CNN’s new website

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Since the launch of their new mobile site recently , CNN in London have been liaising with me and keeping me updated about their vision. They requested me to comment on their new Beta site – so here goes!

As a frequent traveller, I am very well versed with CNN and have been following it for more than ten years.

The service itself has gone through many changes – but this change is very significant and I can see why CNN is so serious about this site.

In my book Mobile Web 2.0, we went through a very long section outlining the change in traditional media due to the emergence of user generated content.

It represents a fundamental change in strategy – an evolution into a new world of user generated content complementing traditional media. In the UK, the BBC has been at the forefront of change in media. And to be fair, the BBC is excellent. However, it is funded by license fees! i.e. it does not strictly ‘earn’ its money – so to speak. Also, it has no advertising.

In that sense, the transformation of CNN in a Web (2.0) and a Mobile Web 2.0 world is a major step – and indeed one to be watched.

The changes are subtle but significant. The site itself is clean and easy to navigate. This is in keeping with the Web 2.0 philosophy.

There is an emphasis on Video in a big way – which I like

Traditional viewpoints are complemented by views from Blogosphere through Sphere

I found the advertising non intrusive. The clips play one after the other (just like in a news bulletin) and are sometimes (but not always) interspaced by advertising.

The launch itself included a beta launch blog which got many comments (I can’t find that link anymore – maybe it was removed post launch)

The new features include (adapted from a CNN presentation)

- Switch to horizontal navigation(as seen above i.e. showing read, video, photos and map as navigation tabs against a single story)

- Embedded video (and a heavy emphasis on video in general)

- Regionally synchronized CNN Int’l TV schedule

- Localised weather and news

- Permanent, stronger presence of blogs, podcasts, and I-Report links

- Re-launched site, redefines how a news story is told.

- Leads with the strongest storytelling element

• Article

• Video

• Photos

- Free On demand CNN Video and Free Live video with CNN Live

- In page video replaces traditional pop-up player

- Multiple navigation formats: Navigation by Category, Most Popular, Top Stories or by following editorial picks.

- Offers customisation with a My Playlist ‘self choice’ section

The two things I could not get to work are

a) Playing videos on my phone. The service said that I had an older version of Flash – and I could not see how that could be updated

b) I found that some videos were not available in the UK i.e. there is some geographic selection of the sites

Thus, I see this site as a broader, strategic shift by major media and it was nice to be able to work with CNN on this and contribute to this evolution.

A beta tour is HERE

Conclusions

a) A major shift

b) A greater emphasis on video

c) More Web 2.0 features – Blogs, user generated content etc

d) The design of the site lends well to mobile

e) Revenue model is advertising – since videos are free

f) Conflict with existing channels to be seen since videos on the Web are free. My take is: The two will complement

g) Some small teething troubles

Overall, it’s a good experience and one to watch because it is a pioneering change in my view