The France 24 website went live today, and its like nothing else in 24-hour news. Everything about it screams innovation and nouveauté. But nothing more so than the video.
The site has integrated video on-demand with its text content more tightly than perhaps any news site on the web. Nearly every news story has a short 2-3 minute video attached to it that can be played either from the main navigation page, or on a seperate page with the full text underneath.This method of integration is seamless and infinately preferable to the CNN site which awkwardly inserts pop-up links into text stories.
Navigation is also a strength, with simplicity defining the easy-to-use navbar at the top of the page. Stories are sorted by category on a top row, then by region on the second row in slightly smaller font.
Clicking one of these links will bring up a box-based story selection menu in the middle of the page, with one top story leading and two secondary stories in bold. This “three first” style is reminiscent of the much lauded BBC Site, which pioneered the concept.
Clicking a particular story will launch a panel to the left that gives a summary of the story. From there one has the option of viewing the video or viewing alone or reading the full text w/video.
The site’s visual presence is impressive. Everything from the coloring to spacing to font size has been well thought out. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the clean video box, which doesn’t display the standard Windows Media Player borders and buttons, but simply shows a clean video window.
The site is available in three languages, English, Arabic, and French with a small , simple navbar below the header to switch between them.
Advertising is light and elegant, so far consisting only of a small flash box in the right margin of every page. Considering the budget difference between BBC News and France 24, one advertisment isn’t much to complain about.
If there’s one big worry about the France 24 site its in archiving. Both the BBC News and CNN sites owe much of their influence in the blogoshpere to the fact that they archive every article they post in an easy-to-link format. Looking at France 24’s site, I don’t see indication that they are arhiving their stories. Indeed with videos attached, the bandwidth costs may be prohibitive.
Aside from this uncertainty, there are still some bugs on the site. The search page usually turns up stories with the title “no title”, the “Most Recomended” tag feature looks pretty but puzzingly cannot process French accents, and the weather page offers two choices for United States city forcasts: Biloxi, MS and Biloxi, MS., niether of which are very big and located in the part of the country least likely to get their weather from a French news channel.
Overall though, this site represents a daring, innovative direction for a 24 hour channel’s news site and promises to be a highly useful resource. The site’s nouveauté may even represent the new way forward for web news in the Youtubed, video-centric era.
Pros: Tight integraion of video and text content; excellent visual styling; easy-to-use interface, seamless trilingual presentation.
Cons: Questionable archival capabilites; still some bugs to be resolved