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Revamping the Newsround website

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Daniel Clarke | 15:25 UK time, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Observing an eight year old explore the web at home as part of a Newsround audience research session is an incredibly illuminating experience.

No messing about - he's straight onto YouTube to look up a clip he's been sent. His best mate sits on the floor, flicking between games on his phone and games on the TV played using the remote.

Newsround new website screengrab

Across the living room, his four year old brother nags his mum to unlock internet access on the DS so he can look something up on Google. Which deftly (permission granted) he does.

How does Newsround vie for attention in this ultra-connected reality, with its plethora of attractions?

This is the question we asked ourselves when we began redesigning the programme's website. For despite the ardent hopes of some, the majority of the Newsround audience is not sitting down neatly in front of a computer and carefully typing in our URL.

Most children we've spoken to don't see the internet in terms of websites. It's just a place where they can do whatever they're interested in: find out about stuff they've heard about, watch clips, play games, comment on things, communicate with one another.

Happily, Newsround on the web goes a fairly long way towards meeting these needs.

Our web team provides something unique: a rich and imaginative daily diet of distinctive and original news content tailored for 6-12 year olds. And children seek it out. Newsround is the most popular online brand that CBBC has, and a simple yet powerful way of involving our audience in everything we do.

Children come to our content - most often via a search engine like Google - to engage with our stories, clips and topical quizzes; to post their thoughts when things like the rescue of the Chilean miners or the death of Sarah Jane star Elizabeth Sladen touch their hearts.

With this redesign, we've tried to better understand the ways that children are using the internet now, and to use that knowledge to improve the way they experience our content.

So: we've brought in bigger, higher resolution picture galleries - a website led by images rather than text. We've developed a simplified menu based around terms that children understand. We've made our content easier to find. And we're introducing more intuitive ways of allowing children to engage with and comment on our stories, along with more stimulating interactive puzzles.

Old Newsround website screenshot

...out with the old

We want to know what children think of our new site - and we're working in a way that will allow us to adapt it based on what works and what doesn't. We're planning to introduce new features soon.

But there's more work to do. This redesign goes only part way towards answering how Newsround fully involves itself in homes like that of the eight year old boy and his family, and their array of internet connected devices.

Simply sprucing up your website isn't really going to cut it for an audience who don't know a world without Google and social media - where the web is used just as much for communication as for information.

It would be easy to get hung up on the fact that age restrictions mean we can't currently make use of sites like Facebook and YouTube, but the real question for Newsround is: how do we truly insert our content into the vast conversation that children are increasingly having online?

Being the first to know and share what's happening - from tiny details about your life, to huge things going on in the world - has tremendous currency. But it can be difficult for children to safely navigate such a limitless sea of content and potential encounters, and Newsround - increasingly - has a duty to play a useful and important role here as a trusted source of news and information.

Newsround as a programme was set up nearly 40 years ago with the admirable purpose of informing children about the world in a way that's relevant to them. If it's going to continue to do this, it needs to have the agility and boldness to follow the audience where they're going now.

- For more details on the development of the site see this post by my Future Media colleague Phil Buckley.

Daniel Clarke is deputy editor of Newsround.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    So is the link going to be inserted then?

  • Comment number 2.

    Just wondering how many eight year old are capable of navigating the depths of beebland, to find this post, to be able make a comment, positive or negative, on the changes this editor is making.

  • Comment number 3.

    'a trusted source of news and information'

    Don't half see this intoned a lot, as in often enough, these days. Especially here.

    I'll get me boots.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Paul -

    Children are introduced to the changes on the site itself by Newsround's Ricky Boleto - http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/13943651. Don't worry - we'll certainly get to hear their opinions. This post is for parents/ other interested types.

    Best wishes and thanks for commenting all -


    Phil

  • Comment number 5.

    4. At 10:22 30th Jun 2011, Phil Buckley wrote:

    Thanks for your reply Phil.

    The same point i raised would be applicable to parents/other interested types.
    How many users of the BBC web site know about The Editors Blog.

    I only came across it by chance a while ago, upset by arbitrary changes to the way in which you are allowed to make comments on BBC stories. I had no idea, that Peston or Robinson et al have blogs on which you can comment. It seems to a be a seek an ye shall find policy, rather that is who we are and what we do and we are proud of it.

    Children are 'introduced to changes', not consulted, don't get me wrong they may be good changes, but it seems to be repeating a BBC pattern.
    We are going to make changes, like them or not, and there is little or nothing you, the user/licence fee payer can do about it.

    Making a complaint to the BBC as recent reports have shown is a difficult and unrewarding process. So how do you suggest unhappy users let their feelings be known to those who instigate these changes?

    At the moment the accepted response from yourselves is to open a blog and either ignore the comments or serve up some platitudes whilst carrying on with change regardless.

    Could you suggest a better alternative?

    Look forward to your reply.

  • Comment number 6.

    'Look forward to your reply'

    >>>>>

    'At the moment the accepted response from yourselves is to open a blog and either ignore the comments or serve up some platitudes whilst carrying on with change regardless.'

