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The BBC’s experimentation with new methods of content distribution has continued apace with the creation of a new subreddit and a separate Reddit video news channel.
Officially unveiled in June, the news channel hosts a range of the BBC’s latest videos while the subreddit acts almost like an RSS feed.
Reddit received 114m unique visitors last month from more than 190 countries, so it’s easy to see why the BBC would want to try and establish a presence on the site.
In truth it’s likely that the BBC already gets a decent amount of traffic from Reddit, though no official figures are publicly available.
Matthew Danzico, head of the BBC’s Innovation Lab, explained that the new subreddit and video channel are part of a wider objective of trying to understand how to distribute content to an increasingly fragmented audience online.
It’s actually a really fun problem to try to solve. But there's never a one-size-fits-all solution for modern content distribution. We often have to adapt quickly to emerging tech and build services like our Instagram video news service, BBC Shorts or, in this case, a BBC subreddit.
Danzico describes new digital platforms, such as Reddit or Instagram, as like “quickly growing cities” that people are flocking to in their millions.
As such it’s becoming increasingly important for media companies to help colonise these spaces and distribute their content "from within."
We hope to identify whether the Reddit community finds our service useful. And more broadly we hope to continue to learn how to serve stories to new hubs on the internet.
That last point is very important and relies to a large extent on audience feedback from the various trials.
Luckily Redditors are generally keen to share their opinions, with Danzico describing the user feedback as “really positive and helpful so far.”
Digital content distribution
Experimentation with new digital channels is vital for digital publishers that can no longer rely on traditional methods of distribution.
Newspapers are still debating the pros and cons of using paywalls in the face of ever-declining print revenues and the crushing realisation that digital ads probably won’t ever make up for the shortfall.
Metered paywalls seem to be the most sensible option, but even then it’s extremely difficult to persuade consumers to pay for content that they can get for free elsewhere.
BBC's Instafax video service
The BBC benefits from an internationally respected brand as well as guaranteed income in the form of the licence fee, so it has different financial concerns than its competitors.
However it has also been at the forefront of digital innovation, achieving huge success with the iPlayer and trialling various new methods of content distribution.
Earlier this year I wrote about the Beeb’s experiments with bitesize video news reports on Instagram. Named Instafax, the short form news service uses content specifically created for the mobile app, with each video including a selection of images and facts that give a very brief outline of the story.
Hopefully these trials will ultimately work for the benefit of the entire publishing industry in the long run and ensure that quality journalism survives. Otherwise we’ll just be left with the MailOnline and Buzzfeed.