weekly viewers
Source: The BBC

National broadcaster The BBC explain how they've been bridging the gap between data sets to win new business. 

The BBC has produced some of the most popular and critically acclaimed TV and radio shows of all time. Nearing its 100th year, it’s the oldest and largest national broadcasting agency in the world.

Synonymous with British culture, the BBC plays a central role in people’s lives globally. Its international news site receives up to 100 million monthly views. Its world news TV channel is now watched by 101 million weekly viewers. Its social media influence spans far and wide.

BBC’s content is aimed at a range of audiences and hosted on a multitude of platforms, which means many different data sets.

With so much information to analyze, they needed a solution that would bring everything into focus, giving them the full picture of their audience.

The challenge 

Bridging the gap between data sets.

Hamish McPharlin leads the global insights team at BBC News, powering the brand’s leading international news site and the hugely popular 24-hour channel, BBC World News.

Supporting these major platforms, along with many others across social media, the team has some key areas of focus:

  • Measuring the size of their audience, online and on TV.
  • Monitoring audience behaviors.
  • Analyzing their traits and preferences.
  • Identifying the impact of advertising on BBC News.
  • Advising BBC News editors and producers on editorial content. 
  • Communicating ad performance to brands advertising on BBC channels.

Across all of these, the team has one primary goal: finding what works.

But to do this, they needed to connect the dots.

The challenge, Hamish describes, lay in bringing the data together.

As an international platform, hundreds of millions of people engage with them at all times. 

This means they exist on multiple platforms, and in some cases this would be spread across different silos of information - unconnected databases.

Looking to fill some gaps in visibility and understand their audiences in more in-depth ways, they needed a way to source transformative insight that paints a complete picture.

Seeing movement on the website and other platforms, the team needed to understand if and how that movement was related.

The action

Putting millennials under the microscope.

The team signed up to the GWI analysis platform, intent on discovering as much as possible about who was consuming their content. 

One of the main things they use the platform for is analyzing the quality of their audience. They wanted to understand who was consuming their content and how consumption was changing.

Through this analysis, one audience has always stood out above the rest for the BBC News team: affluent millennials

This was a key consumer for the brand, and the team needed to prove that they reached more affluent millennials than any other international news platform.

Simultaneously, they needed to deepen their understanding of this group, positioning themselves as experts on their audience.

With these goals in mind, they used the platform to fine-tune their targeting, accessing over 40,000 data points on each of its tracked consumers, representing 2 billion internet users globally. 

These questions formed the starting point:

  • What defines affluent millennials? 
  • What interests them outside of what we know?
  • What do they value?
  • What did they want from brands? 

Delving deeper for more tailored results, the team then chose to hone in on some key consumer segments, leveraging the GWI panel of 17 million internet users.

Turning to custom research, the team could not only speak to more specific groups, but ask bespoke questions around how these people consume content on BBC platforms, pinpointing the gaps in visibility they needed to fill.

Hamish explains this made it possible for them to determine the answers to these core questions. 

Using a custom solution, they put a very targeted survey to a U.S. sample, which was the biggest market for them digitally. 

The team asked them where they consumed their news and how, building up a Venn diagram of the crossover between people on their site and those consuming BBC content on Facebook, Twitter, Apple News or YouTube, for example.

They found that, for the most part, people who consume on their site are not necessarily the same audience to those who consume off-site.

This insight helped the team improve their targeting by providing a unified view of their audience - honing in on the kind of content that works best for the variety of audiences they serve across platforms.

With a core focus on affluent millennials, the teams could also uncover what makes this audience unique - providing that necessary level of understanding to reveal the people behind the stats.

As an analyst, Hamish says, it’s easy to forget these are actual people, not numbers.

This research helps them understand who's consuming what, and why.

Putting insight in the driving seat. 

Having access to insight of this scale meant the teams could use it to their advantage - putting it where it matters most: driving new business.

Pitching to potential brands advertising with BBC News, the team could not only prove their wide-reaching appeal to millennial audiences across the board, but dig deeper to advise them on how best to target these groups.

For brands in banking, for example, BBC’s custom research revealed certain aren’t as receptive to a message about how long the bank has been around.

Instead, they find messages about how they are improving communities more resonant. 

When it comes to travel and tourism, brands in this sector need to know why affluent millennials travel and what they're looking for in a leisure trip. 

BBC’s research proved that whilst older generations might want to spend more time on a beach being ‘pampered’, this younger generation is more interested in having an active holiday, using it as a time to explore a local culture.

This gave the team the confidence to give recommendations on how best to target these individuals.

The result 

Winning new business with better visibility.

With instant access to data that helped them stand out, the insights team could give brands more than was expected, helping them win new business and drive campaign performance.

Insight derived from their custom study on affluent millennials, for example, helped to shape a successful campaign with a major tourism brand.

A key example of BBC leveraging deep insight to win new business, Hamish says this is becoming a more common occurrence across the company - following the global rise in focus on consumer insight for business growth.

As he outlines, research and insight is almost forming part of the BBC News sales team now, bringing home the power that lies in being able to say to a brand: ‘Here’s what we know about your audience - what they like, what pushes their buttons - and here’s how we’re going to use that to promote your brand.’

On another level, GWI helped the team to bridge gaps in visibility - connecting different data sources, and helping them build a more consumer-centric picture.

Having this shared, accurate view of their target consumers has empowered teams across the business, enabling them to shape their strategy to fit.

Sources for stats in top right module: BBC.com

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