Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, writing for ComputerWeekly this week, has picked up on the BBC displaying a hashtag at the start of the new series of Have I Got News For You and said some very nice and insightful things about it:
…when the BBC started broadcasting episode 1 of series 40 of ‘Have I got news for you’ with ‘#bbcHIGNFY’ on screen as the show started, they expected their audience to understand – and follow
I think that’s quite a watershed moment for the BBC and for broadcasting in general. In fact, the very term broadcasting starts to become redundant when the broadcast is only one component of the entire entertainment experience.
It’s actually not the first time BBC programmes have displayed a hashtag in this way, though it’s arguably the most mainstream so far. Previously, there have been:
#genius for the latest series of Genius, which used it to source contributions to the programme
#laterjools for Later with Jools Holland, which also displayed selected tweets which used that hashtag on their site. Chris Kimber wrote about the thinking behind it, and some feedback, on the BBC Music Blog back in May
And the very first was #bbcrevolution for Virtual Revolution
What all of these have in common is that they appeared silently, with no voice-over or obvious call to action.
It’s a secret bat-signal. A neat solution to a tricky editorial problem.
- It works for all microblogging services, and doesn’t give undue prominence to Twitter.
- People who recognise it as a bit of online grammar will know what to do with it, and it makes them feel like an insider…
- …while coming just at the end of the credits it’s easily ignored by people who don’t.
- It doesn’t jar. The visual appearance is tailored to suit the programme, using a typeface which matches the titles etc.
- It’s not about gaining followers; it’s authentically about pointing to the conversation…
- …but it’s also a conversation that the BBC is part of. People will spot that we’re joining in too (e.g. @bbcGenius is an active part of the conversations around #genius, @bbcHIGNFY uses the #bbcHIGNFY tag, etc).
You’ll also see the same hashtags appearing on the BBC’s Programmes pages too, in the new ‘Buzz’ pages which link to the online conversations around those programmes. e.g. the buzz page for HIGNFY, linked from a new module on the programme page,
The ‘hashtag bat signal’ and the programmes page are not the only way of introducing the idea of a hashtag for the programme (and there are some examples of specific calls to action in programmes which involve hashtags: #askRhod, #bbcFilm2010 etc) but it is an elegant one.
Disclaimer: I’m not exactly a neutral observer here. As always, these are just my thoughts and opinions rather than any sort of official BBC line.