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The BBC’s new tool pairs your life to global news events using Facebook data

Cheesy but effective?
By Sonali Kohli
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

On the day I was born, the UK’s top single was The One and Only, the break-out song that made British singer Chesney Hawkes a one-hit wonder. That personalized tidbit of data came courtesy of Your Story, a new feature from the BBC.

The tool is the news outlet’s attempt to reach a younger demographic that gets its news from the internet rather than TV or radio. The BBC uses Facebook data to provide users an enhanced timeline of their life, combining news events and archived BBC coverage with user milestones on Facebook

“There are 24m Facebook users in the UK of which 69% do not consume BBC News content,” Peter Rippon, editor of the BBC Online Archive, said in an interview on Taster, a BBC website aimed at ramping up the news outlet’s digital content with the help of user feedback. The site also launched BBC Shuffle, a kind of Pandora for TV shows, which streams BBC TV based on what you watch and for how long.

The tie-up with Facebook couldn’t come at a better time, with young people spending less time listening to radio, still the BBC’s biggest global news platform as of June, and more time on social media and streaming services. The amount of time 15- to 24-year-olds spend listening to radio has dropped 13% since 2008, according to the Economist; radio now accounts for less than a quarter of the time 15- to 24-year-olds spend actively listening to things, while streaming or listening to music accounts for nearly two-thirds of their time.

Meanwhile, many news outlets are leaning increasingly on Facebook to drive online traffic. The question is whether clever innovations like My Story can breed sustained loyalty. The tool’s mix of serious and quirky news proved catchy, but not necessarily unique enough to share on social media.

For instance, the tool told me the Gulf War began the year I was born, and that Dolly the Sheep was cloned just after I was 5. Some of the pairings felt formulaic, such as the fact that between my birth and my 12th birthday, 10 new countries were formed; a reporter at the Next Web received similar information.

Good thing Taster plans to adapt to user feedback.

This fact, which I already knew about my birth year, was enhanced by BBC video coverage.
This I didn’t know.
Fun trivia, if a bit formulaic.

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