In mid 1997 Bob Johnston and his staff of five moved out of the radio newsroom and set up a dedicated online news office which has since grown hugely. Since then the number of staff in the Brisbane-based service has grown to almost 30 and accesses per week have grown from about 70,000 to just under 2 million a week. A major news story can drive the numbers even higher. In the week of 11 September 2001 for instance, accesses were up to almost 7 million.
Bob Johnson recently told the ABC’s in-house publication ‘Inside the ABC’:
“Because ABC Online News has the luxury of being based on a broadcast organisation, we have a great advantage over others in the online medium. We are able to publish to rhythms that are very similar to a broadcast organisation, rather than a print-based website. As soon as a radio news journalist files a story, we can move it on to the website in three or four minutes. If it’s really important we’ll have it on the website within a minute.”
The ABC News website now offers broadband picture reports as well as text and audio and has become one of Australia’s most respected news sites. The site’s audio on demand model is likely to be one of the enduring adaptations of the radio medium to the new world of converged media and is a useful indication of what works for radio stations when they move on-line .