Content, strategy and creating value in a digital world

The secret behind BBC Mobile’s success: snow, Jacko, could Tiger be next…?

One of the most interesting insights from BBC head of Future Technology Erik Huggers in his keynote at the Mobile World Congress this week, was the stories behind the exponential uptake in people accessing the BBC websites from their mobiles.

As you’d imagine, the BBC have seen a steady, increasing growth in people accessing from mobile, but within that growth are a series of spikes, followed not by drop-offs, but by levelling out, then further growth.

So what happened on these two days that drove so many new users? What events of earth shattering importance compelled people to try something new for the first time?

The first: snow. Anyone who lives or works in London will remember what has now been dubbed Snow Day – the 2nd of February 2009, when a couple of inches of snow shut down much of the ciy’s infrastructure.

The second: the sudden death of Michael Jackson.

In the first case people were most likely stuck on their way to work, in the second, the news broke late in the day, and it’s probable that many people shared the news via text message.

In both cases, the BBC saw a huge uplift in the number of people hitting the site from mobile.

You can almost imagine people looking at their phone, knowing that it had a web browser but never before that point having the need or the curiosity to give it a try. Those two events helped change that view. And the upward trend in the graphs proves that it wasn’t simply a one off, it was the watershed moment, that demonstrated to people the ease and utility of the mobile web.

Funny what progress turns on.

Today could well see another spike, as Tiger Woods makes a public apology.

But this case is slightly different. We already know what he is going to say, but we don’t know how he will say it. Will he look contrite? Will he shed a tear? Will his wife be by his side? To know, we need to watch it, not read it. Could today be the day that many people try streaming video on their mobiles for the first time?


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