CAMPAIGNS: Weekly Web Watch - Giving news on the net a friendly face

Organisation: Ananova
Issue: First virtual newsreader
At: www.ananova.com

Organisation: Ananova

Issue: First virtual newsreader

At: www.ananova.com



The world’s first virtual newsreader, Ananova, broadcast her first

transmission on 19 April. The venture was set up by the Press

Association’s new media arm, formerly known as PA New Media and

rebranded as Ananova. Development of the service has been several months

in the making, with a strategic PR plan implemented to drive awareness

prior to Ananova’s debut transmission.



Ananova is a digitally rendered, fully-animated internet newscaster and

information provider. PA New Media had been running since 1994 and acted

as the Press Association’s realtime on-line news and information

provider.



The rebrand as Ananova aims to give the service a ’real face’ tipping

the balance away from a purely text-based information provider.



Once the web service is fully up and running it will enable users to

access information services, as well as providing hourly news

bulletins.



The latter is its standard service and will act as the equivalent to a

TV news programme. The information service, however, will allow users to

customise the site to their own needs.



The web site is very similar visually to other news sites with a

generous use of colour and extensive branding. Information is delivered

in text format, apart from when the user views a news bulletin. This is

when Ananova appears in a box in the right hand corner of the

screen.



She is convincingly animated with an array of facial expressions. Her

accent is mid-Atlantic with nasal undertones. Her designers conceived

her as a 28-year-old, comprising the physical elements of, among others,

Carol Vorderman and Kylie Minogue.



The web site is written very much from the perspective of Ananova the

’person.’ Her identity is crucial to its success: the factor that

differentiates this information service from any other is that she is

animated and possesses a ’personality’.



Although at present she can only speak English there are plans to allow

her to speak other languages. Her programming enables her to interpret

text into speech and to deliver news in the emotional tone that the

story requires. So ’bad news’ will be delivered in an appropriately

sombre manner, and amusing stories with a humorous intonation.



Ananova has positioned itself as the ’friendly face’ of information.



What remains to be seen is whether that ’face’ will inject enough of a

human aspect to a technological medium.



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