Chapters to discover and share - The Today programme pilots Slicer for greater online impact
For the past few weeks, we’ve been running a pilot with the Today programme to surface chapter points on BBC Sounds web. We want audiences to navigate our audio journalism faster and be better able to share stories with friends.
By giving each chapter a title and a description, we aim to make the best of the BBC’s audio journalism more discoverable through search engines and the BBC’s own platforms.
Hopefully the slicer prototype underpinning the work will make our journalism accessible to a whole new generation.
With the support of colleagues in BBC Sounds, we have been refining the production process with editorial colleagues and discovering, in detail, how listeners interact with the newly available feature.
Why add chapter points?
Audio content is difficult to navigate. Unlike text it lacks subheadings and unlike video it lacks thumbnails. As a result, audiences frequently miss out on audio content they would love.
Even our own journalists have reported difficulty tracking down content that they know exists, including pieces of their own journalism!
By segmenting each story and working with production staff to give it an audience-friendly title and description, we make this content much more discoverable, both in the user interface and through search.
It is also something we are increasingly confident audiences want, because they’ve told us in user research sessions. We think too that segmentation and sharing is increasingly becoming an expectation, due to the availability on other audio and video platforms.
Segmentation also gives our linear production teams the chance to think about the digital delivery of their content, something they have been very engaged in. They understand that getting this right could make their storytelling more discoverable and accessible.
Wonder what you missed on #R4Today but don't want to listen back to the whole show? We are running an experiment where you can go straight to individual story segments for parts of the programme on the BBC Sounds website (not the app for now). Try it here: https://t.co/JAWARt9Ba7— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) June 18, 2021
How it works?
Even though programmes like Today appear on BBC Sounds as single blocks of audio, they are created out of dozens of smaller stories.
We use that framework - the running order - as a skeleton to decide where chapter points are likely to land. We pull through the production and script data from the running order to create a draft title and description for each segment.
We refine the initial chapter points by matching what appears in the programme script to the transcript of what was actually broadcast.
Finally a producer runs through the audio and checks that the alignment is in the right place, before editing the title and description so it is audience-friendly.
We’ve refined the process further, allowing editors to decide which stories they want to group from the running order. For example, six stories that make up the news bulletins at the beginning of each hour, might be grouped into one chapter.
We are working with colleagues in BBC Sounds, who have supported this work, to understand how audiences are interacting with the new feature on Sounds web, before deciding whether to roll it out to the BBC Sounds app.
Initial user research suggests the feature is desired by listeners and our presenters, correspondents and editors have been very supportive of the work.
I didn’t know this was coming but I like it .. Today Programme in chapters. See what you think https://t.co/r4XdDP4zvL— Mishal Husain (@MishalHusain) June 22, 2021