The rise of social media is hard to ignore. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and several others just underscores how this market is gaining by leaps and bounds. Throw in the sheer number of potential uses—especially in terms of marketing potential—and the whole thing only gets better. BBC News has seemingly grasped the potential here, and is out to make it work for the company with Instafax, a service that runs on Instagram, and provides short-form news.
Instafax gets its name from the BBC's earlier Ceefax, a teletext service—the world's first, at last report—that ran until 2012 on British television. Instafax, meanwhile, is something of an update to Ceefax, though set on Instagram; specifically, a short-form news system that works mainly in text, with a little video to underscore things. The new service, according to the head of BBC News Online Steve Herrmann, came as a result of December ratings numbers, which showed that more users were accessing BBC News by mobile device—including tablets—than by desktops for the first time. Reports further suggest that this is likely to be the last such trial, at least in the short term, but there seems to be an openness to trying other media and presentation types as the opportunities arise.
Several other outlets have reportedly joined in the social media fray, with NowThis News turning to Facebook and Twitter, but also Vine and Snapchat for short-form visual content. NBCUniversal actually took a minority stake in the company, and plans to offer advice and collaborative help on getting content out the door and into the line of viewership. Reports suggest that feedback about Instafax is somewhat mixed and runs the gamut from being the “worst idea ever” to being “...a game changer,” so determining what people will think of it in just a few months is going to be a bit of a tall order.
Basically, it's a proposition that's simple in nature, but not easy to act on, necessarily. BBC News is simply going where the viewers are, and when it becomes clear that more online users are turning to mobile devices rather than straight desktop, it starts to make at least some sense to develop accordingly. After all, the whole purpose of a news organization is to be seen, to provide the news of the day to its user base, and if the news organization isn't willing to go where the viewers are, then it's simply going to lose in terms of credibility, reach, and potential revenue generation to advertisers.
Putting social media to work on this front only makes sense, and is exactly the kind of thing that's powering RebelMouse and the other firms in that market, using social media to drive interest. But social media is a diffuse market, with lots of different offerings in place and more arriving on a fairly regular basis, so figuring out how to take advantage of that media to its fullest is as important as it is difficult. The BBC seems to be well on track with this one, though only careful vigilance will allow it to get the most out of its social media investment.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker