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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Reuters Offers a Look at its Vision for the Future of News: Reuters TV

November 11, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN@michellemanafy
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It’s not the nightly news. It’s not search-and-click web news. It’s not a fleeting stream of headlines in a social feed. It’s something new: Reuters TV.

On November 10, Reuters previewed its forthcoming video news service, which has ambitions to create an entirely new category for digital news, according to Managing Director Isaac Showman. While many types of media organizations are making a foray into digital video, Showman points out that most avoid the TV moniker. However he embraces it.  Television has traditionally been a lean back medium and Showman noted that the  Reuters TV team aligned that behavior with the experience they plan to deliver in the New Year.

This product should not be confused with traditional television experiences, however.  “We wanted to create a television-quality experience but the difference is that you can consume your news at the right moment for you.” The world of media as a whole is changing radically, as are consumers’ consumption habits.  “An on-demand experience doesn’t really work for news,” Showman points out. “A recording of the nightly news isn’t particularly useful hours later.”

Thus, Reuters leveraged the resources of Thomson-Reuters and a talented group of technologists to reinvent its process for the creation and delivery of news. The goal is to provide consumers with a complete picture, optimized for their interests and time constraints, whenever and wherever they want it.

There are two primary components to Reuters’ new service:

Right Now: Rather than create finished linear programming, Reuters’ vast network of global editors will produce segments that are continuously updated to cover top national and international stories. These segments will then be algorithmically assembled using a proprietary technology that allows users to create an on-demand news show that maintains the flow, pace and elegance of a traditional broadcast. Right Now allows Reuters to customize each broadcast to the length, location and interests of each subscriber. At any moment, they can watch a news show that will be to be up-to-date, relevant to their interests and of the length that they choose.

Live Feeds: Gives subscribers access to the world’s news events as they take place. From presidential addresses in Tennessee to public protests in Tahrir Square, viewers can choose the events they want to watch, in high-definition from wherever they are.

Reuters TV is slated to launch January 15th, be priced at $1.99 a month and include very limited advertising, such as one brief commercial per break. Despite the wide array of news available online, the company firmly believes that there’s an audience for its new service.

As Showman points out, those under 50 are least likely to watch television news. And while many media companies are chasing the millennial segment of that audience, Reuters TV is aimed at what they are calling the “realists.” This is a psychographic group comprised of what Showman describes as those who need to be in-the-know: “They are affluent, intelligent and globally minded. They remember life before the internet but today live their lives through connected devices. They demand visual storytelling on their terms and that fits into the busy lives they lead.”

These are not people you’ll find scheduling their lives around the nightly news broadcast. At the same time, Showman believes they can be better served than by the existing web news experience, which requires searching and clicking in the hopes of cobbling together a full picture of world events. Even if you only have five minutes, the Reuters TV offering is designed to provide high-quality streamlined versions of all of the key stories of the day. Those with more time will receive a deeper perspective on these stories. Given the audience target, time was a key component. This can also be seen in the offline viewing feature, which allows the user to set daily times for automatic downloads—say at morning and evening commute times, during which internet access might be spotty, but one has a predictable block of time to stay informed.

Because social media increasingly plays a role in how we learn about, share and participate in breaking news the Reuters R&D team included social integration features, including a tool that reads Tweets in real time, gleans their meaning and then organizes and displays them within Reuters TV. This allows viewers  to see all of the social conversation about an event they are watching.

Reuters, says Showman, has always been an organization with a business model to produce content once and make it available to a variety of users, as widely as possible. This effort, he says, is simply an “extension of what we do; one we hope will have scale.”

The challenge he sees is that creating an entirely new category of news requires “educating the market,” a process Reuters kicked off at its reveal party last night. Reuters TV will be launched on iOS, but it has been designed for adaptability with an eye, no doubt, to keeping pace with the changing way that consumers consume the news.

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