My thinking behind this year's mobile offering for Radio 1's Big Weekend was 'How do we make it spreadable?'. Of course we'd deliver a wap site as usual. This year we also offered some nice and shiny mobile sites for the N95 and iPhone. These are both examples of listeners coming to the BBC to access our content. But what I really wanted was to deliver the content to audiences. I wanted our mobile offering to 'explode' with content sprayed everywhere for people to collect and share.
In doing this, I had to consider the technologies we'd used in the past, the type of phones that Radio 1 audiences use, and what new technologies were available to us. So we devised a three-pronged plan to dissipate content in an interesting and effective way.
I recently gave a talk at the Audio & Music Interactive and Mobile departmental in which I talked about 'rethinking deadness'. Inspired by a great talk from the programmer and game developer Kathy Sierra, the idea of rethinking deadness asks us to look at ideas that we may think have had their time and think about ways of breathing life back into them.
The last time I ran an SMS club for Radio 1 was way back in 2001 and as someone with a forward-thinking role, SMS clubs were way behind me, dead and buried. Could or should they be brought back to life for a Radio 1 audience? Of course! Okay, so it doesn't have the sexiness of an iPhone app, but SMS is still a brilliant and simple way of getting content onto the phones of our audiences. SMS is pretty much the only mobile technology that every one understands - we shouldn't dismiss it - it's powerful! It's a way of easing people into mobile stuff; deadness awaiting a rethink.
So an SMS club was set up to deliver video, wallpapers and audio downloads, not forgetting show reminders pushing people to BBC Radio, Red Button and BBC Three coverage. The challenge was to make SMS clubs a bit more sexy for our audiences. I had an idea for a secret dress code. We spread the word that there would be a secret dress code for the weekend that would be announced via the SMS club on the Friday night. It was a way of tapping into the excitement of flashmobs without actually creating a flashmob.
I've been doing Bluetooth at events for four years and it's one of the most frustrating technologies out there. Bluetooth is free, relatively easy to distribute, our audience use it regularly and it's on almost every handset. So if we have 40,000 people gathered in one place waiting to receive Bluetooth, then it has to be a winner right? Wrong. Here are the problems I've faced year after years of trying:
• the music is too loud to hear the Bluetooth arrive
• when you are watching your favourite band you won't be checking your phone
• audience are wary of what is being sent
• Bluetooth doesn't really like huge crowds. Small groups, yes. But big crowds, no
So, late last year I put a nail in the coffin of Bluetooth at Radio 1 events consigning it to the bin of things I would never waste my time on again... forever. Then in March I had a Eureka moment, quite literally whilst jumping into a hot bath. If we could provide a place that audiences would hear Bluetooth arrive, where we could prepare them to engage with their phone, let them know what they were about to receive and do this in a place that the transmitters could handle, then perhaps Bluetooth might be worth another try.
The Bluetooth Loo was the answer to all these problems. Everyone knows toilets are a low point at festival, so the idea was to offer a nice clean toilet for festival-goers to use on the condition that you switched on your Bluetooth. It was a really silly idea... but great. It was branded really well and being blue stood out from all the green toilets. It really caught people's attention and the huge queues allowed us the time to engage with the audience about our mobile offering.
Designer QR Codes
An important part of what I do is introducing new technologies to our audiences. So in 2008, I added QR codes to the Big Weekend mobile offering. QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can take you directly to a website - the barcode is decoded by taking a photo with specific software on your mobile .
This year, we added a design element to the QR codes. There is a small percentage for error permitted within each code, this allows us to add a design element without interfering with the coded message. The idea was to produce individual codes incorporating images of headliners such as Lily Allen and Dizzee Rascal. 'Get Lily on your mobile' posters were spread around the site with instructions on how to use the technology. I'm not sure if it's the true geek inside of me, but I find them fascinating and adding the design element opened them up to non-geeks who wanted to find out more.
A key target for the 2009 Big Weekend was to make Radio 1 content shareable. Our three-pronged mobile strategy not only served this purpose but added an extra fun element to the weekend. It also gave us a mobile package well worth marketing via radio and TV trails.
The mobile site benefited hugely from this strategy. We saw a 361% increase in UK page impressions to the mobile site on the previous year's festival. More videos were watched on mobile than at any previous music event. The SMS Club had nearly 4000 members helping to push audiences to content across all platforms - that's the most of any SMS Club we've ever run. Over 800 videos, audio clips and wallpapers were distributed via the Bluetooth Loo that we hope will have been passed on by the user again and again and again.