in use

Depth Finder

Making the BBC's analysis, explainers and interactive features more discoverable

Hypothesis

How can we help journalists find our in-depth content?

The problem

BBC journalists frequently produce high quality "in-depth" content such as explainers of complex concepts, interactive features for seeing how your local public services are performing, and analysis of the big political stories.

Producing this content often needs a greater investment of time and money, so it's important that we maximise its value for licence fee payers by getting as much use as possible.

While most news stories demand our attention for hours or days before we move onto the next one, this type of content often has a longer shelf life.

The problem is finding it. The BBC produces hundreds of news stories every day, so keeping track of that great content produced months earlier can be hard work.

For example, early in 2020 we produced a comprehensive explainer on negative interest rates.

In the autumn of 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, searches for this term spiked when the Bank of England suggested they could be introduced to help the economy.

It makes sense that rather than producing another explainer, or attempting to explain the concept from scratch, we update and highlight that existing content.

Journalists rely on ad hoc methods, like calling up other news desks to see if they know of any relevant stories they can link to, or keeping lists of in-depth content they've spotted previously. It's not the best use of their time, and clearly a lot of great stories will slip through the cracks.

Screenshot of the Depth Finder results page for a search about Brexit, showing a list of favourited stories, and a preview of an individual story

Depth Finder makes the different types of in-depth content visually distinct.

Introducing Depth Finder

To help journalists find these stories, we built Depth Finder.

Comprising an Elasticsearch database tracking every news story the BBC publishes, and a simple web application, journalists can search for a term, and see a ranked set of results that only includes stories using one of our in-depth categories.

In addition, they can set date, language, and section filters to refine their search.

They can see how well a story has performed in the past, using data from the BBC's in-house analytics tool, Telescope.

Depth Finder has helped improve a few common workflows. Journalists can do background research to get up to speed on a topic by quickly identifying key explainers.

When they want to include a link to one in their own story, they can click a button to copy the story's unique identifier, then paste it into CPS - BBC News's content management system.

Offering more valuable and relevant onward journeys to our readers ensures they're able to get a broader understanding of a topic, while making sure we get the best value from our content.

Next steps

We want to dig further into surfacing relevant and timely evergreen content. Our Evergreen Content project experiments with audience trends to automatically surface stories to journalists based on today's spiking searches.

Results

  • After interest from World Service journalists, we added support for searching across the 44 languages the BBC publishes in.
  • We've started incorporating trending topics into our results to help surface existing content that relates to emerging stories.

Careers

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