May 21, 2014Published by: Fereshta Amir

A wrap up: BBC’s experiment on WhatsApp and WeChat

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You may have seen our blog post last month on news media taking to messaging apps, with the BBC pioneering this during its coverage of the Indian elections. Today, the experiment has ended and we received the above message from BBC News on WhatsApp, telling us that the BBC News India election service had come to an end and asking users for feedback.

The service was not only on WhatsApp - the BBC launched channels across several social messaging platforms, including WeChat, Line and BBM - all focusing on news gathering and content promotion in the region.

We kept a close eye on how this experiment unfolded. Here are our top three observations:

1. Single purpose service:
Whichever BBC channel you decided to add, whether WhatsApp or WeChat, the service was very obviously tailored to you for one purpose; to update you on the elections - no other gimmicks. Looks like the BBC paid close attention to the rise of 'the invisible app' and the importance of maximising one app's usefulness without monopolising the users' attention.

2. Multimedia and interactive content:
On no occasion did we receive more than six messages a day on WhatsApp and WeChat. The content was not limited to messages either - the BBC tried everything. We received voice notes of interviews with key politicians and commentators, short video summaries of people's opinions, graphs and images showing election maps and poll updates as well as images of headlines in India. Images and videos were sometimes slow to appear, but a heads up was always given beforehand. We were also frequently asked our opinions and views as the elections progressed, which you could share simply by messaging back.

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3. Global audience:
The messages were not only in English but also in Hindi. Thanks to the popularity of these messaging apps, a global audience was expected to tune in so an English only news service would not have made sense.

We are waiting for the BBC to release stats on how many people actually followed this experiment, but we think all the ingredients for success were definitely there...

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