BBC to become 'more part of web' with Web 2.0 focus

The BBC plans to add a series of new Web 2.0 features to its website in 2007, according to the head of BBC News Interactive.

Pete Clifton told the World Association of Newspapers Digital Publishing Conference in London on Friday that BBC News' Web 2.0 plans, which are still subject to final approval by the corporation, could include new topical pages to aggregate information from BBC and external sources on a variety of topics.

Web 2.0 is a catch-all term for a new phase of development in the internet which stresses interactivity.

Clifton said the BBC's country profile pages were consistently among the most searched-for items on the site every month and that the this model could be built upon to aggregate information about famous people, companies, local areas or important issues.

He said: "The BBC websites generally have spent the summer thinking about their approaches to Web 2.0, with an underlying desire to be more part of the web rather than trying, unsuccessfully, to do everything themselves."

Other plans include increased personalisation features for the front page of BBC News Online, an expansion of the site's live statistics tracker and possibly wiki-style pages that would let users contribute to compilations of information.

A BBC News API (application programming interface) could let web developers outside the BBC access news content for their own projects.

BBC News will not be expanding its existing blogs aggressively, according to Clifton, but he said he hopes to launch a new blog to be written by BBC foreign correspondents around the world.

"Building on the success we have had with [the blog of political editor] Nick Robinson, I hope we can launch a platform for BBC correspondents around the world to talk about the serious, the amazing and the offbeat, interspersed with views and comments from our readers," he told the conference.

Clifton said the BBC will not be making new content for mobile phones. Instead, it will be making more of the text, audio and video from the news website central to the expansion of its offering for mobile devices.

Clifton is currently working on developing the BBC News' on-demand strategy, which should be ready by the end of the year.

An important part of the review, he said, would be examining how BBC News needs to be organised to deliver information across platforms.

"We all have to look at our newsrooms and ask ourselves whether they are set up for the challenges ahead. Is it real integration, or is there a bit of lipservice to do it with a token web person sitting at the end of the row," Clifton said, noting that competitors like The Daily Telegraph are working hard to integrate their newsrooms for multimedia publishing.

Clifton said BBC News Interactive's out-of-the-way location in Television Centre at White City, west London, was a major obstacle.

The integration of the BBC's news operations would have to be put in motion even before the planned move to Broadcasting House in two years' time, he said.

"If we are to be a genuine provider of news on demand in the next decade, we will need more of the right people from across our different platforms sitting more closely together," he said.

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