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Posted: October 29, 2005 10:40 AM
International sites seek to innovate with richer media

By April Chan
ONA Convention Online Staff

paul brannon
Paul Brannon
cairo & baumhauer
Alberto Cairo (left) and Guido Baumhauer.

While American media Web sites are starting to take full advantage of broadband, producing dazzling, award-winning rich media projects, Internet journalists around the world are hot on their heels and challenging America’s sites both in innovation and technology, according to presenters at a panel discussion on world-wide online journalism on Friday.

Online journalists representing companies from Germany, Brazil, Spain and the United Kingdom showed off some of their best work during the international panel titled “Broadening the Bandwidth.”

The Spanish Web site, Elmundo.es produced vivid, interactive presentations about the Madrid bombings in March 2003, the space project “Deep Impact” and features on Albert Einstein. Some of their offerings run as long as 15 minutes.

“We gather the information,” said Alberto Cairo, assistant professor of infographics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who is currently taking time off from Elmundo.es. “We talk to scientists … we are journalists – not designers.”

Marion Strecker, cofounder and director of Brazilian Univierso Online which boasts 1.4 million paid subscribers, said her organization is working to appeal to a diverse Brazilian market by creating content that meets at a junction between journalism, entertainment and user education.

An example of this nexus: UOL recruited Brazilian celebrities to help them create content about national politics, Strecker said.

Both Paul Brannon, deputy editor of BBC Interactive and Guido Baumhauer, editor in chief of Deutsche Welle, said their organizations are taking advantage of the wide appeal of podcasts and mobile news alerts by producing content that crosses perceived boundaries of a simple Web site.

For the BBC, this includes terrestrial satellite and cable, cell phones, PDAs and jumbotrons. Brannon called this a “multi-platform authoring exercise.”

Baumhauer said Deutsche Welle’s target user is now less “couch potato” and more “subway potato.”

Deutsche Welle, which is being produced in 30 languages including Urdu for television, radio and the Internet, is now the only provider of German soccer for a Chinese audience. In China, there’s a demand for it, Baumhauer said.

“Memory’s cheaper than it’s ever been,” Brannon said, adding that some children in London are so accustomed to wireless technology that they don’t understand the concept of being “connected” to a terminal in order to get on the Internet.

Wi-fi technology and podcasting are allowing users to personalize their news experience now more than ever, he said. Additionally, the BBC, with “Backstage,” a new experiment that gives users free access to BBC content in order to foster innovation and new talent, hopes to pull their users further in as citizen journalists.

“We’re not talking about revolution,” Baumhauer said. “It’s more like a natural evolution.”

Despite the technological achievements, Brannon warned that the digital divide between the rich and poor is growing, especially in the United Kingdom.

BBC research has found that at least one-third of adults in the United Kingdom have never used the Internet. Meanwhile, BBC is realizing it largely appeals to wealthy males.

“Mobile technology allows you to move around with the content that is important to you,” Brannon said. “It defines you as a person.”

About this site

News on the 2005 conference is produced by the Online News Association Student Newsroom, which is supported by grants from the Scripps Howard Foundation, National Association of Black Journalists, and CBSNews.com.

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