BBC testing news on chat apps – now you can read about riots, not just organise them!


For some time now it has been clear that social media titans like Facebook have been under threat from messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line and others. Which is perhaps why they’ve been spending so much money on buying so many of them. What’s interesting though is that it isn’t just the tech giants – the BBC are considering using these apps to spread the news.


Usually, messaging services are rather personal. Whilst you may like a news organisation on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter, messaging is all about your friends and what they are up to. But this could be about to change. According to the BBC College of Journalism, a couple of pilots are taking place in India and Nigeria.

In India, the BBC will be using WeChat, which is hugely popular there, to spread updates on the forthcoming election – in both English and Hindi. In Nigeria, they’ve instead opted for Blackberry’s BBM, which is the most popular platform there.

This follows trials of Instagram for short burst news updates.

What’s really interesting here is a couple of things. First, it’s a good demonstration of how now single mobile messaging platforms rules worldwide yet – at least to the same extent that Facebook does – suggesting that the mobile messaging crown is still up for grabs. And secondly, its an interesting example of how the BBC can reach new audiences. Traditionally, the BBC World Service has operated on AM and FM radio in different parts of the world – but now they’re reaching out to (inevitably young) people in these countries on the services that they use.

Presumably if successful, we could see similar launch over here (presumably on WhatsApp, as that’s our biggest chat app) – which could challenge ‘traditional’ social media’s news dominance.

Personally, I’m still waiting for them to launch BBC News updates on the in-game radio in Grand Theft Auto 5.

James O’Malley
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