I've been working on
a prototype for Top 40 for what feels like forever. I'm delighted to say I
can finally share it with you. Have a play with it.
Before I start I just want to put to bed a myth. There
is a common misconception that the Top 40 is no longer relevant to young
people. This couldn't be
further from the truth. The fact remains that the chart pages on the Radio 1
Website are the most popular by far and the Chart Show on Sunday is still a massive
The Top 40 is hugely important to the network and the website, so for this reason we should always innovate around it. I'm not saying we should rethink it because clearly it is not broken. People who like pop music love the chart, and though it is not broken in their eyes, we can offer them more than they are getting. What I am saying is we should always look at doing interesting things with the data from the 40 tracks/albums that make up the chart, rather than just accepting that what is doing well in terms of listeners and unique users is good enough. It's not.
The idea of the
prototype is to offer chart data in a new and interesting and more playful way. Ever since the
chart was first published in the NME in 1952 very little has changed in how we
display chart data, or what data we include.
Look at the first chart and then look at any chart from around the world and you'll find that it is simply a list of tunes featuring the one with most sales sitting on the top of a pile of tunes that sold less. There is one and only one story to tell here, that being 'Who sold the most'. So, we thought there was a great opportunity here to do something fun with the data.
So, the chart got really interesting a few years ago with the introduction of downloads sales. The ability to impulse buy via online stores such as ITunes created interesting chart stories. A track's journey through the chart was no longer just in high, down, then out. Tracks would appear from nowhere, triggered by an appearance in an advert or a movie. Also, artists would have multiple tracks in the Top 40, regarless of what the record company had planned for 'release'. They would move up and down, then up again and stay around longer. After spending almost a year in the Top 40 King of Leon's 'Sex on Fire' flew back up the charts due to Michael McIntyre making a joke about it on his show one random weekend. There is an interesting flow to tracks as they journey through the chart and we wanted to demonstrate that somehow. Rather than offer just 1 week's worth of data we are offering 10 weeks and by highlighting a track you can see the journey of that track over time. You can also select multiple tracks and compare their journeys. All this can be tracked on the 'Chart View'.
Social spaces are also really important so we wanted to give our audience the chance to 'love' or 'support' tracks via their social spaces. When I was younger I built my musical identity by scribbling 'Human League' on my school bag and books, or I'd walk through the playground carrying a 12" album under my arm for everyone to see. Now you just write it as your Facebook status or you share a video. By giving the audience the chance to 'love' a track we can really understand the music they love whilst giving them the option to share their 'loves' via their social spaces. Clicking on any track will take you to the 'Track View' where you can love and share to your heart's content.
The 'Love View' represents love for tracks via the size of the bubble. The bigger the bubble the more love it has. If you see a flutter of hearts around a track in the 'Love View' that means someone somewhere in the world is giving that track love. It's a bit like in 'It's A Wonderful Life' when Clarence says 'every time you hear a bell ring an angel is getting it's wings'... Only it's not an angel, it's probably Dizzee or Gaga. I really like this view and in time it should tell us lots about to loves of our audience in a very simple way.
So, going forward
the plan is to try it out with the audience, discover what bits of it they like
and don't like, then begin integrating bits into that official chart pages. We
can then continue to innovate, look at possibly introducing new data sets to the
prototype, tinkering with it, testing, integrating and so on and so on. It's
quite sad that little has changed in the way we display the Top 40 in its 58
year history. I hope this is the first step in the continuing evolution of how
we visualise the Top 40.
If you have any feedback please give it here.