Understanding the radio producer mindset

We interviewed and observed BBC producers, photographers and photo editors up and down the country to build up a picture of the people and processes involved in creating imagery for shows.

What did we discover?

Our analysis showed that producing imagery of any quality was highly dependent on the expertise and resources available in any given department or station. Producers were highly motivated to attract audiences – but often lacked the means or time to create imagery that best reflected their shows.

Artful hacks

We found that producers had developed inventive ways to cope with their constraints. They constructed DIY photography studios in office corners and stairwells to capture radio guests and presenters coming and going, desperate to find flattering lighting.

Surprisingly, having access to the best cameras or lighting didn’t always guarantee the best looking outcomes. Some shows developed their own distinct visual identity with nothing more than paper backdrops and an iPhone.

Lights, camera and what?

We asked, “What conditions would empower producers to create the best possible image for every show?” To do this, we considered what was meant by ‘best’. Were we talking about aesthetics or something more?

A deeper need

We all use radio and podcasts to satisfy certain needs: to learn something new, regulate our mood or build a stronger sense of self. Open the BBC Sounds app and the imagery is the first step in identifying if a piece of content may satisfy that need. To give us the best chance of finding it – an image must strike a balance between appeal and comprehension.

Seeing is believing…and then listening

Our team set out to understand how to use an image to influence the way a user may feel and think about a show before they listen to it.
We looked at how the three tenets of tone, subject matter, and visual style could be used to communicate what a show is about as truthfully as possible and heighten its appeal to users.

Tried and tested

Our team ran multiple pilots with producers across the organisation. We prototyped tools to help them swiftly identify what imagery would maximise appeal for their show. We also tested equipment and studio setups that would help them create imagery fast and with little hassle.

The experience demonstrated to production teams how small changes to their daily practises can result in imagery that attracts significantly more eyes and ears across the country.

Has it had an impact?

The true impact for this visual effort is on the user. We ran a lab-based multivariate testing session to determine which programme images appealed the most and how participants chose them. We found that images produced during the pilot appealed to users 100% of the time compared to the previous examples of imagery and other insights….