The BBC World News’ Facebook page currently has 7, 854 fans. That might be a big number to the average Facebook user, who, according to the Facebook’s company statistics, only has an average of 130 friends on the site. But compared to other news organization’s Facebook pages (with fans numbering in the tens and hundred of thousands), the BBC’s Facebook page could use a serious facelift. Here’s how:

1. Get a new profile picture.

BBC World News only has one Facebook picture that looks like it was scanned from the 70s. The Huffington Post has three profile pictures,  CNN has 5 (albeit all very similar), NYTimes has 13, and the Washington Post has a whopping 20. The Washington Post, though only a regional publication and probably on the brink of bankruptcy, has five times the number of fans as BBC World News does (as of this instant, 37,300 to be exact).

2. Have better wall posts.

Most other news organization Facebook pages have a wall filled with news. CNN features links to a lot of breaking news stories.  The Huffington Post, with close to 90,000 fans, post more light-hearted links, like creepy classifieds or the Funny or Die Playground Politics video. The BBC World News’ Facebook wall, however, is filled with pictures of TV and radio journalists for the company. Basically the faces the public already see all the time. Sadly, with these posts, the only thing you can click on are links to enlarge these pictures. The texts that accompany these pictures are only a prelude to what these journalists will be talking about. There aren’t very many links to actual news stories or pictures of news stories.

3.  Improve Facebook/social networking integration on their main website.

The BBC does a good job of providing a Facebook link at the bottom of all their stories on their website. However, this “share” option only includes five social networks. CNN’s website has 20 options of social networking outlets to share their stories (hence they have about 780,000 fans). Additionally, CNN has a “Tools and Extras” page where their readers/viewers can instantly fan them on facebook or follow them via Twitter, mobile phone, widget, etc.

4. Create a more exciting and interactive layout.

The New York Times, with about 527,000 fans, has its very own Olympics tab. This page has news links, videos, photos and plenty of space for user comments — something the New York Times get plenty of. They also have plenty of videos and photos for users to browse. The BBC World News has no videos and again, mostly photos of only their presenters.

There was a time when the menu at fast food joints like McDonald’s and Jack-in-the-Box were simple: french fries, burgers and soda.  Now McDonald’s boasts over 100 menu items. While Jack-in-the-Box has been experimenting with items from soy tacos to teriyaki bowls. Because lets face it, they’re businesses. They’re always having to reinvent themselves, just like newspapers are doing now.

John Cutter from the Orlando Sentinel talked about how newspapers have been shifting away from the traditional print and how reporters’ roles have been evolving. Because essentially, as Cutter pointed out (and as much as I, and maybe other reporters, would hate to admit it), the newspaper industry is a business.

A hamburger isn’t just a hamburger at most restaurants anymore. In the same way, reporters are no longer just reporters. They have to be amateur photographers, videographers, TV personnels, copy editors, online editors, multimedia specialists, social networking gurus . . .

It’s the same with news publications. Gone are the days of simple print, when there was focus and quality. When front page news were a big deal. Now they do everything they can to try to cater to the masses. And if they could somehow justify it, they might make soy tacos too.

Have you tried Jack’s soy tacos? If you haven’t, I wouldn’t say you’re missing out. When any business tries to do too many things, they have the disadvantage of not being able to produce one quality thing. In-and-Out burger on the west coast hasn’t changed its menu much over the last half century. They focus only on quality burgers and fries. And their business is still a success.

Can news outlets and reporters go back to pre-new-media days and still succeed? Some would say that new media has been beneficial for news. Now people can get free news whenever, however, and from whomever they want. They can follow organizations, specifca beats or people on twitter or facebook, or have news sent to their email. But at what cost?

There was probably point somewhere in recent history when a news outlet or an individual decided it would be a good idea to create free online news. But this has caused an avalanche of competition leading to news organizations running out of business. As Chris Ma, vice president of innovations and product development shared during a seminar with a some University of Maryland grad students students last semester, studies show that people respond to ads in print newspapers more than they do online. And advertisers know this. How then can the news industry stay in business when there is no revenue?

Articles for print publications often have a shorter lifespan than those for online publications.  A reporter’s shortlived by-line fame on the front page only lasts until the paper is thrown out or until the next day’s news arrives.

