BBC World Service Launch BBC Media Player
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Annual Review 2003/04
 
 
A year in review
New Media

Computer users, Libya
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GOING GLOBAL, GOING INTERACTIVE

It started out as a head-to-head debate on the BBC Arabic online site. Two working mothers - one an Israeli journalist, the other an Egyptian schoolteacher, sharing their views on the prospects for peace in Middle East and their impressions of each other's culture. Their conversation was highlighted by the English language news site, and users from all over the world added their comments. The episode typified a year in which dialogue flourished and the "global debate" began in earnest, linking people across linguistic as well as national boundaries.

New interactive sites were launched to promote dialogue between communities in the Islamic world and western countries. Combining thought-provoking editorial content with cutting edge technology, three sites in Arabic, Persian and Urdu are constantly updated with new debates, weblogs, quizzes, and photographs sent in by users.

The debate continues in English in the 'Islam and the West' webpages which give users a chance to offer their perspective and hear how world leaders and experts answer their questions. The forum is a model for the "global conversation" which is a centrepiece of the World Service's new strategy.

'Through the internet, the BBC is making connections with audiences everywhere, not just in regions where our radio programmes are broadcast,' says Head of New Media, Myra Hunt.

'Our Arabic site for example gives us a connection into the Arabic-speaking audiences all over the world, and that material can then be used on the English site. This kind of synergy really is unique to the World Service. The BBC's range of languages gives us exceptional access to different countries and opinions, enriching our content and bringing us closer to audiences. The real change in the last 12 months is that our online sites are now much more interactive and connected with users.'

By the end of the year, World Service sites were achieving 279 million page impressions a month, compared with only five million five years ago. There were over 16 million individual users each month. The rate of increase is doubling every year and augurs well as plans develop for further expansion.

A competitive market place

'The Arabic and Persian sites are performing particularly strongly in less developed Middle East markets as well as among users worldwide,' says Myra Hunt. 'Websites in Portuguese for Brazil and Spanish are doing exceptionally well by syndicating their content in a much more competitive marketplace and placing it on internet service providers, bringing it to new users. Use of our English news, available on line, on mobile phones and PDAs, grows each month.'

It was not just world events that led the BBC's online growth. Cricket attracted a strong following, with a record number of 6.4 million page impressions in Hindi and Urdu during India's cricket tour of Pakistan in March 2004.

Responding to rapid technological development in the highly competitive new media market, World Service introduced significant improvements to the look of the site and the introduction of a multilingual radio player made programmes available on demand in all languages. Breaking-news text alerts are being launched for PC users.

Research using mini-surveys on major language sites drew responses from users. The results showed that typical users are in their mid-30s, younger than traditional radio listeners, demonstrating how online services are introducing the BBC to a new generation.

'THROUGH THE INTERNET, THE BBC IS MAKING CONNECTIONS WITH AUDIENCES EVERYWHERE, NOT JUST IN REGIONS WHERE OUR RADIO PROGRAMMES ARE BROADCAST'...
PC users, Africa Many voices, one world BBC World Service
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A year in review
New Media
 
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