Today, mobile and on-demand services have become ubiquitous. They are now the primary means by which many people access news, entertainment and information. The ABC understands that to reach the most people in the most relevant way, content and services must be tailored for on-demand consumption, and fit for purpose for mobile delivery.
Today’s audiences want content that appeals to their lifestyle, interests and behaviours, and is easy and convenient to access. The ABC is responding to the significant transition to greater personalised digital experiences with an evolving range of offerings across its platforms and products, enabling audiences to discover and access the most relevant content to watch, listen to or read.
Technological initiatives have included: single sign-on so audiences can access content on any device based on the ABC’s understanding of them; bringing rich personalisation and product features to the ABC iview, listen and triple j experiences; and expanding digital emergency broadcasting. The ABC is also using audience and social data/analytics and investing in machine learning-based tools to learn more about audience preferences and offer more targeted services, including news alerts and analysis, and content recommendations.
In May 2020, the ABC released a major update for ABC iview users on Apple TV, Android TV and Smart TVs providing them with a more synchronised and personalised experience. By logging in, users can watch ABC content from where they left off on their device – particularly useful for Australian families going through COVID-19 together to jump back into a program. This is the first time the ABC has introduced login on its big screen experience, laying the foundations for further rich personalisation features.
To meet digital update needs, ABC News established the Audio Hub by pairing network radio producers and presenters with the NewsRadio team, allowing News to triple the number of on-demand in-brief news bulletins available for smart speaker devices. It also improved the quality and consistency of the national radio news bulletins, which are regularly the number one on-demand item on the ABC listen app.
In late 2019 an on-demand video desk was created within the ABC NEWS channel team, to create more dynamic stories with creative graphics. The channel also reimagined programs like One Plus One to provide greater on-demand appeal, and worked with the ABC iview team to create a more thoughtfully curated news experience.
The ABC NEWS website and app continued to develop during the year. The look and feel of both were refreshed, and the quality of the content on offer continued to improve with the assistance of sophisticated storytelling training rolled out to digital journalists across the ABC.
Local stories on-demand
Audio on-demand local bulletins were launched in six regional areas – Gippsland, North Queensland, South West WA, Great Southern, South East SA, and Riverina. The bulletins were distributed on the ABC listen app as well as through smart speakers, and the initiative is now set to be rolled out across all ABC regional bureaux.
The volume of local digital news articles increased over the period, with local news a particular area of focus in regional areas where commercial options are declining. This resulted in significant increases in the number of articles published each week across the local bureaux – over the first six weeks of the strategy’s implementation, the number of articles from local teams published to ABC News more than doubled on the 2019 average.
In March 2020, the ABC launched an improved ABC Kids video app for preschool and younger school-aged viewers, timed to coincide with the launch of Series 2 of Bluey (with five bonus episodes on ABC iview). Along with recommendations and automatic play, the new app included features such as parental filters, parental timers for app usage, and the ability to watch content on the ‘big screen’. Transitionary content was added for onward journeys to ABC ME.
ABC Kids listen was also redesigned to align with the ABC Kids suite, and further development of the ABC ME video app, for primary-school-aged children, is continuing based on audience feedback and analytics. Play School’s special for the National Simultaneous Storytime initiative premiered across multiple platforms – broadcast, iview and Facebook – simultaneously.
For kids and adults alike, ABC Education’s digital interactive ‘Spotting misinformation and disinformation’ made in collaboration with RMIT ABC FactCheck helped explain more about how to identify misinformation. A new version of the 'fake news' interactive ‘Real, LOLZ, oops or fake?’ proved popular again with audiences.
Continuing to create bespoke social content showed sustained success throughout the period. Content-led experiments grew audiences and developed new creative talent on social platforms. Notable milestones and content innovations over the period included:
- ABC Indigenous once again experiencing exponential growth on Instagram with a 228% increase in audience, and 285% increase in engagement
- the ABC’s TV+iview Facebook account exceeding 1 million followers
- triple j reaching 1.38 million YouTube subscribers, and triple j’s Splendour In The Grass 2019 festival video of Tones & I clocking 81 million views around the world on YouTube
- Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds bespoke commissioned content attracting 4 million+ views and 1 million+ engagements
- #CONTENTtvshow, the vertical digital-first comedy program on all four major social platforms providing a world first for scripted comedy
- ABC Science’s How Deadly series for YouTube featuring Ann Jones giving the popular reaction-style video format a specialist public service twist
- Cuppa with Kumi featuring Kumi Taguchi hosting a live and interactive show from the ABC TV+iview Instagram throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
- ABC Science’s YouTube channel reaching more than 100,000 subscribers.
The ABC’s largest Facebook community, ABC Education’s Learn English, topped 5 million followers in 2019-20, confirming its status as one of the world’s most popular English-language learning programs. The free service launched in 2010, and provides audio and video resources and tips to people in more than 90 countries who are learning English as a second language. It includes series such as English on the Go and Everyday English, and three quarters of Learn English’s followers are aged between 18 and 34.
This year, the ABC launched the free international streaming service ABC Australia iview, opening up more of its content to audiences around the world. The app for iOS and Android devices connects the ABC’s global community with distinctive Australian stories, content and conversations from across genres, including entertainment, factual content, arts and educational programs.
ABC Australia iview offers the ABC NEWS channel as a stream, which enabled audiences across the globe to access the channel via an app for the first time.
“From its earliest days the ABC has looked outwardly to report on the world around us and to advance Australia on the global stage. The Corporation has a proud record of achievement, telling Australian stories, reporting fairly and fearlessly and promoting Australian culture. We are the nation’s trusted international voice, connecting the world with Australia.” Ita Buttrose AC OBE, ABC Chair