Closedown Cult

Posted on 28 June 2005 in Internet (No comments)

I would have posted this yesterday but Catherine insisted on going out for a pint last night, and then we had a chinese meal and so on... You know how it is. Maybe.

They're closing bbc.co.uk/cult. One of the finest BBC websites around. One of the quirkiest, one of the most popular, one of the most imaginative, one of the most distinctive parts of the BBC's online output. In fact one of the best pieces of online non-news editorial content the BBC has produced.

When I started at the Beeb in January 2000, Cult was a small website. Within months the site had been relaunched, and vastly expanded. And it was an expansion with quality - great stuff to read. The effort was rewarded. Within months it was racing up the charts of BBC popular websites, where it's been there ever since.

Which is obviously why it should be closed.

True it has content areas on 24, Buffy and Angel - there's an argument I can understand that says cut back on that now that the BBC has lost the TV rights. That's understandable.

But for me, the Cult site is more than that. Where else on the BBC site would you find the Bagpuss theme tune, old BBC Two logos, quite frankly wonderful reviews of The Prisoner, and of course a whole section devoted to testcards and clocks?

And that wasn't all. Specially commissioned online cartoons and comics - really different stuff. And best of all, it was written by people who obviously loved this stuff - it was the ultimate fan site, despite being hosted by a large public corporation. It was fantastic.

Of all the websites the BBC has recently closed, this for me is probably the oddest choice. It's not in an area where there are hordes of commercial competitors - and there are unlikely to be any in the future. This is the domain of the fans, of the people who do similar things for the love of it.

Why should the BBC be doing stuff that fans are doing? Well if it's BBC content, why shouldn't it be doing? Indeed, the same if programmes that the BBC have bought in - The Prisoner being a prime example. There's a whole world of Culty content the site could have done (and has done), whilst linking off to bigger, dedicated fan sites as well.

And they did. A perfect example of this idea in action was on the Testcards site - a pretty small section devoted to Open University idents, Schools Countdown Clocks and so on. There's some background information, and a whole host of other sites where you can find out more.

Several of those links go to Transdiffusion owned or related sites, which for us at Transdiffusion, worked wonderfully. The BBC gave a taster and led users onto us. For me it was a perfect example of bbc.co.uk being a gateway to the wider web - a trusted guide to the world outside it's own little portal. Doing exactly what bbc.co.uk has been told to do.

Sadly the Cult site won't be one of the ones doing it. And that's a real shame. The BBC website will be a lesser place without it.

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