There’s just a faint retro twist to the BBC’s latest social media gambit. Instafax, the Corporation’s new stab at an Instagram service, offers bite-sized news stories for time-poor social media fans, while its name harks back to the retired Ceefax test service.
There’s not a great deal to say about content this simple: the BBC is serving three 15-second news clips a day to its Instagram account, with captions and ambient music but no voiceover. This means that even if you spend your entire time idling on Instagram, you will still pick up some news. And in effect, that’s exactly how the BBC are pegging it.
“We are trying to create content within the social spaces people are inhabiting. That’s the main goal,” a BBC spokesperson commented on the thread alongside the first Instafax video. “The way we see it, Instagram and our website are – in many ways – two separate audiences. At the end of the day, it’s just an experiment.”
As the BBC voice notes, this is an experiment – a three-month one – initiated by head of BBC News James Harding, who, as former editor of The Times, knows something about exploring the online frontier as a traditional media operation. Instafax comes as BBC iPlayer viewing figures showed that mobile and tablets overtook desktop for the first time over Christmas.
Initial commenters tended to bemoan the unconventional location of the service – rather missing the point of it all – and to complain at the lack of forwarding options. These may come later, according to that anonymous BBC spokesperson.
Just as interesting is the choice of news, which is very global, suggesting that this is not necessarily intended as a UK-only service, and nor is it quite as light as its format might promise.
Early stories included Iran’s decision to step down its uranium enrichment programme, the theft of 20m South Korean credit card details and a state of emergency in Thailand. Not sure what that last one is all about. Didn’t quite have time to watch the video. Shorter clips, please?