    LoL.

    Especially the bit about Grooming 2.0 for kids... and adults too.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Paul -

    Thanks for your detailed reply. I suppose I would say that blogs like this are one of a number of ways in which we listen to our audience and that I hope we always take feedback seriously?

    In this instance Newsround was re-developed by watching the audience use our old site and other media, in their direct feedback to us, and also by studying what the totality of the audience do via our search logs and statistics. As we have developed it we have tested it with children further; so we are reasonably confident that children will think it is an improvement and blogs usually get written at about this stage.

    However, we know we won't have got everything right, so as Dan says "we're working in a way that will allow us to adapt it based on what works and what doesn't": Ricky invites children to contact us at the bottom of his page, so we will definitely hear from them.

    To give you a small example from the recent relaunch of the rest of the CBBC site, we initially removed a link saying 'be on a show': responses on our message boards made it very clear that 'be on a show' was a much better thing to call it so that has been reinstated.

    In sum then, I suppose I would say that blogs and conversations like this are definitely part of listening to people - I hope that is of some use! Best wishes -


    Phil

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Lokis - are the BBC aware that their online facility does not allow for honest feedback?

    Maybe someone in the BBC should look of the meaning of "rhetorical question".

    At the same time they may need to look up the phrase "getting blood out of a stone".

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    'Don't worry - we'll certainly get to hear their opinions. This post is for parents/ other interested types.'

    Your comment has been referred for further consideration.

    'Revamping' takes many forms, it seems.

  • Comment number 13.

    'At the moment the accepted response from yourselves is to open a blog and either ignore the comments or serve up some platitudes whilst carrying on with change regardless.'
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 14.

    The irony is, these days, I can have a removal or referral imposed based on a website link to a thread on the BBC.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    I see there's not much new to comment on today, except meat.

  • Comment number 20.

    'I spent my life working on spacecrafts' - headline today.
    If this is an example of your editing then you have a way to go yet - the plural of spacecraft is spacecraft, there is no such word as 'spacecrafts'. If it isn't in your remit, perhaps you'd pass an appropriate comment to the culprit.

  • Comment number 21.

    First off, I'm not a child.
    My problem: I do have strong opinions regarding Israel/Palestinian affairs and how this issue is progressing. Maybe this is wrong spot to place my complaint, but you know what? Look through your material; you will find stories about Middle East, but no place to place comments, as though you don't want or welcome commentary. Is there some Jewish lobbying going on? You can open this topic for discussion, but you cannot open that?
    e.g. Turkey's prime minister said on Friday that Israel must apologise for last year's deadly raid on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza, as well as lift its blockade of the territory, if it wants to normalise diplomatic ties. Israel has so far rejected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's demand. In a speech to parliament ahead of the expected release of a United Nations report on the raid, Erdogan gave no sign of softening, IN SPITE rof various news reports that the two sides have been holding "secret talks" to mend fences.
    I seem to be able to comment on all sort of things, except the one issue that I think deserves the most public attention. Is there really something else that you consider more explosive, more demanding of public commentary that the Middle East, especially Israel?

  • Comment number 22.

    Just joined today, I have only just got into blogging on yahoo, I will not join facebook.

    Became unemployed last year.

    Raised 2 children after divorce, who now have families of their own.

    Debate and discussion keeps the mind focused and sane.

    I visited the BBC website to put my views about the NotW closure as I did think they made a poor choice in the vote question.

    I quickly scanned through the blogs on Giles Wilson (Our next step in News blogging).

    Completely agree with those whose views were that the changes were a backward step. Not having previously been on the site, I summise that it used to be more like Yahoo is now as you have 4000 spaces to explain the reasoning behind your opinion.

    What I would like to see is a forum on the BBC prior to the airing of debate programmes. That would give the concerns that people feel and an analysis if relevant could be given by the presenter of the programme.

    If you also provided agree/disagree as they do on Yahoo it would reduce the quantity of bloggs to be read and the figures would be already there on the blogg. From the most visited you could give a summary of the relevant content and number of visitors agreeing/disagreeing.

    This would give people a sense of interaction with those who can influence others and try to work together to bring about a better Britain.

  • Comment number 23.

    So, Daniel, where is the link to Newsround (see #1)?

    And will it have a limit on the number of characters?

    And will it be linked through The Editors?

    And will we adults be encouraged to use the blog site?

    And can we have some answer to BluesBerry's #21, where all issues of significance are studiously ignored as BBC Blogging Topics?

    Or will these significant news items only be available through the kids' Newsround?

    It really sucks to be an adult trying to interact with the BBC; lets hope our children have more luck.
    Any comment, Daniel?

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Just by closing the complaints about your new style (very bad) blogs will not remove the complaints. Simply shooting the messenger does not make the story any better. You have made a tremendous error and the design is a huge retrograde step.

    WE NEED, AND YOU NEED US, TO HAVE 5000 Characters!

 

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