Adding permanence to broadcast

Dan Hill describes a fascinating aspect of the recently redesigned BBC Radio 3 site. He explains how, up until now, the station’s shows are broadcast, talked about (at the breakfast table, around the water cooler, on a blog, in a newspaper) and lost without trace. Sure there’s an audio archive in the bowels of the BBC and a listing in a radio schedule, but the radio show leaves no permanent point of reference on the Web or otherwise.

As Dan writes, the Radio 3 site, like many other broadcasters, used to cherry-pick key shows and hand-build bespoke properties around those shows. So previously, and in broad brushstrokes, Radio 3 had selected shows to represent thoroughly online – over and above the BBC’s transient What’s On listings feed, that is – adding further editorial where possible. What the Radio 3 site redesign aimed to do was provide a single page for each programme.

This sounds like an obvious feature, yet I don’t know of any other radio station that does it. This may be because many other radio stations’ output doesn’t warrant (or deserve) unique reference points, being as it is, recycled music playlists. But the most likely reason is that it’s much more difficult than at first seems – Auntie Beeb employee Tom Coates explains in his description of the Radio 3 URL design process that the pages refer not to the broadcast but to the show, so that any repeats do not get their own page.

What interests me most about this aspect of the Radio 3 site is the assumption and acceptance by Dan and colleagues that the Web can provide permanence for an otherwise ephemeral medium.