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ITER.org: Going viral

-Krista Dulon

Webmaster Topher White at his desk. (Click to view larger version...)
Webmaster Topher White at his desk.
Recent headlines about ITER have been eye-catching. "A Machine that Works like the Sun!" "Is ITER the Way to New Energy?" "Costly Quest for Electricity's Holy Grail!" Since April, articles have appeared in the The New York Times, BBC News, Reuters, Financial Times and Nature, as well as in major newspapers in France, Japan, Germany, and Korea. The fact is that ITER fascinates, and as the project scales up to manufacturing and construction, there will be plenty to report.

The best source of information for those interested in finding out more about ITER—from any spot on the planet—is the World Wide Web. The new ITER website launched on 14 May is a depository for historical and technical information about the ITER project, progress information, job openings, news, photos and video clips for journalists, links to the Domestic Agencies and daily updates on world press articles referencing ITER. A French version is currently in the planning stages.

Improving the content and the layout of the site has made a marked difference in the site's 'hit' statistics. ITER.org now enjoys nearly 15 000 unique visitors per week—up 20 percent since launch. Visitors to the ITER site are spending more time—three times as much—and navigating to more pages. The ITER Newsline and the pages on Jobs, the Tokamak, the ITER Team, Building ITER and Facts and Figures are the most popular destinations. ITER videos have been viewed 14,000 times from the website and another 10,000 times from the ITER You Tube channel.

For Topher White, ITER Webmaster, the challenge is to make the new content of the ITER website—articles, videos, photos—available in dozens of formats across the Internet. "In June, the BBC published an article about ITER that brought one thousand people to our site in two days. We call this direct traffic. But the audience that can be reached as our site 'goes viral'—that is gets linked by more and more sites around the world—could well bring us into the millions." To encourage this, Topher uses a process similar to newspapers syndicating their articles. "We make our content freely available to other computers. Over time, content gets picked up automatically and replicated in unexpected places all over the Web, for example in blogs, on-line newspapers and in popular sites like Twitter and Facebook."

Topher says that the website is a dynamic tool for communicating about ITER; a tool that can be continually enriched and improved. "It's the single-most effective medium for communication today. No matter where people first hear about ITER, the odds are high that when they decide to learn more about us they will do so through the Web."

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