Diligent as ever, The Lorries
have asked for another opinion piece - this time they're after a response to the news that the BBC is launching a social networking site for kids called MyCBBC, filling the gap left by sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo who set their lower age limit at 13.
Marc Goodchild, head of interactive and on-demand at BBC children's, is bullish about the opportunity here for the BBC: "There is a commercial market failing in the children's space because they don't want to take on the responsibility for younger users. The only player which can do this has to be a public service broadcaster."
This may be true, but the BBC will need to move beyond this traditional remit considerably if it is to succeed in delivering a genuine social networking experience. It will be interesting to see whether they can overcome their instinct to broadcast and embrace the aspects of the web that best characterise social media; aspects that differentiate it from their traditional haunts of television and radio?
I'm talking about personalisation, at the expense of brand integrity; user-generated content, at the expense of quality control; and, most importantly, using the web as a medium for the free exchange of ideas between 'audience' members, rather than as a mechanism for their delivery from a single, central point of origin.
It would be easy to imagine that this somehow doesn't apply for kids, and that they will settle for less. Less freedom, less creativity, less of a platform for their imaginitive energy. Yet when is your creativity less inhibited, and your urge for self-expression more exuberant, than when you are a child?
Bebo recently declared itself a 'social media network', and, with reality shows like The Gap Year
, appears to be moving inexorably in the direction of becoming a web-only broadcaster. As reality TV and interactive media blur at the edges, it will be fascinating to see if the Beeb is capable of moving far enough fast enough in the opposite direction.