Pick of the Week

On Friday, I attended the Radio 4 ‘Digital Challenge Day‘. The brief was simple, but tightly focused – commissioners weren’t looking for new shows, applications or websites, but instead, ways in which editorial staff could use existing digital media in new ways, to attract new audiences.

The team I was assisting came up with a rather neat idea of focusing on unexpected audiences – people you wouldn’t naturally associate with the traditional Radio 4 listener, enjoying and recommending their favourite programmes. This would, hopefully, help introduce the diverse range of programmes broadcast on Radio 4, to those who would baulk at joining what is sometimes perceived to be an imposing, entrenched community of listeners.

One idea that sprang to my mind during the day was that of Pick of the Week. If you’ve never listened, it is broadcast on Sunday evenings, and is hosted by a public figure, playing back clips from selected highlights from the past week’s programmes, interspersed with brief reviews and comments. It’s quite a nice way to sample the output.

To me, it seems that there’s a natural equivalent on the Web for this – Storify. Now, I understand that editorial staff already use Storify and close relations, mainly to curate chatter around live events, but it feels like there could be something in this.

Storify allows you to point at anything with a URL, put these objects in a narrative order, and provide some contextual commentary in the gaps before and after the objects. Whereas I’ve seen it used a lot to aggregate videos, images and tweets, what if the objects were the programmes themselves?

Pick of the Week is essentially the same format – so much so, that I quickly put together a very rough prototype sample of what it could look like. If I get the chance, I might put together one that more accurately represents a typical episode of the show…

It would be great if, alongside the broadcast being made available online, there could be a Web equivalent representation of the episode – i.e. a Storify that collects and curates the same highlighted programmes, with a similar commentary around them – these could then be kept available once the rights to the actual audio have expired.

Interestingly, this could then be opened up – whereas currently, only the nominated public figure gets to compile their Pick of the Week, with a few suggestions sent in by members of the public, Storify is a tool that anyone can use, and we already have URLs for every programme on Radio 4. So, why not actively encourage people to create and share their own Pick of the Week?

This feels like a simple and effective way to get people sharing and talking about the programmes they enjoy, and achieves the same aim of getting away from the focus on the traditional image of the Radio 4 listener – whereas the main thrust of our team’s idea was to focus on unexpected listeners, in opposition to the cliche, this democratisation of Pick of the Week puts the focus squarely on the content – letting it shine, rather than getting stuck behind the perceived audience barrier. Potentially, it would also focus people’s minds on improving and stretching the quality and diversity of programmes on Radio 4, thereby breaking those stereotypes even more.

I’m sure that something similar to this has either already been done (I’m looking at you, @bowbrick and @jemstone), or is probably in the pipeline already, but it does feel that there’s at least some untapped potential in the idea, to push it a bit harder, and see the benefits.

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