A tour of Tour De France news sites - Étape 2: BBC Sport

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 24 July 2007

With limited access to watching the Tour De France on television in Greece, I've been restricted to using the internet to follow cycling's biggest annual event. As I've done so, I've been reviewing the sites I've been visiting for the features they offer, the depth of their coverage and their usability.

So far I've looked at LeTour.fr, the official site of the Tour De France.

The BBC's Cycling coverage falls under their 'Other Sports' section, and it is obvious that it doesn't have the full-time editorial resources that the major sports have online. When the Tour De France isn't on, the site provides a little bit of news about cycling's major events and a 606 cycling forum, but not much else. For Le Tour, the coverage is increased.

This lack of resource isn't necessarily a bad thing however, and I'd like to see a lot of what the Cycling team do for the BBC repeated elsewhere on the BBC.co.uk site.

For example, on the cycling homepage, the Tour De France navigational header section includes links out to a guide to the route, and to the general standings in the Tour. However, these are external links to the official LeTour.fr site.

bbc-tour-banner.gif

The BBC could have spent money making an interactive guide to the Tour De France themselves, a sport it doesn't have any television broadcast rights to. However, the market has clearly provided several interactive guides - aside from LeTour.fr the BBC could equally well have linked to The Guardian's or The Telegraph's route maps.

My general BBC mantra is that it should do less, but do it better, and linking out more from the website to high quality content, rather than duplicating the efforts of the commercial market, is one way I believe the BBC can achieve this and cut costs.

The header navigation isn't the only place where the BBC links externally on their cycling coverage.

bbc-external-diagram.gif

There are panels on the majority of BBC cycling stories featuring the latest news content from iSporty and British Cycling.

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On the original editorial side, the BBC generally has two to three stories about the Tour De France each day. There will be minute-by-minute text coverage of the day's stage, and an article summing up the results and what happened at the end. There will also be coverage of any major developments with drugs scandals or injuries.

The BBC does provide a general cycling RSS feed, although not a specific Tour De France one.

Where the BBC has tried to add value to their coverage is with content generated around the tour. They very often promote the Cycling area of the sports 606 forum - which I must confess seems incredibly civilised if you are only used to reading articles on the football area of 606!

The BBC has also sent a camper van equipped with blogger Paul O'Connell around France in pursuit of the Tour and some blog-style content.

bbc-van.gif

This has left me a bit cold to be honest, and I've barely read any of it, despite it being mashed-up into the main Cycling RSS feed.

The main focus is on the minute-by-minute text coverage. Whilst it can be a little like watching football on Ceefax - and trust me, I've done that before for crucial games - I enjoy text commentaries of sporting events, and though not as lively as the coverage over on The Guardian site, the boys have been doing a good job.

It is by far from being the most comprehensive coverage on the web, but the BBC has been making a reasonable job of the Tour De France. I'd rate them to be right in the middle of the virtual peloton, but not a contender for the top honours in my tour of Tour De France news sites.

Tomorrow I'll be looking at the coverage provided by France's state sponsored international news service, France 24, and by The Guardian newspaper in the UK.



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