24/7 TV news websites: Part 4 - CNN

 by Martin Belam, 11 January 2008

This week I have started a series of posts looking at the Web 2.0 features of 24/7 TV news websites. I started with the English edition of the Al Jazeera site, and the BBC News site. I'd like to finish this week's posts with a look at CNN.

CNN homepage

CNN is very proud to have been the first 24 hour news network to migrate onto the web, launching their site in August of what now seems the pre-historic era of 1995.

CNN Interactive homepage

In the summer of 2007 the site underwent its most recent re-design, and one significant development was the use of a new very flexible story level template. This allows the page to be optimised towards the best type of content the network has online for a given individual story, whether that is text, still images, or embedded video. Users are able to tab between the different types of story-telling for each piece.

CNN content tabs

This makes for a great use of space, and gathers all the elements of a story on one page without the issues of launching pop-ups or following related links to picture galleries and so forth. Of all the sites I have surveyed for this series of articles, CNN had the clearest, cleanest and most modern look.

RSS feeds

CNN offer RSS feeds, and the main index feed is auto-discoverable in a browser. On the international edition of the site RSS feeds are promoted graphically amongst a selection of tools branded as 'CNN Anywhere'

CNN RSS promotion

The international edition offers 24 RSS feeds, and includes a link to 'My Yahoo!' for each feed, alongside a slightly-too-small bespoke CNN red RSS logo. The page also features pop-up information on what RSS is, and how to access it.

CNN feed listing


CNN's blogs are linked to in the site's footer navigation, and also promoted at the foot of some individual stories. I did note though that at the time of writing, the navigational link in the footer was 404ing on the international edition.

CNN blog promo

The blogs feature date-based archive navigation, and individual RSS feeds. Users can submit comments to the CNN blogs. The comment policy is laid out very clearly at the foot of blog pages, but what starts out as an outline of their moderation process does somewhat descend into rather a lot of legalese.

"CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. Please note that CNN makes reasonable efforts to review all comments prior to posting and CNN may edit comments for clarity or to keep out questionable or off-topic material. All comments should be relevant to the post and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying information via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity."

Topics covered include notes from correspondents In The Field and a somewhat irregular (just 3 posts in the last 5 months) peek behind the scenes.

CNN's I-Report is one of the most prominent attempts to harness 'citizen journalists' or photographic and video user-generated content on all the sites I've looked at in this survey. It has its own notebook blog setting assignments for CNN's army of volunteer correspondents, and showcasing their best efforts.

It will be interesting to see how the France 24's similar Observers initiative takes off, but here CNN seems very much to be leading the way in shaping the kind of user-generated reports and footage they receive.


CNN does not allow users to add their comments to individual stories.


CNN has a Quick vote on the website homepage. Users can submit their choice, or opt to see the vote results directly without indicating a preference themselves.

CNN homepage Quick Vote

The votes used to be aggregated on the QuickVote QuickThoughts blog, but this seems to have been discontinued about 6 months ago.

Social bookmarking

Social bookmarking links do not appear by default on the CNN site, but users are invited to 'Share' with a small icon both in the top right and at the foot of a story. This is alongside other tools like emailing the page or viewing a print-specific version.

CNN story buttons

Clicking the 'Share' link unfolds an overlay which offers the opportunity to bookmark a page on Digg, Facebook, del.icio.us, Reddit or StumbleUpon.

CNN social bookmarking links

I do have some reservations here. I'm not convinced that this type of user-interaction model will be very successful for this type of action. The visual prompt to bookmark is conveyed to the user with familiar icons for each service. To hide them from view behind an unrecognised 'Share' icon seems to take something away from the magic visual call-to-action.

Next week I'll be continuing this survey of 24/7 news channel websites with a look at the partially EU-funded Euronews site.


Why not public all the news? Day after day, night after night, the news broadcasts are full of talking heads guessing whether the crooked governor will resign, or whether Barack will be implicated... creating the news. I can watch every three days and be current. Meanwhile, there are actual events, many involving our own home grown terrorists that one can read about only in Morris Dees Intelligence Report or other alternative press; or the events in East Congo and other parts of the world for which one must go to BBC.

CNN isn't even news. It's the gossip station at this point. Why? Is everything about money and getting people riled up about a scandal?

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