BBC director of future media and technology Erik Huggers says companies should search for more newspaper-like digital formats
The BBC director of future media and technology, Erik Huggers, has said that newspapers need to tailor their online content to make it more like existing print media formats if they are to profit in the digital marketplace.
Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch today, Huggers said that the newspaper industry "should think about ways to get that content into a format that it is much more newspaper-like" for digital media and said that the Kindle ebook reader offered one way of achieving that.
He added that he thought that technology was "coming to a point" where newspapers could be in a position to make more profits from charging for online content. But he said that it was "not the job of a BBC executive to comment on the business models" of newspaper companies.
Huggers was commenting in the wake of the recent announcement by News Corporation's chairman, Rupert Murdoch, that the newspaper industry needed to start charging for online content.
He also outlined what he saw as the dangers of the BBC Trust rejecting Project Canvas, the venture between the BBC, ITV and BT to "bring catchup from the PC to the TV".
Project Canvas's backers aim to provide an open technology offering so that viewers with digital TV via Freeview or Freesat and a broadband connection can access catchup and on-demand programming via their television set from online services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player.
Huggers said that there is a "consumer demand" for a platform like Project Canvas and that its emergence in the marketplace was "like water, it can't be stopped". But he added that it would not serve consumers if the marketplace was flooded with a number of similar and competing services.
"The danger is that we may get 15, maybe 20 ways of achieving the same thing," he said. Project Canvas would "bring the best of linear television and the best of the internet made into an easy to use experience", according to Huggers.
He said that the Project Canvas also offered a "fantastic opportunity" to rival broadcasters including BSkyB. But he declined to comment on why Sky had formally opposed the Project Canvas proposals in its own submission to the BBC Trust.
Huggers also stressed the differences between Project Canvas and Project Kangaroo, the broadband pay-TV venture backed by BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4, which was scrapped after falling foul of competition regulators.
"There is confusion between a platform called Project Canvas and a content aggregator called Project Kangaroo," he said. "They do completely different things and to lump them together is totally wrong."
He added that the BBC was prepared to involve rival broadcasters in the Project Canvas initiative, just as the BBC was prepared to "share" the benefits of the iPlayer with other public service broadcasters.
Huggers said that the new venture will be open to any broadcaster or content company to utilise to deliver interactive services and programming to households.
The BBC Trust's consultation into the proposals will be completed by 24 July this year, with the partners hopeful of launching Project Canvas on Freeview, the free-to-air digital terrestrial TV service, and Freesat, its digital satellite equivalent, in early 2010.