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#DCS2016: BBC boss says virtual reality is ‘a massive opportunity’

BBC StoryWorks' senior vice president of content has hailed the "massive opportunity" virtual reality (VR) presents for journalism and content marketing.

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Speaking to Business Reporter ahead of The Digital Content Summit 2016, Richard Pattinson said that while there is some hesitation over the VR hype after 3D television failed to properly take off, those who have used the technology can see its potential.

“I think anybody who has used it can see this is an extraordinarily powerful tool that is going to be a massive opportunity,” Pattinson said of hardware like the Oculus Rift and pointing to some of the existing journalism produced for the platform.

Richard Pattinson

Richard Pattinson

“It brings stories and reporting to life in really compelling ways. It is another opportunity for us to look at the opportunities for reporting and storytelling.”

While VR is the next step, the ongoing revolution in content creation is happening on mobile and tablet, which account for around two thirds of the BBC’s pageviews.

“It is a much more intimate experience and it alters the relationship between the user and the content,” Pattinson said of digital content delivered via mobile and tablet.

The BBC is also working on new formats that better suit the way we use our smartphones.

For example, while most users hold their phone in a portrait position, most video is landscape, which wastes a lot of screen space and “is not a great experience”.

To deliver a higher-quality offering, the BBC is developing a service that offers a news bulletin with greater interactivity, featuring video shot in portrait.

“The experience is different,” Pattinson said, comparing it to television news. “You can interact and go to a longer read. There is much more opportunity to put the user in control.”

But not every organisation has the budget to develop its own content platforms.

When working with limited resources, Pattinson said firms need to carefully consider who their audience is and where they are likely to come into contact with their output.

“They need to think about who they are wanting to reach,” he said.

For example, if a firm’s target audience is very active on Facebook, it might produce video clips with enthralling introductions to entice users to stop scrolling and watch more.

“If you are posting content on Facebook you have to think about how people find that and how it grabs their attention,” Pattinson said.

“If you do not capture someone’s imagination in the first few seconds, you have lost them.”

But whatever the budget and whatever the platform, the key is for firms to think about their audiences and use the analytics and information at hand to create the best content possible.

For the BBC, this includes analysing data about how users find the content, how they are consuming it, where they are geographically, which devices they use and what mood they are in.

“We think incredibly carefully about it,” Pattinson explained. “There is an enormous number of things we have to consider.”


Photo © Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0). Cropped.


The Digital Content Summit 2016 takes place on January 26th at Etc Venues Monument.

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