC website circa 1997. Anyway, to go from Concept (Dec 03), launch (Feb04) and to have all that in the bin due to constant iteration six months later is incredible. In a year and a bit it’s managed to get 1 million users, and has 35/40 million images inside it the brute!

The second thing that’s been on my mind is this idea of ‘citizen reporting’. After the leader in the BJP that I commented about a few posts down, I decided to write a letter to Simon, the editor. Here it is in full.

Dear Sir

With reference to your comment section [BJP 10/08/2005] the increased use of citizen reporting during the London Bombings simply meant greater opportunities for ordinary people to capture what happened, at a moment when professional journalists were not necessarily able to get near the action.

As Pete Clifton, BBC News Interactive’s Editor, has explained on the news magazine site, this isn’t about ordinary people taking the jobs of the professionals. People just wanted to share their experiences and show they were there.

The BBC is a porous institution that is actively trying to find new ways to engage with its audience and let them contribute alongside regular coverage about news stories that involve and affect them.

It’s not replacing the news, it’s adding to the news.

Furthermore this isn’t the first time there’s been a to and fro between the public and the media. Remember the ‘Argie Handbag Incident’ that went on to win News Photography of the Year (

News needs the people as much as the people need the news.

A Webb
Picture Editor

So last night, Diane, the features editor called me for an interview. I’m keen to move the debate away from the London Bombings and who did or didn’t pay for what and towards ‘what happens now?’. It’s interesting because no one really knows. Here’s some other thoughts I’ve had on where we might be in 12 months…

1. The first hit is free: The public get wise very quickly and realise they can start asking for payment for exclusive submissions, especially images and video. Agencies like spring up then get bought out by Yahoogoole, trad news agencies shit it.

2. We’re Next: Maybe media institutions are next in line after the record industry and Hollywood for a shake up? We either ignore or fail to react quickly enough to the changing landscape and caught with our kecks down. Look at the structure of this piece on the Piano Man, particularly the comments. Is it any wonder the public are seeking new forms of reporting as they’ve fallen out with the media.

3. It actually works: The Live 8 scenario is a good example. One main event fully covered by professional (Getty) photographers, journalists and TV reporters, but then the web filling the ‘real experiences’ gap. There’s 9879 photos tagged Live8 on Flickr, that’s a lot of content.

The thing is that a lot of news is planned. It’s well researched by professionals who are trained and qualified in media ethics, law, keeping a log, balance, and objectivity. User generated content is none of these things, it’s spontaneous, opinionated, blurry, and subjective. More often that not user generated content only comes into play when it is the public as a whole that is affected by events. Imagine the Flickr tags for Diana’s funeral, or England beating Germany 5-1? It’s events like these that best suit UGC.

Which leads me on to some points Cal made… namely Flickr is lacking editorial. Now, they’ve been bought by Yahoo, and they’re being seen as the first Messy Media megacorp, with a news division too. So, what would happen if Flickr technology was partnered with Yahoo! news’ objective editorial? That would be a very powerful thing right? Maybe that’s option 4 in twelve months time?

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
August 2005

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