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Personalization, User data and Tech Are Key to Next-Gen Publishing: BBC


Personalization, User data and Tech Are Key to Next-Gen Publishing: BBC

Notable for its news coverage,  is also home for wide genres of content ranging from informative to entertaining topics such as lifestyle, science, culture, natural history and more. 

The BBC team explains that real time and accumulated data plays significant roles in identifying the type of content audiences most likely want to engage with. As a result, they explore  various new content themes to enhance the editorial strategy of the platform.

“Our commercial teams benefit from this,” said Ali Taher, Vice President, Advertising & Partnership Sales, MENA, Turkey & The Mediterranean at BBC Global News in an interview with Communicate. He explained that the team behind the branded content, utilize the accumulated knowledge to help craft brand stories in a way that will engage the BBC audience and drive results for their commercial partners.

As advertisers actively shift their focus on obtaining relevant data for effective advertising, Taher explains that the organization uses a data management platform to segment users into highly targeted groups which allows them to tailor advertiser messages across their platform.

Simultaneously, to enhance the user experience, BBC Research and Development unit is exploring a new cloud and increased capabilities. The internally named prototype, BBC Box, powered by a Raspberry Pi and Databox, will store a copy of aggregated user data gathered from different internet services such as Instagram, Spotify and BBC iPlayer on the user’s BBC Box.

While storage and use of personal data are an increasing concern today, Taher notes that this project places people “at the centre of the service” with their permission and active participation. Primarily based in the UK, BBC does not have plans to introduce this project in the Middle East. However, it still highlights the longstanding international organization’s capacity to innovate for its audiences.

“BBC News Global views personalization, user data and technology as key to next generation publishing and our technology teams are active in informing the future of both editorial strategy and our commercial offering that supports BBC News Global’s world class journalism,” Taher added. 

1- How can organizations such as the BBC process content in a way to ensure efficient targeting of  both advertisers and consumers?

BBC News Global editorial teams are highly interested in the idea of tailoring content to users. There are teams in place and projects in progress that seek to understand how technology such as machine learning and data can be leveraged to enhance audience experiences of it’s output.

Speaking from my own commercial perspective and moving to the subject of targeting in the context of advertising, advertisers are always looking for more relevance and seeking the right suite of data to accompany their campaigns for greater efficiency. At the BBC, we utilize a data management platform to segment users into highly targeted groups which allows us to tailor advertiser messages across the BBC according to the specific objectives of a campaign.

We can also extend reach beyond the BBC using our audience extension solution where a mix of BBC audiences and algorithmically driven look alike audiences are found and targeted through display, mobile, video and social to further enhance campaign performance. Our strict brand safety safeguards are of course at play throughout this process. Given the constant change we are seeing when it comes to regulations and browser controls across the territories in which we operate, we are working on a major project to future proof our data driven offering.

2-How do data mining platforms help an organization target their audience?

The principle point to bear in mind is that data is now a key requirement to most advertising partnerships which means that BBC News Global sees a future where it will continue to utilize third parties and various forms of technology to enable it to continuously enhance it’s offering. This is becoming increasingly relevant as we consider the changing regulatory and competitive landscape which create more challenges for digital publishers in their aim to deliver campaign efficiency to their advertising partners. Data and technology platforms are considered for how they can help, albeit the process of onboarding a third party technology solution is a time consuming process given the regulatory and compliance safeguards that are there to protect our audience data.

3- What is the BBC Box and why is it important? 

You’ll have to accept commentary on this from what is in the public domain given that this is a BBC Research and Development team project in the UK which sits outside of the BBC’s commercially funded international News organisation. 

In a nutshell, this is a BBC research and development project that aims to explore new ways of storing and using data, especially personal data and to examine the possible benefits this could bring. The “BBC Box” is a prototype device that pulls together data about a user into one place. 

The team are using the BBC Box experiment to explore what potential services the BBC (and others) could provide people in the future linked to their personal data. The primary focus is to see how value can be delivered based on the aggregation and processing of their data on one device within the participants control and not accessible to third parties without permission.

The storage and use of personal data is rightly a topic of enormous interest and people are concerned about what their data is and isn’t used for. Participants in this project have actively chosen to be part of the trial and they are at the centre of the service, with full control of what data is stored about them and how it is used.

There are unlikely to be plans to introduce this in the region [MENA] but it’s a fascinating project that highlights the BBC’s capacity to innovate and anyone can read more about it on the BBC R&D Blog at :

4- How does the organization streamline their product development from data?

The BBC is often mistakenly associated with news only, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, under the banner, there are verticals covering a wide variety of content genres focused on lifestyle, science, culture, natural history and more that provide both fascinating and informative reading but also environments that we align our commercial content to. Examples of these include, Earth, Future, Culture. BBC News Global continues to explore new content themes and how these resonate with audiences to inform it’s long and short-term editorial strategy and this is done through utilizing the vast amount of real time and accumulated information that is available about the type of content audiences want to engage with. Not only does this data help inform broad editorial strategy but it also allows editorial teams to track the performance of output in real time, unlocking potential to drive audience engagement with content by tweaking headlines, swapping images, adapting text articles and so on.

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