CNN.com tests new ideas on its Arabic-language channel

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Arabic.CNN.com (CNN)
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CNN has just launched the redesigned CNNArabic.com, the network’s only Arabic-language outlet (and a small territory in its digital portfolio). But it's more important than that.

The new features introduced on the Dubai-based Arabic news portal serve as a test run and a “direct hint” of what the redesign of CNN.com and all its digital offerings will look like, CNN digital G.M. K.C. Estenson told Capital.

“We decided to use it as a region to test and try out some new and innovative features,” he said. “Given the rapid adoption of mobile and social media, it was a really good place to try out some new things. And if they work will be reflected in the bigger parts of our site that we’ve got a lot of more eyeballs on.”

“There are certainly hints of our future design system,” he continued.

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The new CNN.com was unveiled to the press in August 2013 and was expected to launch in the fall, but as Capital reported in November, the site relaunch was pushed back to early 2014.

And now, pending feedback on CNNArabic’s new features (which include a fully responsive design and a newsfeed to “make the site intuitive, easy-to-use” and clutter-free), the rest of the madeover CNN.com can be expected to roll out over the spring and into the summer, Estenson said. The network has not set a precise date.

“First of all, we want to test it, we want to get feed back, we want to really learn from it,” he said. “[CNN president Jeff Zucker] is probably the most impatient. But I’m probably second behind him for seeing innovation and seeing change. Our audience relies on us for a very serious thing and that’s when breaking news happens. We want to make sure we won’t have operational issues getting in the way of consumers getting the news. We want to do everything we can to make sure [the site is] bulletproof.”

As for how much funding is going into the redesign, though Estenson would not give any specific numbers he said CNN Arabic, which had a 70 percent growth in page views over the last year, “wasn’t done in the regular operating budget. We made a pitch for incremental capital, we made a pitch for incremental operating resources and we wanted those resources to be ongoing.”