This week we have been conducting some user research into a new web project we are developing here at the BBC. As always, its been an incredibly insightful process helping us to focus our product around our audience needs. After all, as my boss says 'Audience is at the heart of everything we do' - and its true, we certainly aim offset those sometimes bizarre business needs with something more appropriate for our users. Anyhow, I've been doing this type of research for years at the BBC and there's something I noticed today which is prevalent in every user sample I've worked with: The level of audience engagement.
I can summarise this into two distinct groups:
1. Established audience This group has relationship with the BBC. It doesn't mean they like or dislike the organisation, but they have a vast exposure and knowledge of BBC content over a long period of time. They are most likely UK based perhaps ex-pats - possibly of an older age profile. They understand what the BBC does well or what services we provide - this usually means News, Sport, Weather and Radio. However, it has been noted that some of our audience do not realise that our radio stations are proved by the BBC - it is more likely that they will associate our brand with TV services.
They have expectations of the BBC on-line services based on their previous consumption of TV and radio services. 2. Estranged audience A disaffected audience who either have little exposure to BBC services or a bad experience of the ones they have. Often from a culture which has there own media habits and may not have grown up experiencing BBC output.
They are less trusting of the BBC's impartiality and more demanding of its public service remit. In terms of on-line engagement this might mean local services, community feedback, opinion and debate. Fact:
The BBC has a public service duty to make its services appeal to all audiences in the UK.
Should we really focus effort on the estranged audience? Or should we simply build on the established audience we already have and exceed their expectations?
I can see arguments both ways. But certainly as a web proposition, I feel the BBC is on shaky ground if it tries to be all things to all people. Ask yourself, why did you start using Google or Flickr? Web products need one strong reason to exist...the rest is just exceeding expectations and word of mouth.