Connected Stories

A new topic-driven storytelling format for BBC News and beyond

Connected Stories is the colloquial term for the BBC's first foray in to a truly Linked Data driven content format. On the surface, it is new stream-like pages powered by tagged content able to pull in content from across the BBC; be it video, audio, UGC, social, short-form or long-form text and compile it in to one engaging read or overview. Hiding beneath the hood however, is a complex system of content management systems, tag ontologies, page templates and workflows, all of which my team at BBC News led the charge on — not just for News itself, but for all content across the BBC. But maybe it's easier to explain through video though; see for yourself below.

A brief introduction to Connected Stories

As Design Lead for the early experiments using Local News as our testing ground — and later as Creative Director for News, my team and I worked with several disciplines and products to create a cohesive system that would both be easy to work with aswell as scale to be able to span everything BBC: Sports, Radio, TV and so on. We engaged with our Data Scientists to create a logical and easy tag ontology that would work for all of the BBC's content, we created front-end templates that would meet the exacting standards of the BBC's journalists and we created the CMS systems (see Vivo) that would power the experience on the back end, allowing editors to curate and pull from content as it came in from the field or from the deep archives of the BBC.

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From workshops, to paper prototypes, to shadowing editors and testing with users

The stream-pages we created capitalized on the both the 'endless scroll' format, popularized by sites such as Tumblr as well as the jorunalistic efficiencies gained through more short-form, 'snackable' content. The pages could either power a topic tag (a person, a location, a phenomenon etc) or a story (The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman for example) meaning we essentially had to reinvent what an index as well as what an article is — and create the workflows to support them.

An overview of several Connected Stories

Since the original work was done, the derivative or MVP versions of the work have gone live, powering both the BBC's Local News offering as well as collecting deep repositories of reporting through topic pages.

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Two derivative pages from the full designs live today: Local Live and Topic Pages