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BBC News Timeliner launches

Peter Rippon

Editor, BBC Online Archive and Connected Studio

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The BBC Timeliner feature about the BBC swingometer

The BBC’s plans to use its archive more powerfully in digital storytelling has reached a significant milestone with the launch of the News Timeliner on the BBC Taster platform.  

The Timeliner uses collections of inter-connected short-form videos to give context to current news stories and aims to trigger memories and journeys into key moments in the past. The current version explores the history of British Politics and Elections through a series of timelines for audiences to experience in the build up to the general election.

The development of the Timeliner has been fuelled by two important audience insights. Firstly, there is a significant appetite to understand the news more fully and to be able to put events into  context and see where things fit into a bigger picture. The BBC archive can play a significant role in meeting that need. 

Audiences also want to feel in control of the journeys they take and to discover things for themselves rather than be told what is important. So whether it is key moments from past elections, or a brief history of the swingometer, Timeliner is designed to work whether you just watch one or two videos or explore the whole collection more deeply. The collections are also all inter-linked to encourage a more serendipitous experience.   

Timeliner is hosted on the new BBC Taster platform, an online space specially designed to try out new ideas and innovations in digital storytelling. Another archive-based storytelling prototype, BBC Your Story, is already proving really popular on Taster with 1,907,812 views to date.


Timeliner has been built using modern web technologies, the audience facing user interface is built in HTML and the AngularJS framework. There is also an editorial view where journalists build the timelines that is based on the same technologies.


The backend of the system is built using the Node.js framework and the timelines are stored in JSON. The JSON file stores all the information about all the items in a timeline: pictures, text, videos, related timelines etc and so by downloading that single file the front end has all it needs to render a timeline.


The entire application is hosted by BBC Connected Studio in the cloud and the application has been designed to make use of cloud features so can easily automatically scale to meet demand.


The audience insight and feedback from Taster is already proving invaluable as we test out new ideas. We have already refined and hopefully improved YourStory from the feedback received so I am keen for as much feedback as possible.

The News Timeliner is a product of the BBC’s Connected Studio process. It has been built by the BBC Rewind Team in Northern Ireland with the help of two digital indies, Loftus Media and Softwire.   

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