SABCnews.com going Web 2.0

Technology & Convergence

The SABC's news website, www.SABCnews.com, is currently undergoing reconstructive Web 2.0 surgery, all of which will be revealed on Wednesday, 19 November 2008. “It is a huge task involving many people across various SABC sections. BIT New Media is responsible for most of the backend technical and design work,” says Judy Sandison, editor: new media at SABC News. “The smart new look is guaranteed to catch web surfers' eye, but the stunning functionality is what really excites us.”

BIT is the IT division within the SABC responsible for delivering and managing all websites on a consolidated SABC platform. The primary responsibility of BIT in this project has been to redevelop the website on the new platform by replicating old features, providing new features and ensuring the site incorporated some of the latest technologies.

Tasked with creating a new appealing user experience and to deliver a site which would become the centralised point of “online news” for the SABC, BIT is also ensuring that the new website should be easily expandable to take advantage of future opportunities and to cope with the expected number of visits, as it continues to grow its audience across Africa and globally.

The new multimedia, multilingual website will have, among others, the following features:

* Reports on a broad range of news topics, from politics, sport, science and technology to entertainment and the arts. “But it is the big events and special features that show the true value of this news site. In addition to utilising the considerable radio and TV news reporting capacity of the SABC in getting breaking news out fast, the special features section will offer in-depth coverage on events such as the 2009 elections, World Cup soccer, the US elections, the annual budget, and many others,” says Sandison.

* 24-hour discussion forums, incorporating hot news topics, moderated on a continuous basis. SAfm's After 8 Debate will be open on the web for users to add their views and voices.

* Blogs by SABC News journalists hunting the big stories in major news countries around the world.

* Enhanced capacity to eliminate downtime during live streaming of events such as the annual budget and the President's State of the Nation address.

* A variety of audio and video clips and a small selection of full radio and TV bulletins streamed every day. A bigger range across more languages will be offered in phase two of the new site.

* Pages dedicated to Special Assignment, Fokus or Weekend Live, as well as News International and SABC News Agency. Promotional excerpts of Special Assignment and Fokus make them accessible to international users and drive local traffic back to the televised programmes. Special pages for other TV and radio current affairs programmes will be set up in phase 2.

According to Sandison, the Web 2.0 features of the new site are expected to be its trump card. “Users will be able to customise a news homepage that reflects their interests, download or subscribe to our Podcasts and upload their own footage to the ‘Caught on Camera' section.”

This will be enhanced in the second phase of the site development, when users can visit the mobi portal to receive news headlines and traffic and weather reports on their mobile phones.

SABCnews.com is a member of the Online Publishers Association, which sets standards for the industry in terms of online advertising and measurement of traffic to sites. It is also the base for a WAP news service which uses the website's headlines and stories as a ready source of the latest news.

The SABC's new media unit is part of the news division and delivers content for local and international markets via various products, allowing subscribers to receive content online or via cellphone or telephone. Many of these are joint ventures with strategic business partners.

The unit houses the SABC's main international 24-hour news outlets on new media platforms, such as www.sabcnews.com, News Break 082 152, and News on Demand for Zimbabwe. “These services are aimed at increasing the SABC's reach and brand across Africa and globally and provide audiences with more choice in the way they access SABC news,” concludes Sandison.

BIT has also assisted in providing training and defining the new editorial processes used by the team on the new system. In the long-run, it will also maintain and support SABC News with the technical aspects of the website.