Print articles also don’t always reach beyond cultural or geographical lines. Most publications are only regional and people have to subscribe to them. When I was living in southern California, I only had exposure to the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times. Living on the east coast has converted me to the Washington Post and USA Today.

The first time I came across the Washington Blade was while interning in D.C. I picked it up and skimmed through it without knowing it was a gay magazine for the D.C. area. The magazine went bankrupt in November 2009 and I would have never known what it was if I didn’t live and work in the greater D.C. area. Unlike publications that have an online presence, there is almost no way of accessing any of the magazine’s previous articles.

Articles from online journalists however, can survive even once the company dies. They will always exist somewhere in the infinite cyber universe. With search engine optimization (SEO), I don’t have to be committed to only one newspaper or magazine. Now I can search for any topic I’m interested in through Google news. This is why the usage of ledes, headlines and story tagging is so crucial for articles to not only live but become viral.

While exploring a few stories on the BBC, I found that not many of them come up first in news searches. For some, I couldn’t find them at all in  my keyword searches. This could be because BBC is a foreign publication or it could be because they have poor SEO. Here are some examples:

One article I looked at on the BBC was regarding male breast reductions. The article was titled male breast op numbers “growing fast”. When I did a search for this, I found an article from the BBC but it wasn’t the same one. It might just be a cultural thing but I don’t often see or hear people use “op” for “operation” in America. I did a google search for “op” and I only found a clothing line, co-op, op-ed, and original poster. The headline writer could have just changed the word “op” to “operation” or “reduction.”

One of the most popular stories in today’s newspapers was about an honor killing of a 16 year old girl in Turkey, which resulted in 113 stories for my news search. I did a news search for “Turkey honor killing” and again the BBC did not come up on the first page. However when I clicked the link for “related articles,” I was able to find the BBC version, titled Turkish girl “buried alive” in garden. For a more effective SEO, I would replace the word “garden” with “honor killing” and include the word “Turkey” somewhere in the lead.

When Robin Lustig of BBC blogs, he often poses a question for his readers. From Haiti becoming a U.S. state, to Obama’s foreign policy performance rating. In fact, his most recent blog yesterday was only one sentence long, with the question of whether the $140 million proposed to win over Taliban fighters was a form of bribery.

Blogs like Lustig’s rely more on readers’ comments than on presenting the news the way traditional stories are presented.  He doesn’t write with leads. There is no set formula that he follows.  Sometimes his blogs are long and detailed. Sometimes they’re only a few sentences. With his shorter blogs, usually readers can get the facts elsewhere and share their opinions on an issue by commenting on the blog.

Lustig’s blog yesterday provided a link to the BBC news version, which was just facts with videos from the Afghanistan conference in London. Although it wasn’t as detailed as the CNN version, it was more organized and to the point.

No matter how a traditional news story is told, they try to be unbiased and present news without an opinion. Blogs like Lustig’s, however, do more than present the news, if they even present it at all. What Lustig does is dissect and analyze the news he reads elsewhere. Although both CNN or BBC’s news version of the London conference presented monetary values, neither made any implications of a bribery.

Lustig presented his opinion by bringing up the term and allowing the readers to comment. While he only had six comments, they were mostly long and thought-out comments, with at least one paragraph each, if not more. Lustig doesn’t need to worry about his readers not understanding what a one sentence post might imply. Because those who read and comment on news blogs are like Lustig: they read the news. Not only that but they analyze it. And they like to form opinions and share them.

News blogs are not so much about presenting the news but talking about it. Lustig’s blog is all about having a conversation. If not between himself and the readers, than between the readers themselves.

Unlike traditional news journalists, what Lustig isn’t afraid to do is offend the reader (to a certain extent). In his blog about grading Obama’s foreign policy performance, he asks the reader to give the president a grade, but he also sort of critiques Obama’s performance over the past year. I would think that many pro-Obama readers might get offended. But surprisingly, most of his readers agreed with Lustig and gave Obama low scores. If anything, they were only offended by each others’ comments.

Sometimes Lustig poses a questions and gets no comments. Sometimes he gets as many as 47. But getting no comments is also like feedback. It means his readers aren’t really interested in discussing about the terrorist nature of Guantanamo detainees.

Hello! I will be blogging weekly about BBC news for my online journalism class at UMD (at least for the time being). And maybe post some content from my multimedia journalism class. Enjoy! And feel free to comment!