Future of Media Preview: A Q&A with Jamie Angus, head of BBC World News
The acting head of news at BBC World News explains how one of the most well-known journalism brands is adapting to the digital era. Jamie Angus will discuss his ideas in person at Digital Journal’s Future of Media event on April 6 in Toronto.
When you think of global news, BBC News is likely a company that comes to mind. Known for dispatching reporters in political hot zones, BBC has expanded its coverage in light of journalism’s changing face in the last few years.
Angus has also worked as editor of Daytime News Programmes at BBC World Service and was editor of The World at One, BBC Radio 4′s lunchtime news show. Prior to that, he was Editor of Daytime News Programmes at BBC World Service (English), where the output included the flagship Newshour programme, which is widely re-broadcast by partners in North America.
He has been responsible for news programming on TV, radio and online, and yes, he has time to sleep.
Angus spoke to Digital Journal prior to visiting Toronto this week for his appearance at the April 6 Future of Media event, where he’ll join other news leaders and executives to discuss the challenges media outlets face today and how best to adapt to the digital age.
Digital Journal: How has reporting world news changed in the growing world of digital media? Where is it heading?
Jamie Angus: I think the linear style of news that audiences were used to a generation ago has been changed forever by digital media.
If you look at a developing story like the Arab Uprising from this year, you see clearly that public discussion of the story and the issues surrounding it, in social media and elsewhere, is part of the story itself. It poses a challenge to traditional media organizations to sort the important information from the unenlightening ― probably the same values journalists have practiced for many generations. But we have to maintain a balance between real events on the ground, and digital activity surrounding them.
A media organization that is truly in touch with its audiences allows them the space to discuss current events in a way that plays into the content of their own coverage ― and we can see from the Arab Spring that media organizations who really own this idea benefit enormously.
Digital Journal: We’ve seen significant changes in digital media and news production for the Web. What does the future of media look like in the digital/online space? Where are current changes going to take us?
Jamie Angus: I’ve been really struck by the success of “live page” coverage of news. There is a real appetite amongst audiences to see stories unfolding in real time, in text audio and pictures, and to have the chance to interact with that.
The technology to drive these, and social media’s ability to allow audiences to discuss events in real time, is still in its infancy.
Digital Journal: How do rapid changes in media affect a public broadcaster?
Jamie Angus: The values that public broadcasters generally embody ― reputation, balance, editorial integrity ― also make them vulnerable to fast-moving technological change. They tend to act slowly, and their innate caution means there are always newer operations who can make more noise on any given platform.
I also worry about the decisions to commit public money to supporting specific platforms and how those are taken. Some social media would envy the support given by the BBC to more established social media.
Digital Journal: What medium do you think is likely to change the most in the next year or two?
Jamie Angus: I’m fascinated by the changes that IP TV, streaming video, and on-demand, direct-to-home TV sets will make to all output, especially news. I don’t begin to understand the details of this, but I wonder whether a huge change in distribution is around the corner. That could have a huge effect on the industry.
At home in the UK, we’ve seen how the cost of maintaining “old” distribution has been a huge problem for World Service Radio in the last decade, and I wonder how that will play out for TV.
Digital Journal: How can mainstream journalists reach out to the start-up world to make their jobs easier and to make their reporting better?
Jamie Angus: I think public broadcasters gravitate quickly to established technologies and media. I don’t see a lot of journalists experimenting beyond those.
I wonder what the implications are for news-gathering, with the explosive growth in location-based social media. Or tools like AudioBoo, for example.
So far, I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of that.
Digital Journal: What start-ups do you think are making a big difference or impact in the world of media? How so?
Jamie Angus: As previously mentioned, I’m a big user of AudioBoo, and I would like to see more people using it in news. It offers a real way of expanding radio production, for example.
I would anticipate more use of social media and mapping technology in combination, and I think they are well placed to exploit that.
Digital Journal: What do you think makes a good “digital-first” strategy for a media company, and should modern media businesses approach with a digital-first mindset?
Jamie Angus: It depends what your market is, and on the media side what your distribution model is.
The big question is whether digital-led ways of consuming media will really be retained for life, or whether as people age and their lives change, they become more receptive to traditional ways of consuming the news.
There’s evidence on both sides, but I think the great variety of user experience that digital offers is changing how journalism is delivered for good, and it will always be necessary to have a digital dimension to launching new products.
Digital Journal: How will rapid and significant changes in digital media over the last few years affect the average person at home in the years to come?
Jamie Angus: Platform convergence seems like the big issue to me. It looks more and more as if the number of devices you use will fall and fall, probably to around a handful in any household.
As radio, TV, and online come ever closer together, the key driver of audiences will be strong content. If you have it, audiences will find you, but less and less in the traditional way.
I also think that households with children and young adults in them are driving digital uptake incredibly quickly. I am struck by how much parents talk about their childrens’ ways of consuming news and entertainment, and that feels like a tipping point to me. It’s a world in which the younger generation are driving what older generations do more than ever before.
Just look at what’s happened to newspapers; if you wanted to pop out and buy a paper today, your choice would be considerably less than it once was, probably because of what people younger than you are doing. Yet free sheet consumption is massive, and at the same time it’s moving young people back to a model of actually reading real papers. How is that all going to play out? And how can media companies figure it out before anyone else does?
This Q&A is part of a 5-part series:
- An interview with OpenFile Editor, Kathy Vey
- An interview with journalist Mathew Ingram
- An interview with National Post senior producer, Chris Boutet
- An interview with the head of BBC World News, Jamie Angus
- An interview with Jon Taylor, Senior Director of Content for Bell Media Digital