BT, get your bloody content out of my way

14 Oct 2013  |  Dominic Mills 
BT, get your bloody content out of my way

If it is the advertising that makes the brand promise, then it is the role of content marketing to show how brands live up to it. But in the tragic case of BT.com it has turned into an irrelevant, useless mess says Dominic Mills.

You'd have to live on Mars not to know that content marketing is all the rage these days, as marketers fall all over themselves to dream up ways to engage more deeply with customers by dishing them up useful and/or entertaining stuff.

So they see the likes of Red Bull, Tesco, Land Rover or Asos and get a case of the IWOOTs - I Want One of Those - often without thinking first.

There's plenty of good stuff about content marketing out there, whether it's from the Content Marketing Association's Clare Hill , or from Stephanie Himoff of Outbrain, which marketers thinking about content marketing might be advised to read.

Last week I heard Nic McCarthy, head of content at Seven, which provides content for the likes of Sainsbury's and Aviva, encapsulate, in a wider marketing framework, the role of content marketing.

In a nutshell, according to McCarthy, if it is the advertising that makes the brand promise, then it is the role of content marketing to show how brands live up to it.

Now you might think some of Himoff's piece states the obvious - but maybe not to the likes of BT.

It has hired the Press Association (PA) to provide editorial content for its main website, Bt.com.

What I discovered when I logged in - which they insisted on telling me about before I could get to my BT e-mail - is that this involves full-on lifestyle coverage across areas like news, entertainment, technology, fashion and beauty, TV, film, video games, family and home (and on and on and on).

Yes, dear reader, there are approximately 50 of these channels including, believe it or not, motoring and home and garden.

So the big question is: WHY? And that leads to all sorts of other questions you think BT should have asked itself first, such as: why do people go to BT.com? What do they want to achieve as a result of going there? And what makes BT a legitimate or credible provider of this sort of content?

I defy any member of the public to actively choose to go to BT.com for a diet of news and entertainment."

Now I've spent (too much) time on Bt.com recently - because I was moving house; because I wanted to take my BT broadband with me; because I was interested in subscribing to BT Vision; because BT Vision then kept freezing; and because I wanted to cancel BT Vision. In other words, I had specific BT-related needs to satisfy (which they were).

But do I want to go to BT for news, entertainment, fashion, health or beauty stuff? No way, and that's a) because they are not a credible provider of that sort of content (despite the PA white labelling) and b) because I go to Bt.com for functional, utilitarian reasons.

Result: this stuff is just in the bloody way, and what's more, most of it is useless.

Take, at random, this piece about arthritis, published last week. Please tell me, BT, what is the point of that?

"Ah," you say, "what about this content as a support to BT Vision?" But no, according to a BT spokesperson, it's got nothing to do with BT Vision either.

So what is it to do with? Well, according to Nick Wong, director of online at BT Retail Consumer: "The new BT.com website is part of BT's commitment to help our customers get even more value out of the time they spend online. By combining the latest editorial content with easy access to all their BT online services we want to make things simple and enjoyable for our customers."

Er, translated, I think this means they want to use the content as a lure to get us to spend more time on BT.com, from which I suppose they think they can sell us more stuff.

But I defy any member of the public to actively choose to go to BT.com for a diet of news, entertainment and so on.

That is not to say BT has no role providing content - I could usefully see it providing specific and focused content about telephony and broadband products and developments, and maybe stuff on the same subjects for SMEs - in other words, areas where it has legitimacy.

And, yes, there's a bona fide role for content around sport since that is obviously an area where BT has an interest and a message to get out - although leading, as they did (Sunday 13th), on Edgar Davids and Barnet is scraping the barrel.

In a funny sort of way, I feel sorry for PA. They have to churn out this stuff endlessly to a wide, amorphous audience that, like BT's customer base, is a cross-section of modern Britain that includes everybody from students in Manchester to grannies in Glasgow.

By trying to please everyone (or not offend them), they end up satisfying no-one.

And here's why I'm really unsatisfied. I'm still waiting for Infinity. Why can't they speed up access to that instead of faffing around producing irrelevant, useless content?.

