BBC Radio creates new trio of ‘beastly’ websites

BBC Radio is boosting its on-line services with relaunches of its Radio 1, Radio 4 and 5 Live websites, all redesigned in-house. Radio 1 is now seeking to appoint a head of on-line design before the end of the year. The aim is to position the corporation’s on-line offerings as “living, breathing beasts”, says a BBC spokesman.

The news follows the appointment of Simon Nelson to the newly-created position of controller of new media, radio and music. “Our aim is to more closely reflect what is happening on-air as well as to extend it,” he says.

“Listeners are keen to participate in debates, and websites are the ideal place to do this – you only have to witness the success of the Radio 1, Terry Wogan and Today programme message boards,” according to Nelson.

Radio 1 has turned to an in-house design team at the BBC to create its new website, despite creative pitches by design consultancies including Deepend London and Digit (DW 16 June).

Radio 4 is relaunching its website “imminently”, according to a Radio 4 spokeswoman, and aims to follow the design standards set by the Today Programme website – a “Bolshevik-style”, design-led portal. It also aims to include more archive information.

Radio 5 Live has redesigned its portal, which received a soft launch last week, to include more interaction with live events and real-time audio.

“The site is designed to interact more closely with our on-air output,” says Radio 5 Live on-line manager Tim Benjamin.

Radio 1’s website will be relaunched by its in-house design team on a small scale in February, says Radio 1 on-line manager Chris Kimber, prior to a full launch in June or July. The earlier redesign aims to introduce a “bundle of changes”, including trialling small-scale sites dedicated to individual DJs. If successful, these will be expanded later in the year.

“Sarah Cox’s show, for example, has a very individual feel which we want to capture in a specially-designed mini site,” says Kimber. “Shows like hers need their own look on-line.”

Radio 1 also aims to exploit its main point of difference, he adds – its specialist music shows. “Personalities such as Steve Lamacq and John Peel act as trusted guides for our listeners and that must be reflected on-line,” he says.

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