Since October 19 in the year 1922, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) has served as the leading news source for all of United Kingdom and the world, as well. As technology advanced significantly over the years, BBC began to branch out into 3 main mediums of digital entertainment – BBC Television, BBC News (radio), and BBC Online. After making its first appearance on the internet in 1994, BBC Online was officially launched in April 1997 with the official address, www.bbc.co.uk (now http://www.bbc.com). Since 1997, the website evolved in many ways with very notable differences.
The picture to the left is a screenshot of the front page of BBC News Online on December 12, 1998 captured by WayBack Machine. At the time of the launch, the website was only 620 pixels wide, which is barely half the width of the current website. The first thing that catches the audience’s eyes is the banner at the top. The simple logo of BBC News in white creates a bold and eye-catching contrast with the primarily blue banner. And the red star on the right adds a more patriotic essence to overall page. The classic red, white, and blue are representative to the UK’s colors on its national flag; and this makes the clear to know who the main audience is – UK citizens. Before BBC News grew into a worldwide news source, the audience was mainly for the people residing in England, Scotland, Wales, or Ireland. It is evident that, in 1997, BBC News’s mission was to bring worldwide and nationwide news to their UK audience rather than to their international audience. However, the transition to slowly start focusing on their international audience was clear through the 6 options to change the language of the news right below the banner.
The picture above is a screenshot of the front page of BBC News Online on December 12, 2012 captured by WayBack Machine – exactly 14 years after the one mentioned above. The banner is completely different than the banner from the 1998 front page. What was once primarily a blue banner is now a red one with an image of a globe in various shades of grey, white, and red (instead of the red star). This blue to red change was officially made in 1999, when BBC made its first big website revamp. Starting with the addition of the globe image, the change in BBC News’s mission is clearly shown – to be worldwide news source, not just a UK new source.
On the left of the 1998 front page is the menu bar to the different links for specialized news. All of the non-UK related news were all collected and gathered in just the “World” link. However, on the 2012 front page, the menu bar moved to the banner and the menu bar expanded significantly. Instead of just having all the international news under “Word”, the 2012 website has links to different countries or continent of the world – US & Canada, Latin America, UK, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Mid-East. And at very bottom of the 2012 homepage, there is a section called BBC World Service where it states that the articles online can be viewed in 27 different language – 21 more than what was offered in 1998.
The 2012 BBC News homepage is also definitely more vibrant than that of 1998. The rest of the 1998 front page is muted with just black and white font with the colors only coming from the few images. However, on the 2012 homepage, the headers for each article and each section is dark blue, the rest of the font color is grey (not black), the video thumbnails all have orange blocks for titles, and there is a huge increase in the number of pictures. Also, the content of the homepage increased since 1998. As technology has advanced over the years, video news made its way online and definitely on BBC Online. People are now able to listen and watch their news on the website instead of tuning in through a television screen during a certain time of the day. Another interesting difference is that the 2012 homepage has links to BBC’s social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Since 1998, the world has gone through a digital revolution where social media has become one of the leading new sources for millions of people. For broadcasting companies, social media has become a new medium to share news and to draw people’s attention to the broadcasting companies. Specifically, for BBC News, Twitter and Facebook are where they could link their digital news articles in order to gain more traffic to the website. The website simply evolved to increase user convenience.
Through digital media, people are consuming news and information continuously (an aspect of the circuit of culture) especially in an age when you could watch your news anytime through your iPhone screen. All the changes made on the BBC News website was catered to tackle two questions. Who will consume the news? How will they consume it? Expanding the world news to internationally region-specific news was a change meant to expand the audience demographic to not just UK residing citizens, but to all worldwide internet users. The color, theme, and overall aesthetic change was meant to lower the bounce rate (increasing users’ time on the website). The addition of videos was to provide a new medium of consuming news, rather spending time reading off a screen. And the addition of social media handles was meant to increase website traffic and offer social media users BBC as a channel to get all the relevant and up-to-date news. The changes reflect the evolving digital world that we live in.
Featured Image: Screenshotted on WayBack Machine