Q&A: Jon Jacob, BBC College of Journalism website manager

As previously reported, the BBC College of Journalism – publicly unveiled online this week – is to partner’s news:rewired event on 14 January 2010. Part of the BBC Academy, which also officially launched this week, will open up the BBC’s training materials to the UK, and eventually to a non-UK audience, by subscription. More detail at this link…

The college’s website manager, Jon Jacob, told us a bit about the process of bringing together technology with editorial content.

What does your job involve?

[JJ] As website manager I’ve taken the editorial vision of its editor, Kevin Marsh and translated it into a web proposition. There is traditionally a divide between editorial and technical production, but here Kevin’s technical savviness and desire to try different things makes that transformation process a lot less demanding.

What did you focus on when building the site?

At a time when there is a move towards streamlining and automating web production content, we’ve deliberately gone the other way, flattening our site architecture to make most, if not all, content no more than three clicks away.

We’ve focused the search facility, whilst enhancing the ‘related links’ section on the right hand side of content pages, in the hope that this will help users ‘discover’ content.

During the initial production phase it was difficult to see that this related content concept was actually going to work and yet, as we began authoring pages and checking and re-checking copy, we all found ourselves stumbling on pages using that very function.

It’s not necessarily ground-breaking – on one level it’s just related links and that’s been going on for ages on the web – but it helps navigate a unique learning path through the 2,500 pages of learning on the site.

What did you personally enjoy about the project?

This entire project has been a deeply rewarding process in terms of my own career. It’s been one year for me, bringing on board independent production company Illumina for the design and build of the site, and a good many more years for the rest of the team.

Having forgotten my teenage journalistic aspirations, I’ve spent a year absorbing our own journalism learning and immersing myself in other content on the web. It’s only now I realise that I’m in exactly the right place to learn the tools of the trade, hence my series of ‘Journalism 101’ blog posts on the BBC College of Journalism blog.

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