Media: Recession is big business for BBC

The story of 2008 is undoubtedly the credit crunch. If proof were needed, figures from digital measuring company comScore showed traffic to business news websites in September 2008, just as the financial crisis really began to bite, shot through the roof.

The BBC business website, by far the best read business news website in the UK, saw its traffic increase by 51 per cent in September compared with the previous month.

'On a normal day now we have about 1.5m unique users,' says Tim Weber, business editor of BBC news, interactive and radio. 'On the day of the HBOS/Lloyds TSB merger announcement we had 2.63 million unique users. If there's a big story on the site we regularly get more than two million users.'

Kevin Read, MD of Bell Pottinger Business & Brand, says: 'Historically, the BBC regarded its business site as rather unsexy. It covered interest rate cuts and the Budget but it hasn't been very good at looking at key trends.'

Now, however, thanks to events such as the collapse of Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers, it is all change. 'People are hungry for business news,' says Weber. 'Whether they are employers or employees, pensioners or investors, they want to know how the financial crisis affects them.'

Ironically, as the nation's appetite for business news has increased due to the credit crunch, opportunities for PROs to pitch to the site have reduced for the same reason.

'Only very strong stories will stand any chance of getting anywhere - unless there's a sudden lull,' says Weber. 'Business journalists are suffering from information overload and that means PROs need to really focus their pitches.'

Stuart Lambert, a consultant at Fishburn Hedges, advises: 'Pitch your business story as a topic that will provoke a flurry of responses from readers in the comment section.'

PROs who have successfully pitched stories on the website also warn of the importance of being prepared. Paul Raeburn, also a consultant at Fishburn Hedges, says: 'BBC business online works to such short turnaround times that you need to have your spokesperson available the second you call the journalist.'

Weber warns he is overloaded with surveys - 'which should have a minimum sample of 1,000 people unless it is a survey of FTSE 100 company directors' - and case studies. Corporate case studies are often hard to get hold of, but he does not need consumer case studies, he adds.

Those who do manage to place a story with the BBC will reap rewards. Every web story is formatted to appear on Ceefax and be downloaded to mobile phones. 'These audiences are more difficult to measure,' says Weber, 'but they are massive'.

QUICK FACTS
Website: bbc.co.uk/business
Users: 1.5 million unique users a day
CONTACTS
Multimedia planning team: bizplan@bbc.co.uk
Online team: newsonline.business@bbc.co.uk
Duty editor: 020 8576 7354

A MINUTE WITH ... Tim Weber, business editor, BBC interactive and radio

- Who uses the website?

The site is aimed at licence-fee payers in the UK as well as our global audience. Around 70 per cent of users come from the UK and 30 per cent from abroad, particularly the US and Germany.

- What is the best way to pitch to the site?

Tell me in the subject line of an email what the story is and why our readers should care. Build the pitch as if it were a news story - I need to know the key thing about the story.

- What should PROs avoid?

I hate it when I get as the subject line of an email 'press release from company X' and then just an attachment or link. Or when there is loads of guff in there and the real story is in paragraph eight.

- What are you planning to cover in 2009?

Credit crunch, credit crunch and maybe something on the credit crunch. The big theme will be unemployment, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises. But do keep pitching non-credit crunch stories as well.

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