Keynote: Jason DaPonte, Managing Editor, BBC Mobile Platforms

Richard welcomed Jason DaPonte, managing editor of BBC Mobile Platforms. He’s going to be covering the BBC angle to inspire us all in the innovation work we’re involved with.

Here’s a link to Jason DaPonte’s presentation: Jason DaPonte Keynote

JdP: Hello everyone. When I heard this was a conference about innovation, I was going to talk about the new Dr Who monsters, but the communications office said I had to talk about the future of mobile…

No sonic screwdrivers I’m afraid!

I’m going to talk about what we’ve been doing, and then move onto some things that will inspire you and some challenges.

Firstly, what is mobile. It’s incredibly personal (teenagers would rather lose their passport, pets, wallets – there’s even a no-mo-phobia!)

It’s an opportunity to consume: Who’s got a mobile (everyone raised their hands), who’s got two (several less), who’s got more (lots less).

We see it as a next step for broadcasters 0 it’s a great fit for the BBC to be able to send material to phones. Between 2010 and 2012 you’ll be able to switch on your telly on your mobile.

Our framework for mobile:

browsers, mobile rich media/broadcasting/messaging/out of home

Mobile browser service – we’re trying to make them more personal and engaging using geographical information. Where I am (rather than Where I live). We have 3 million + unique users a month.

Mobile rich media/broadcasting – it’s a huge strategic thing for the BBC, can provide a great public service to people who don’t engage with us all the time. We’ve launched BBC iPlayer on IPhone and iPod Touch, and we’re looking to see what else we can do with it. We’re working with operators on 3G TV trials. We’re looking towards mobile broadcasting – what should the experience be? (the content may have to change without departing too much). We’re also tackling the technical and policy stuff, with a lot of groups and organisations involved in that.

Messaging – we’ve seen a lot of scandals around SMS and premium rate telephony. We’re setting up a Compliance Unit, and get new programme formats – looking beyond voting. Messaging was one of the early services used by radio to engage with the audience, but has just been used by tv for voting. We’re also working on alerts services for the Olympics.

Out of Home – one of the BBC Big Screens here – in passive and events mode, how can there be interactivity? How can we use wi-fi, bluetooth, semacodes?

You’re probably thinking what does that have to do with us? Two things that might be useful

Web 2.0 – it’s a way of thinking. I think it’s a good way of thinking about how you can build services that are innovative and well-used. We sat down and looked at Facebook, flickr, YouTube etc, not necessarily technology sites. How can we get people to think about services that might be successful?

They’re: straightforward, functional, gregarious (sociable and participatory), open (exposed and unguarded – we’ve worked with the Strategic Content Alliance on this sort of thing), evolving.

When we went from those principles to how are we going to do this with our website, we thought about: participation (do you want here’s the information, or come and do something with our service), distinctive (does it overlap too much with another service that’s out there?), promise fulfilled (you have to be clear that you deliver on what you promise), personal experience (it’s really important to make the users come back), part of the web (or network – where are the connections you can go to? it’s very important to cross boundaries and barriers, even if it’s hard and it’s not something that your institution is not used to)

Food for thought – a survey of co-design (see

Collaboration is really important. We’re trying to embrace it at the BBC, and there’s lots of mistakes you can make (only involving users at the end, for example). Users aren’t always right (we’ve had some weird answers).

Co-design is:

  • a trial-and-error style of working (this can be tough, and can make project managers nervous!)
  • a collaboration
  • developmental process
  • outcome based

We like to say at the BBC that the audience are at the heart of everything we do.

He’s now opened the session to questions from the floor.

David White, Oxford Uni: relating to mobile, how long do you think it will be before the government works out what you’re doing with iPlayer and throttles it?

JdP: I don’t work on this!

Greg Pytel, LSE: I’ve been involved in the Cambridge 3G forum. The technology to move around and watch tv has been around for 30 years. It never took off to any extent – very few manufacturers put it into cars, for example, because it’s not useful. Why does the BBC think it’ll be a success on a postage stamp screen?

JdP: The 3G tv is going on now. What we’re talking about is digital mobile broadcasting which is a different standard, (difference between analogue and digital, which offers more services).

Tom Franklin, Franklin Consulting: can you take a leap of imagination to 2020 – what do you think you’ll be doing then? Will mobiles be very different?

JdP: Futuregazing that far is always very dangerous to do. Not a BBC policy statement, but mobile computing will be more widespread – more connective devices (eg an umbrella with a weather report). A lot more of these big screens – ie a mobile device not your mobile device (eg in New York every taxi has a screen)

Owen Stephens, Imperial College: can you talk about the impact that it has on the BBC from a journalism/newsgathering point of view – how everyone is carrying a mobile. Citizen journalism type of approach.

JdP: we have short codes to send SMS to the newsroom directly. We see it as a great means of sharing news and experiences – live from festivals and events. We’re continuing to encourage that – it’s a great thing to do. We’re also sending journalists out with just a mobile and seeing what they can do with that (eg in Bangladesh to show the effects of global warming, and the tall ships race in Liverpool – we’ve got devices on board with various people to tell the stories).

Delegate 1: we’ve been funded by JISC to produce a website. Is the mobile well-enough defined as something you can target – eg a certain screen resolution – is there a standard?

JdP: I worked on the BBC website for 5 years. People asked why I wanted to move to mobile – no standards, all the rest of it. That’s why I wanted to do it – it’s like the Wild West. There’s no magical standard – it’s an emerging field. We have a remit towards universality for as many platforms as possible to reach the maximum number of licence-fee payers. We try to serve up the right content – we don’t always get it right, there’s always a new device with a new configuration, so it’s a process of constant feedback.

Delegate 2: Driving in a car, there’s more opportunities for interactivity. How does digital radio work with this, or podcasts – are you making all your programmes available for podcasting (or even for podcasting only?)

JdP: Relating to in-car experiences, it’s something we’re thinking about. There’s a lot of safety issues involved. In Korea that’s really taken off – backseat video etc. I don’t have an exact answer. We do have DAB text in car – but for the most part we’re encouraging people to not use their mobiles while driving, but in a layby (Where I am shift from Where I live) you might want something else. For kids, there’s safety issues.

Podcasting – I don’t work for audio/music but I don’t think we’d do stuff for just podcast as we’ve got so much material available.

Delegate 3: there’s a certain amount of research in mobile learning – do you have a perspective on this?

JdP: the BBC’s whole e-learning strategy is still being defined, but we do have GCSE bitesize up on mobile, which is one of our most popular services on there.

Richard: thank you for the keynote – very interesting. I’d like to introduce a trial and error bidding form!

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