Contrasting BBC, The Ottawa Citizen and Torontoist Online

Lucy Sky

News has made its way into the online world in many different ways. There are all kinds of news websites, ranging from broadcast style, newspaper style and blog style all the way to podcasts and social media.

This has created a very broad and modern way to access day to day news from home, on the walk to work in the morning or lying in bed at night; not to mention reducing printing costs and spending money for daily readers.

That being said, those daily readers don’t necessarily want to part with the format that they’ve been seeing for as long as they can remember, nor do the people who prefer to access their news via television.

Therefore, the newspaper websites mostly keep the original layout and the broadcast sites incorporate videos and podcasts. Moreover, there are the new blogging websites which completely reflect the newest form of journalism with their unique styles.

Examples of this transition would be BBC, which started off as broadcast news and The Ottawa Citizen, which started as a newspaper. These original news sources have joined sites like Torontoist, which is an entirely online blog site in the online world.

Although these sites may all convey news; that in itself is sometimes the only similarity between them. Not to say that there aren’t any more similarities within, because through my research I’ve seen almost an equal
amount of similarities in contrast with differences.

The layout of The Citizen in quite user friendly. It’s set up in a centered column-style manor. The first thing you see when you come to the site is the classic Ottawa Citizen logo in banner form at the top of the page. Directly underneath that is your options to tour into different sections and sub-sections. The hyperlinks are set up as the main sections of the paper but when you hover your mouse over these links, you get the option to choose from the many sub-sections offered within.

As you continue to navigate down the page, you see the headlining stories followed by a top story from different sections with a picture followed by a teaser underneath and a link to the full story. The entire background of the home page is an advertisement and I found that very distracting, especially combined with the other four to five ads that I saw on the home page as well as all of the other main pages. What is nice about that is the fact that they are not all interactive ads, they have a good balance between interactive and non-interactive. The thing that I didn’t like about that is I found myself seeing more ads than I did use of pictures and videos and it strayed my eyes from what I was originally looking at.

BBC has a bit more of a broadcast style to it, using a grid-style layout. While you do still come to the page and see BBC’s logo at the top, it’s not nearly as visible but humbly sitting in the top left corner. When you look to the right of the logo, you see the stand-alone hyperlinks that bring you to the other sections of the website.

Below is a slide show of the headlining stories. After which there are sectioned off teasers for the top stories in the other main sections. These are presented with one photo and a connecting teaser below for the head story. There are also a few hyperlinks to other suggested stories in the same category.

The site uses a great amount of multimedia, with many videos and pictures incorporated with the stories. There are also radio broadcasts and TV broadcasts available to users. The advertisements, while only having
about two to three on the main pages have a good mix of interactive and non-interactive. They are well placed and do not distract the reader from the main focus of the page.

Torontoist has a very unique and urban looking style to it. Its logo interchanges, one of which having the ‘ist’ in its name written in graffiti. From just the front page you can tell that it is a very multimedia based site, having most of the page filled by photographs. Some of which are actually bigger than the teasers that follow them.

Again there is a good balance between interactive and non-interactive ads around the site but Torontoist is similar to BBC in this way, as they do not over advertise. There is an average of 3 ads per page.

These things along with the points that follow, are a good part of how my opinion is formed on the target audience of the site. From my research, I believe that the target audience for The Citizen is the young
adult and middle age consumer population of Canada. BBC seems to have a more worldwide focus, especially with their option to view the site in 27 different languages. I would say that they are targeting a worldwide 17 to 40-year-old audience. Torontoist is very much a local site, gearing towards local Toronto readers. The content leads me to believe that the target would be a high school to late 20’s Toronto audience.

When it comes to the stories that these sites put forward, BBC and The Citizen both keep the Washington Navy Yard shooting and Syria as their top stories. Whereas Torontoist headlines with a Rob and Doug Ford radio recap.

When you continue to scroll down and explore the rest of the stories, you come to realize that they are all very local based websites. BBC with its London Fashion week story on the front page, The Citizen with the

Lebreton Flats LRT construction beginning and Torontoist with the Ikea monkey. BBC is the only one of the three that keeps its local news in balance with everything else, while still keeping news as its priority.

Somewhere that all three of these sites differ is in the Sports section. The Citizen has the Ottawa Senators win over the Winnipeg Jets in their first pre-season game as their sports header. BBC has football and Rugby
stories headlining but does not have a single hockey story in their sports section without having to dig for it. Torontoist on the other hand is completely without a sports section whatsoever.

With those observations, the focus of the sites is really put into perspective. I think that the fact that BBC is viewed worldwide online and on television, whereas The Citizen is mainly Ottawa/Ontario based and

Torontoist is strictly geared to Toronto is the reason that the focus of these sites differ.

BBC seems to have a news focus followed by entertainment and technology. The Citizen also holds a news focus but follows with a city growth and life. Torontoist stays away from hard news with a very broad focus of anything Torontonians could want or need to know about what’s going on in the city.

While The Citizen and BBC share the focus of getting the hard news out to the public in any way that they can, they don’t seem to share the same focus when it comes to the stories that they fill the rest of the site with.

Use of opinion throughout the sites and in the articles is another aspect that they contrast. Torontoist and The Citizen have a vast amount of opinion shown around their sites. The Citizen has an entire section for opinion articles, with a variety of different sub-sections within. These include letters, columnists, editorials, op-ed and blogs. Torontoist has a column on the right hand side of the home page with a most commented and recent comments sections but they both have the option to comment on any of the stories posted on the sites. BBC however has no opinion section and does not give you the option to comment on the stories.

In conclusion, these sites are all out there to give you your daily news. With that said, being there for the same reason doesn’t mean that they are going to appear the same to the untamed eye or have the same focus or goal with what type of news or design that will be given to you.

BBC Online  Ottawa Citizen Online  Torontoist Online

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