Reuters is onto something big.
They’ve taken conventional, old-fashioned TV news, retained its comfortable sit-back-and-watch format, added custom algorithms and other unseen digital bells and whistles, and created a superb product for iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, and now the Web. It’s TV news for folks who wouldn’t be caught dead watching TV:
These days, just about every news entity is trying to create a meaningful video presence, whether they know what they’re doing or not. Some shrivel up and disappear almost before they begin (hello, HuffPost Live?) because they don’t understand it takes more than a couple of millennials sitting on an ugly couch and Skyping their friends.
Others, like Vice News, leverage their own uniqueness and seek to “reinvent” the news. Vice does a good job and its reporters are smart and courageous. However, their brand of look-at-me-I’m-dodging-bullets-in-Ukraine-or-munching-humus-with-Hezbollah storytelling is still very much a niche product and may not be every viewer’s cup of tea.
For those of us who appreciate a well-crafted TV news program in the traditional style, and also love our new digital toys, Reuters TV makes good sense.
Reuters has been around. Since 1851 (which makes it 154 years older than the Huffington Post, video or otherwise). They know what news is. Plus, they’re everywhere, and they have the people and resources to give context and depth to the stories they cover.
A typical Reuters TV broadcast will tell stories in a variety of interesting though not radically different ways. A voiceover. A reporter being de-briefed (these sometimes run longer than they should). Verbatim excerpts from a newsmaker’s speech or statements (a good way to cover the current glut of political debates). Or just a series of stunning still pictures strung together. Story selection pretty much parallels what you’d see on the network evening news.
What you don’t see, or notice right away, is the state-of-the-art technology driving it all.
You can go full couch potato… simply press Play (or, if you’re on the website – reuters.tv – you don’t even have to do that, it starts automatically). Or you can get interactive, accessing the story menu and playing each element individually, skip around, repeat, whatever. You can also customize how long a program you want. Up to you. As you do this, the Reuters sophisticated algorithms are taking notes, remembering your preferences for next time. Each Reuters story is produced in three different lengths, to accommodate short, medium and long newscasts.
After every couple of stories or so, you’ll see a commercial. 14 seconds, more or less. Before you can get annoyed at it being there, it’s gone and the next story has started. Way preferable, in my opinion, to those onerous ads at the top of some feeds, which you may or may not be able to skip.
Reuters TV has been a work in progress for about a year. At first it was strictly an app for Apple handheld devices, and it carried a monthly fee. The paywall is gone now. Not only that, but if you’re a Web publisher, you can add a free widget that places the Reuters content on your site.. you can even attach your own ads. Reuters is betting its free model, spread far and wide, will eventually pay off. That’s likely the reasoning for expanding beyond handhelds to the reuters.tv website, now the place where 25 percent of the total viewership is tuning in.
Bottom line: At least so far, Reuters TV seems like an intelligent combination of the best of the old and the best of the new, from a name we all know and trust. It should resonate with Boomers, and their kids. We’ll see.