The BBC’s Interactive Elements

April 15, 2010

As can be seen throughout its Web site in my previous post, the BBC likes to compartmentalize its coverage and resources. Audience/reader participation appears to be contained to the Have Your Say section,  through comments and user-submitted photos and videos. Interactive elements, meanwhile, have their own section titled Interactive Guides and Graphics.

The section provides excellent maps, charts, and other graphics visually presenting information on a wide variety of topics and stories, from the route of a new high speed rail line to a timeline of the global financial collapse to a “loneliness map” charting the rise in “a poor sense of belonging” in the UK. I like how these features are so easy to find and explore, although I’d like to see them also included with or linked to news stories, instead of just being corralled in their own corner of the Web site.

I found many references citing the results of official polls and surveys (conducted both by the BBC and other organizations) in BBC articles, but I have yet to find evidence of a single informal reader poll. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – online reader polls have virtually zero news value; they can’t possibly reach a representative sample. The BBC is there primarily to impart hard news. It makes sense they wouldn’t waste their time with “Do you think such and such reform is good or bad, pick A or B” fluff. Such questions are instead asked in Have Your Say, where readers can respond through short answer instead of multiple choice, and where their participation might actually yield a useful source or material for a BBC story.

Reader polls are no real loss, but I’d like to see more in the way of searchable databases from the BBC. I did find a searchable database called the Plant Finder as part of the BBC’s Gardening site, which features the media company’s television and radio programs on gardening. The database offers an impressive amount of information on plant species and how to grow them and is a great resource for readers, but it doesn’t exactly have a lot of hard news value. The BBC already frequently provides links next to many of its news stories to download original reports; if staffers could organize that data into easily searchable databases for online visitors, that would be even better.



  1. That’s interesting that the interactive elements don’t necessarily link to news stories. One would think that a connection between a database or a poll and some type of news value would increase readers’ inclination to engage with the material. Maybe the BBC should consider housing interactive elements in two places: with the news story to which it belongs, and in the separate “Guides and Graphics” section.

  2. Good point about the searchable databases, Karen. That would be a really great addition to the BBC’s Web site, because – you’re right – the polls have little, if any, news value. If the BBC is going to take continue to take high road in news presentation (which I think they should), then the searchable database might just be the way to go to make the site more interactive. It wouldn’t be fluff, yet it would still be very engaging.

  3. I totally agree that most of the interactive elements on the BBC are in the “Have your say” section. You know, I didn’t even notice they had an “interactive” section. There should be a direct link on the left to that page if they don’t already have one. For some reason I still can find how you got there. And they definitely should have news stories to accompany these interactive elements, especially if they’re on the BBC’s news site.

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