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Andrew Bagguley, GDB, Temp on 3 Apr 2014
“Having adverts interrupting one's browsing is annoying, and I would rather not be subject to it, but it largely irrelevant to me, so it is easy to ignore. I do find it amusing that so much money, so many resources, are devoted to something which is treated with such indifference by most of the people at which it is supposedly aimed. I also get a bit of a chuckle at the thought that there so many CEOs are so vain that they feel the need to spend so heavily on gaining and retaining "market share". As far as I can see, the best advertising is word of mouth, and the best way to buy into it is to give excellent customer service. There is no real secret, it just involves spending the money which was thrown into the toilet of advertising elsewhere, such as staff training, and real "incentivisation". Invest in real substance, not questionable, style. Don't get me wrong, there will be an occasion when it is needful to blow the company trumpet, but better to save it for a time when it matters, and when it will be heard.”
dave williams, retired, xxx on 16 Mar 2014
“don't have any problem whatsoever always been helpful and website very good some people are just born to moan and wouldn't be happy if they couldn't”
DJ, IT, British east India Company on 9 Mar 2014
“Just use an email client like outlook or thunderbird and you wont see any of this.”
Mr J. McMillan, Retired BT International Telecoms Manager., Note previous entry R E T I R E D. on 24 Feb 2014
“Ever since BT Sport was introduced I have had problems logging in. From straight forward rejects to advice to change my password. Have now given up trying and as soon as I can find an ISP that's dependable and simple I will be off…..”
Phil Arthur, pensioner, house worker on 23 Feb 2014
“Exactly the same problem with Yahoo. The "home" UK page is full of news about just about every country apart from the UK. The Science section reports on Sport etc etc. Why don't the fools in charge of these companies consult the public?”
Tony Wilshire, None, None on 15 Feb 2014
“as the late great bill hicks said "if you work in advertising or marketing, kill yourself...you are the ruiner of all things good"......i couldn't have out it better myself.....”
D Hill, Retired, retired on 31 Jan 2014
“I agree wholeheartedly with David Wells, I don't care if BT thinks my password has been compromised, I know it hasn't and do not wish to keep changing it just to suit BT, what I want is a one click login to my e-mails then mind your own business and leave me and my password alone.”
Peter, Retired, Surrey on 26 Jan 2014
“I gave up on BT ages ago. All the comments above are very valid, but in the end I am with another ISP and I download my emails using an ad-free email programme this avoids having to go to a webbase link to get at ones emails. My 'internet' home page is BBC.co.uk where I can all the news I wish for and if I need anything else I search for it for it using one of the many search engines. Doin all of that completely avoids the need to be bombarded with useless ads.”
Sam, Retired, None on 18 Jan 2014
“Absolutely right, BT's website has been a shambles for past 3 months because they appear to be totally inept at sorting out the problems they themselves have created, all for nothing, except their rent of course which inexplicably keeps rising.”
william young, retired..ex-bt engineer, UNI OF LIFE on 6 Dec 2013
“still don't understand why BT lagged behind the media world of digital communication.being the source of it in history.fibre optic was there in the sixties..BTrun by supersilious pumpkins so called boffins ..ran a tight ship.scared to make industrial headway in the business...beggars belief.......BT VISION..VISUAL INTRUSION.”
Maureen Cooley, None, None on 3 Dec 2013
“Instead of raising yet more money through annoying advertising BT should be spending it to getting fast broadband to ALL it's customers not just the ones in towns & cities. BT do not even give it's rural customers a good reliable broadband service. They should be concentrating on getting everyone faster broadband & reliable telephone services. They have the monopoly on this & surely that can't be right?”
David Wells, Retired, N/A on 28 Nov 2013
“I have been a BT customer for 58 of my 75 years and have been happy with the service for most of that time. Since the introduction of the "new improved(?) log-in" and the content of the home page I am longing for the day that my current contract ends and I can move to another ISP. During the past couple of months BT have rejected my log-in details and required me to change my password several times each time has needed me to call India and wait on hold for a considerable time. What is needed is a one click log-in which takes one directly to emails. Any other subjects such as sport, news or social media is readily available as and when one wishes to view it without having all the clutter on the BT log-in page. I thought that the main ad on the log-in page yesterday was very funny and appropriate It was ............. BLACK FRIDAY ..... I do not know what they were trying to sell but it was certainly a black day for BT customers”
Jon, Coles, Anon on 15 Oct 2013
“It's a fairly tried-and-trusted route to go down. See MSN, AOL, Yahoo. These are ISPs with massive audiences, like BT, who create content websites in order to make money through search and display advertising. Bit of a no-brainer for them. A (small) section of BT's audience will be interested in beauty but the majority - like you say - will only use the site for their email or account.”
David Bowen, Senior consultant, Bowen Craggs & Co on 14 Oct 2013
“As ever,they do it bigger and better in the States. The Coca-Cola corporate site (www.coca-colacompany.com) has been renamed Coca-Cola Journeys and has a full time editorial staff, a big freelance budget and is run like a 'proper' magazine. Very few of the pieces are anything to do with Coke - it's all light consumery stuff - though by far the most interesting stories are 'behind the scenes in Coca-Cola' videos and features. I absolutely agree that a corporate turning itself into a publisher is at the least risky, but I also see the opposite side of the coin: big companies failing to notice that a load of interesting things are going on within them, and telling the world about them. Of course the best stories will usually find their way into the press, but there are a lot of interesting things that could well be presented on the website but stay undiscovered (some make it into internal publications, many not even there). So i think companies do need to hire journalists - not to produce a load of disconnected fluff but to tell their own stories. I'm not sure if that's called content marketing, but if that's the way to get the budget, why not?”
Paul Fox, Director, Ark on 14 Oct 2013
“Agree. Let's run a contest. The most extreme example of content unrelated to product delivery or even brand promise. Beauty and BT is a good start. I seem to recall British Gas send me a lot of unrelated material too. It's not confined to the digital space.”
Hugo Drayton, CEO, InSkin Media on 14 Oct 2013
“Hear, hear Dominic. Good sense, as ever! The over-delivery of irrelevant content by inappropriate suppliers is a great curse of the digital age...”

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