Known worldwide for its spectacular, award-winning nature documentaries like "Planet Earth" and "The Blue Planet," the BBC has extended its nature-centric reach to cyberspace with the launch of BBC Earth.
"The idea behind BBC Earth is to offer audiences and fans of natural history a place to enjoy the content beyond the television and to explore something amazing every day," says editor Matt Walker. "BBC Earth's new digital home seeks to share different perspectives of the world through a rich mix of video, imagery and topical stories. It will also encourage fans to share both our content and theirs with others to create discussion and wonder about the world in which we live."
The site launched with 10 content themes or "strands," which Walker breaks down:
"The Amazing Moments section will publish a variety of compelling clips from our Natural History Archive, with a new one every day, debuting with 'Attack of the Praying Mantis.' The Discoveries strand will report on new insights, discoveries and the latest scientific research, such as 'The Octopus that Strangled its Lover'; Strange & Beautiful will take a different look at the world, starting with subjects such as ‘The Twisted World of Sexual Organs.' A Colorful Life will serve as home to specially commissioned short films and content exploring the beauty of nature through color, beginning with 'Life in White,' a study of nature's polar ice caps. Other strands to appear include Origins, about the natural histories and origins of everything from music to flowers to grasslands. And Bizarre Cosmic Objects, reporting the most unusual objects in the universe, starting with the coldest known place in the cosmos."
The intention, he continues, is "to offer a unique view of the natural world, challenging our audiences to see it differently to how they've seen it before. In doing so, we hope to reconnect our audiences with the wonders of the nature. ...We want to be sharable and social, ultimately placing the audience at the center of what we do, promoting and facilitating the short films, photographs and stories they take and tell."
An octopus floats in the water during "The Octopus That Strangled its Lover." (Photo: David Fleetham/NPL)
However, those looking for sociopolitical enlightenment should look elsewhere, Walker says. "BBC Earth is primarily aimed at lifelong fans of natural history, and those who have a passion for the world in which we live. It's a place for aspirational and cultured thinkers and those who are curious about the planet in which we live. We want to remind those who may have lost touch with the natural world about just how amazing it really is. BBC Earth is about nature itself: the plants, animals, the ice caps and volcanoes, the planets and the wider universe. We're not about people, policy, process or politics. So we won't cover human protagonists, organizations or their policies or politics, or funding decisions. We're fundamentally about the glory and wonder of nature itself, not humankind’s role or position in it."
So far, Walker says, "Our audiences are reacting to our fresh approach — they seem to be attracted to bold new formats and stories as much as subject categories. 'Inside a Giant Spider' and 'The Twisted World of Sexual Organs' have been among our biggest reaching stories, while 'What Sparked Life into Being' has seen a huge uptake and positive reaction on social media."
In the pipeline are "stories about how autumn is changing, giant sharks you've never heard of, and about a remote place in Asia known as 'the land of the man-eating snake.' In mid-October, we hope to launch a wholly new interactive that places our audiences at the center of the story of the life on Earth. We can't give away too much detail yet, but it has been designed to give each audience member an utterly new perspective on the natural world — one unique to them as an individual."
The goal is to educate, stimulate and entertain. "We hope visitors take away a wealth of new information about the world in which they live and feel inspired by what they see, watch and read," he says. "The BBC's Natural History content is loved across the globe, and we believe the quality of the content available, and the breadth of topics covered, will keep visitors stimulated. It one sense, it is less about bringing audiences back, and more about kickstarting a new global conversation about the natural world, and how amazing it is."
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