28 June 2014 Last updated at 03:38 ET

1914 Live: History retold as breaking news

1914 Live

BBC News is used to reporting breaking news around the world. It's what we do, part of the reason for our very existence. So if there were to be an assassination of a prominent European leader today, we would want to be there, reporting live. And audiences expect to consume breaking news in a live blog environment which is why we wanted to experiment with revealing history in this way.

This was the idea behind 1914 Live as the BBC's First World War season reaches the first significant anniversary.

We would use all the techniques of breaking news in 2014 to report on events from Sarajevo 100 years ago, particularly the BBC's Live format used to great effect during the World Cup and Queen's Baton Relay. And we would do it by using BBC correspondents in their familiar roles. Watch the trailer here.

Franz Ferdinand and his wife

So, Allan Little, who has great experience of reporting in the Balkans, will be our man in Sarajevo. Royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell tells the story of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his wife, and their relationship with our own king and queen of the time. Diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall will look at how the assassination was viewed by the government in London.

Security correspondent Frank Gardner will tell us about the security concerns surrounding the archduke's visit to Sarajevo. And we have reaction from correspondents based in the most important European cities at the time - St Petersburg, Berlin, Vienna and Paris - to find out how the tsar, the kaiser, an emperor and a president were all told the news.

Their reports are based on meticulous research of what actually happened that day - and how the world came to know about it. The facts have been gathered and checked, the timeline carefully constructed. Professor Margaret MacMillan, author of The War That Ended Peace, has acted as our historical consultant. Her Day by Day series on Radio 4 is another part of the BBC's commitment to explaining the build-up to war alongside a wealth of material to explore at the World War One site.

No one at the time thought the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire and his wife would lead to World War One. So our reports don't suggest that. But what they do reflect are the tensions in Europe that summer and how Europe's rulers were all deeply suspicious of each other.

1914 Live begins by reporting a royal visit by what was, by early 20th Century standards, a very modern couple. It follows the events of the morning as they happened and ends by reflecting the shock felt around Europe which, unbeknown by anyone, was suddenly 37 days away from war.

Watch history unfold on 28 June 2014, 09:30-13:30

Removing online content

One of the things editors on the BBC News site commonly have to deal with is requests from people to remove stories about themselves from the BBC's online archive.

If you're curious about how such requests are assessed, you might be interested in some new guidance which has just been published to help editors.

The BBC's Director of Editorial Policy David Jordan explains the thinking behind it, and some of the issues, in this blog post.

@BBCBreaking at 10 million

BBC Breaking

Whether it's connecting us to our audiences, informing our journalism, or allowing us to get that journalism to new audiences, social media is now a critical part of BBC News operations.

On one of the biggest social media platforms, Twitter, our flagship presence is our breaking news account @BBCBreaking, and today it passed the 10 million follower mark.

To be sure, Twitter account followers is a blunt measure. There are lots of "inactive" accounts, or "lurkers", out there. Not to mention many downright fakes - accounts set up for spamming and other dubious purposes.

We usually set more store by the "engagement" we're seeing around our social media activity - the impact we make through what we're doing, as measured by other people's retweets, shares, comments, mentions and so on. For example, research shows that the BBC is the leading publisher on Twitter, with our stories shared a record 2.9 million times in April.

But follower numbers are a widely-understood, straightforward metric. Hitting the 10 million milestone is a proud day for me, and everyone involved. It's also a good opportunity to reflect on and share how we got there.

Compared with other first tweets, @BBCBreaking's - sent on 22 April 2007 at 4.37pm - is not a classic of the genre. It cut off halfway through, a reflection of the service's early years when it was simply an automated feed pumping out links and headlines from the BBC News website, breaking Twitter's limit of 140 characters per tweet.

Fast forward a few years, and the account's most retweeted tweet (shared more than 75,000 times), breaking the news of Nelson Mandela's death on 5 December last year, illustrates how things have changed:

Nelson Mandela

So what happened in between?

About three years ago we took a good, hard look at @BBCBreaking, and our other "core" accounts (@BBCWorld, which provides a wider diet of news, features and analysis to an international audience, and @BBCNews, doing the same for a UK audience).

We examined what they were for, who they were for, and how they were performing.

The big thing that resulted was a focus on "adding value". That might sound like horrible corporate-speak, but it accurately describes what we aim to do with @BBCBreaking and our other core Twitter accounts, and why they've been so successful.

The fact is that anyone can break news on social media - what counts is how you break it, and what you do after it's been broken. Adding value is the critical point of difference.

At its most basic that means we aim to use Twitter "natively", deploying hashtags and @handles in our tweets, where appropriate. We don't break the character limit. We use functionality including Lists and Collections. We limit our use of automated headline feeds - it's a way of getting the news out, but (as many other news organisations agree) lacks the human touch.

Most importantly, we add value through what we post - meaningful information and updates, illustrated where appropriate by images (and, soon, video and audio clips). We also showcase the insight and analysis provided by our network of correspondents, who take part in Q&As around big stories, like transport correspondent Richard Westcott on the missing MH370 airliner, and Brazil correspondent Wyre Davies on the World Cup.

We give our followers the information they need straight away, on Twitter. But we'll also direct them to more in-depth coverage on our website, as well as relevant TV and radio output.

None of this would be possible without a dedicated team of experienced journalists, expertly overseen by assistant editor Mark Frankel. Backing them up are colleagues elsewhere in our news operation, especially on our website teams.

The success of @BBCBreaking and our core accounts has been mirrored over on Facebook, where the BBC News and BBC World News pages now have 14.5 million fans between them.

The foundations laid on Twitter and Facebook have allowed us to grow and experiment elsewhere. With a reinvigorated presence on YouTube. With BBC News Shorts, 15-second videos designed for Instagram (and other places). With BBC Trending, a video/blog/radio programme examining the stories behind the biggest trends on social media. With Go Figure, daily information graphics giving a fresh, visual take on news stories to a social, mobile audience on Pinterest and elsewhere. With recent trials of services on instant messaging services WhatsApp and WeChat. We're also active on Google+ and Tumblr. And there's more to come.

Why is all this important? Because it's critical that we go to the places where our audiences are, and where they're increasingly consuming news. Especially younger audiences, who may not consume BBC News any other way. It's equally critical that we fit in with the experience in those places: social, mobile, personal.

Since 2007 @BBCBreaking has developed to become the beating heart of this drive. I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the next few years.

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