BBC proves content is king on the Web

But portals seen as starting point when it comes to surfing

The BBC may be losing its audiences among the UK's army of TV-watching coach potatoes but on the Web it's a different story. BBC Online has been named the second most popular Web site in the UK beating portals, including Lycos UK, Excite UK, MSN UK and AOL UK. Yahoo! UK & Ireland was the only site with a larger audience reach. The findings, published by Fletcher Research, show that 61 per cent of UK Web users visited Yahoo! UK & Ireland within the last two weeks. Some 42 per cent said they visited BBC Online, followed by Lycos UK with 30 per cent. The Web sites of AOL and Compuserve filled ninth and tenth places respectively each with a six per cent reach. News of BBC Online's success will further dampen any disquiet among critics who feel the £19 million a year earmarked for this public service would be better spent elsewhere. "Brand awareness has been key to their success," said a representative of Fletcher Research, who admitted to be being somewhat taken aback by BBC Online's "incredible" performance. "Media companies should now be waking up to the Internet, especially some of the major newspapers," he said. And it is not just the newspapers that should be sitting up and taking notice. Arguably, BBC Online's success is a triumph of content over the utilitarian nature of many search engines. Even though many are going out of their way to become more content rich, it is still difficult to disguise the fact that people still see portals primarily as search engines. ®

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