Farewell, ABC Pool: the birth, death, and rebirth of audience participation at the ABC

20 Aug 2013

Jonathon Hutchinson and Axel Bruns comment on the decision by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to close one of its audience engagement platforms, ABC Pool.


Recently, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation made the decision to close one of its audience engagement platforms, ABC Pool. This move could be seen as an attempt to redirect limited economic and human resources to more productive areas of the ABC, or as a blow to grassroots participation in media production at the national broadcaster. Or it could be seen for what it is: the conclusion of an experiment in user participation that needed to evolve into other, more sustainable user-engagement projects at the ABC.

From its earliest conception in 2003 by co-founders Sherre DeLys and John Jacobs, the idea of ABC Pool was to host media that audiences could stream online: something then entirely foreign to the ABC. Couple this with the concept that, in a pre-YouTube era, the content would be generated not by professionally trained ABC producers but by audience members themselves. The mixed emotions – from curiosity to fear to genuine excitement – which this initiative drew especially from ABC staff perfectly foreshadowed the rocky road that the ABC Pool project would take for the following ten years.

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