Pete Clifton, head of multimedia editorial development at BBC News, told students in Coventry last week that the BBC News site will undergo its "most significant relaunch ever" in a matter of months.

Although the BBC has previously downplayed the planned 'refresh' of its news site, Clifton said a drastic redesign has been undertaken of the page layout - and the navigation too.

Speaking at the university last Thursday, he described prototypes that will see a greater emphasis on original journalism and promotion of video and audio content.

With a budget last year of over £140m for the entire bbc.co.uk website, £10 million of which goes to news site, the BBC had a responsibility to spend licence payers money prudently, Clifton added.

Clifton expected the corporation-wide strategy review of all BBC services underway to leave the news offering relatively unscathed, but it may undergo some pruning.

While the recently revealed democracy live section, a £2m innovation, would never prove overwhelmingly popular, it was BBC public service at its best, he said.

In his time at the top Clifton had noted a step change in the approach to online, he said: "The BBC News website has been going for 12 years now: it was peripheral, now it's central to the BBC's output.

"The online section used to be on its own on the seventh floor at the BBC away from the main national newsroom but now it's in the centre of an integrated newsroom."

More recent newsrooms, such as BBC London's, are now being built as spokes around the hub of the online operation, and the internet is now at the very heart of the BBC journalism operation, Clifton said.

The BBC has recently hired, after consultation with Google, dedicated 'search engine optimisers' in the newsroom to increase hits, he added.

Headlines had got longer as a result and journalists were not mandated to key in meta data with each story.

John Mair is senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University. Coventry Conversations series takes place every Thursday in the Ellen Terry building, with free entry to all. Past conversations can be found at: http://www.coventry.ac.uk/itunesu

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