Chris Cramer: Forget broadcasting, the future's narrowcasting

Media organisations the world over are currently focusing on the future of their businesses.

As audience and viewer attention fragments and the internet fuels a wholly different kind of information consumption, there are many siren voices suggesting that traditional media business models are dead, or in some cases on life support.

Rising print and distribution costs and flagging advertising are driving even flagship newspapers and magazines to slash their costs, jettison journalists and production staff, and in some cases, go entirely out of business.

In Britain, television companies such as ITV – once described as having a licence to print money – are reconsidering their entire business rationale and, crucially, their future relationship with viewers and consumers.

Yet this week, Reuters unveils what we believe will be the future of news dissemination – not broadcasting, but narrowcasting.

Later this year, we will launch the next-generation information service which will produce live markets coverage, analysis and breaking news for the financial professional – in this case the 500,000 institutional professionals currently subscribing to Thomson Reuters financial services.

The service – delivered exclusively via broadband internet – launches during the world’s most profound financial crisis in half a century, a story Reuters is throwing all its resources against, and will draw upon our huge global network of 2,600 journalists, almost 200 worldwide bureaux and writers and commentators from Thomson Reuters professional publications.

Second time lucky

This is not the first time the news agency has launched a television service just for its clients. Reuters Financial TV went to market, delivered via bandwidth hungry data lines, in 1993.

The service was then considered well ahead of its time and, though professional and highly-regarded by its customers, had excessive distribution costs, It stopped transmitting in 2001.

But Reuters has long held ambitions to return to the programming business and during the past year we have secretly planned for a return to narrowcasting.

In record time, we have built state of the art studios in London and New York and broadband transmission points in many of its overseas locations, including Hong Kong, Washington, Singapore and other global newsrooms.

Sophisticated newsgathering tools are currently being installed both in our bureaux and hundreds of staff are being equipped with Flip video cameras and other IP transmission technology.

A production team of more than 100 journalists and technical staff has been hired, including television anchors such as Axel Threfall from CNBC and Carrie Lee from CNN and producers from other business channels like Bloomberg.

Pilot programming has been available to selected clients and business partners since October last year.

‘Breathless hype of TV news’

The key to our success, we believe, is that our programming will not be linear – one programme after another – but will be vertical and will provide the kind of rich content and analysis our clients need.

Not for them the breathless hype and audiovisual tics associated with much of the business coverage currently available on broadcast and cable. We know through detailed user research that they want the facts, uncluttered and at a length they can cope with. Timely information and analysis in bite-sized chunks.

We plan to offer deep verticals of content relevant to our clients – ranging from commodities and energy to emerging markets to Islamic finance – each programme segment specifically targeted to what our clients and partners tell us they need to inform and enable them to make smarter business decisions.

But financial programming will be just a part of Reuters’ new service. The financial news and information service – codenamed Reuters Insider – sits on a unique broadband media player which will also serve as an aggregation platform for third party content from traditional media companies.

The media player will be fully interactive, serving both live programming and video on demand. It is capable of advanced personalization – users can create their own channels and services – and will offer passage navigation, instant transcripts and the ability to search, select and send edited passages to friends and business clients.

Video clips and market reports and analysis can also be sent to mobile devices such as Blackberry or iPod for offline viewing.

Users can communicate with Reuters’ programme makers and journalists in real time, creating a financial community and an array of information verticals not currently available in the media marketplace.

We believe Reuters Insider is the future of news dissemination. Delivering focused, fast, intelligent and relevant information to make our clients and customers smarter and more successful.

Not broadcasting, but narrowcasting.

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