‘We’re not here to eat everyone else’s lunch’: Inside BBC’s major news play in Australia

BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the BBC, and BBC News has relaunched its website and app, and is hoping to make a larger mark in the Australian news media climate.

Aside from an updated design and navigation, the BBC is leaning on its “trusted, impartial journalism”, which is a major drawcard in this era of fake news, deepfake, and general fakery. For the first time, content aside from the entire BBC is folded into one app/site, with stories and videos across their Business, Innovation, Culture, Travel, Earth, News, Sport, and live television offerings.

Of course, this makes for an impressive offering for advertising. Alistair McEwan, senior vice president of commercial development, Asia and ANZ, BBC Global News speaks to Mumbrella about what this means for BBC in the Australian market.

After all, outside of the UK, the BBC operates as a commercial enterprise. And it has a lot to offer, as McEwan tells Mumbrella.

From a purely consumer point of view, what launching the BBC app in Australia means?

First of all, it’s going to be a much, much better consumer user experience.

So what we’re doing is replacing the old international news app, which was configured very differently from the mobile website or the website. And with the relaunch of the new website and the app, we’re unifying the design and the digital ecosystem and bringing a unified product to consumers around the world and in Australia. So it’s basically creating a brand new product suite that is complementary, mirrors each other across both the web and the app environments, and also brings it together under a single unified BBC identity, where previously we had multiple different iterations of the BBC brand under different content areas.

We now bring a singular BBC identity that all consumers around the world will understand and be able to kind of navigate through that different digital ecosystem. So with that, we’re also bringing more content. So in the app space, it was an international news app, which we used to then… and it was also designed in an age where we’re really pre-commercial for us, obviously, the BBC being the public service broadcaster in the UK.

Outside of the UK, we operate as a commercial business under BBC Studios, looking to monetise both the IP and the audience reach that we have around the world. So for audiences in Australia, it’s about bringing more content through both the app product and through the website product as well.

And of course, with the vast majority of our audiences now accessing content via mobile devices, that’s a really important move to be able to kind of bring all of that content through that was available through website, but not through app and unify that under that single identity.

Got it. And obviously, as you said, the BBC is a business outside of the UK. So what are the commercial plays in Australia? Is anything going to be paywalled or is it just all advertising?

Yeah, no plans for any paywalls. When users come to download the new app or refresh their old app, there will be a login request, not a requirement. And that login and that registration sort of gateway really allows users to sign up for additional benefits.

So for example, they can get breaking news alerts by the app. They can save articles and videos for use and access across both platforms. So if you save it on the app, you can actually access it on the website and vice versa at a later point in time.

And also access to newsletters that we send out as well. So there are additional benefits, but no paywall.

Great. And obviously, this is going to be compelling for advertisers as well. What’s your elevator pitch to them?

Yeah, so ultimately, this is about what’s good for consumers and our audiences around the world. Which is obviously good for advertisers, because our belief and our ambition is to drive increased reach, engagement and build our audiences through improved products.

But actually, what it also does is allow us to bring much more effective data, capture segmentation across our audiences and also really vastly improve not only the advertising format delivery experience, with more premium high-impact ad units delivered through both web and app, but it also unifies sponsorship opportunities for brands that want to partner alongside our editorial content – and unifies that across both platforms.

So whereas before we were not able to do that, you could partner with us on web or app, but there wasn’t a unified approach. And also from a commercial content or branded content perspective, where we play very significantly in the Australian market with some of Australia’s leading brands, it brings a much more integrated native environment to place that commercial content directly inside editorial content and alongside adjacent to it. So a more effective, immersive experience for brands.

Will the BBC be doing a commercial push in Australia, in terms of getting the word out to consumers?

We’re going to be rolling out a campaign over the next couple of months that will be brand-centric, but talk about our products in that vein as well. And then we’ll also be running kind of consumer acquisition, or app download acquisition campaigns over the next quarter, really to try to drive and improve audiences.

Australia is a very, very important market for us, obviously being an English-language market. We’ve already got a very strong audience base. We’ve got just under 6 million unique browsers in Australia, currently.

And we have about 100 million page views across our website traffic in the market. So, as a brand, I think we’re well understood. We’ve got a loyal audience.

So, it’s about building and developing that audience engagement, but also acquiring new audiences and reaching out to new audiences. We want to be able to kind of drive that process through our marketing over the next quarter.

And who do you see your competitors as in Australia?

Pretty much everyone. Look, we are the number one international online news brand in Australia. Okay, so we’re also number one in Asia Pacific. And commercially, we compete with every domestic major news publisher. And other international brands as well. But we’re not here to eat everyone else’s lunch — far from it — nor could we in Australia, in the context of our market position.

But what we do, is we provide a really good, strong complimentary audience experience alongside national media consumer needs.

What we found is that, particularly in Australia, over the last couple of years, as the world has become ever more difficult, challenged, complicated, there is real appetite for international, impartial, objective news: a source of truth that people can turn to and trust.

And, of course, the world is becoming a more dangerous, more complicated, interconnected place. Therefore, audiences in Australia — where previously they may not have felt the need to reach out for that international news and analysis — they definitely are now.

So we really provide that complimentary role for audiences in Australia.


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