Mike Smartt on BBC News online, past and present

MIKE SMARTT, founder and editor of BBC online discussed the foundation of BBC  news online and the progress they had made throughout the 13 years of its existence, Smartt reflected on his experiences at the BBC in the early years of the internet, he said: “I had a full head of hair when I started working on BBC News online.”

BBC News online now averages 44 millions views per day, a far cry from the 200 views a day it received in its earlier incarnations in 1997, views which incidentally were mainly made up by those at the BBC working on the site.

Smartt also mentioned the upcoming BBC IPhone app and alluded to a new BBC News online page being launched in a few months, however he was unable to give any further details: “There will be a new front page which I was going to show you but they won’t allow me too”

Mike kick started his career as a correspondent for the BBC, he suggested that it was being the only journalist using a laptop at the time which landed him the job of creating the BBC news online site.

Smartt indicated that the BBC had decided to venture into online news after the introduction of the internet in 1995 following in the footsteps of CNN, however “The BBC doesn’t do anything in a hurry” Smartt said and they went on to launch the first news page which they had named the budget 96. Other early BBC News online pages included Olympics 96, and politics 97 in the following year.

What Mike describes as ‘a very expensive business’ saw the BBC networking to people all around the world with the aim to produce from good audio and high quality videos to full interactivity and feedback from the website which is what they were seeking to achieve.

The online news site now has the latest news from all around the world and readers can choose to read what they want. Readers have the choice to choose their stories of interest no matter the length. “If it is a good story, people will read it even though it is 4,000 words long, they will scroll to the end” Said Smartt.

By Marc Johnson & Christine Maema

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