When a military coup in Thailand blacked out international media outlets, the BBC was faced with a choice. Without BBC World News on the air, they would have to set up a temporary website to deliver news to people in Thailand or get creative with social media.
On July 10, they launched a new version of the BBC Thai service as a Facebook-only news operation. The thinking, explained in a blog post over at the BBC College of Journalism, is that the social network brought the largest potential audience. Thailand has 96 million mobile subscriptions, and 26 million Facebook users, with 23 million of those coming through a mobile device, writes David Cuen, social media editor for the BBC World Service.
Using Facebook as a publishing system is a relatively cheap alternative for any news organization, though it comes at the expense of using a platform owned by someone else that you don’t control
. And as we’ve seen recently, Facebook has the power to send millions of eyeballs to news
, or just as easily take them away.
Earlier this year, the BBC experimented with using messaging services like Mxit, WhatsApp, and WeChat to deliver news in mobile-heavy markets like South Africa and India. This is the first time the BBC has created a news service based on a social media platform. According to Cuen, the BBC sees the site as three-month pilot. Once the project was approved, producers from BBC Thai underwent training and the site was set up in relatively short order:
The editorial offer was set to provide local, regional and international news in audio, video and text, always optimised for the mobile market. The content is published in Thai and English.
We then decided to use Facebook Notes as our content management system (CMS) or publishing tool, in order to be able to write stories that could live in a place where users could consume them at their leisure — and not only through regular Facebook posts.
On Audioboo we created a channel for BBC Thai where we upload audio clips and interviews that are produced on a regular basis and then connect them to Facebook.
According to Cuen, since launching the Facebook feed, they’ve accumulated 100,000 fans, reached more than 5 million people, and garnered more than 450,000 interactions.