The Wall Street Journal is further deepening its commitment to online video, and in the process, helping render moot the idea of a "print-only" journalist. A memo this week from deputy managing editor and executive editor, online Alan Murray, to all news staff, unveiled the WSJ's next video initiative, "WSJ WorldStream" (full text here). The memo carries the subject line "We're all video journalists now…" and ends with Murray urging colleagues to "embrace this new opportunity."
The memo is a clear signal that journalists solely hammering out text on a keyboard no longer cuts it. More important, it indicates how the WSJ is further redefining itself from its traditional roots. It wasn't that long ago that the WSJ was a newspaper. Then, with the advent of the Internet, it became a newspaper with digital distribution. Now, with a huge push into video, it doesn't quite feel accurate to even use the term "newspaper" any longer. Rather, something along the lines of "multimedia news organization" (ok, that's too clunky) seems like a better fit.
The Journal is right on the mark with its video strategy, and is nicely demonstrating how newspapers can leverage their brands, journalists and advertising relationships into online video. There's nothing fancy about any of this video as the Journal is using cost-effective technologies like Skype and personal video cameras, plus a simple, yet functional set in its newsroom. The Digits video series would not be mistaken for broadcast journalism, but for the web, where real-time original analysis is key, it's well above the quality bar. Obviously the WSJ is a unique property, and it is complimented by other DJ resources. Still, all newspapers should be looking closely at its video strategy and applying its lessons. I've insisted for a long while that online video is anything but a death knell for print publications; the Journal is proving it in spades.
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Yesterday I moderated the closing general session panel of the CTAM Summit, which included Paul Bascobert (Chief Marketing Officer, Dow Jones & Company), Matt Bond (EVP, Content Acquisition, Comcast), Andy Heller (Vice Chairman, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.), Jason Kilar (CEO, Hulu), David Preschlack (EVP, Disney and ESPN Networks Affiliate U.S. Sales and Marketing) and Peter Stern (EVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Time Warner Cable). The session offered a prime opportunity to better understand the cable industry's strategy for success in the broadband video era.
In yesterday's post I asserted that the cable industry's main challenge is balancing its desire to preserve its highly successful subscription/ad-supported business model, while meeting consumers' increasing demands for flexibility. At a very high level the two goals are not incompatible; in particular the concept of TV Everywhere could well be a killer app in serving both. Rather, for me, yesterday's session reinforced my concern that the industry is still too focused on the TV platform, and not sufficiently acknowledging consumers' behavioral shifts to online consumption. These are not my sentiments alone; walking the halls of the Colorado Convention Center, various industry participants expressed their concern, in one way or another, that the industry is still not fully in synch with changing times.
On the panel Peter made great points citing data that a very high proportion of online viewing is in the home, and that the amount of time spent viewing online video is still tiny compared to traditional TV viewing. The latter point is one I often make as well, though I believe an equally important point is the remarkable rate at which online video's viewership has grown over the last several years.
On the surface, I agree with Peter's insistence that 80% of the industry's focus should be on improving the TV experience, as that's where consumers primarily watch today, and where the industry has its greatest strength. In fact in yesterday's post, I lamented the industry's underinvestment in VOD as resulting in gaps that competitors are exploiting. These gaps, whether in discoverability, content availability, ease-of-use or monetization desperately need to be closed.
Digging deeper though, a core issue I have with Peter's approach (which is common in the industry btw) is that it doesn't seem to acknowledge that online video is its own medium and should be prioritized as such. Online video is not something that should be thought of as being incorporated into the TV experience. Rather, I believe millions of users see online video as its own medium, with breakthrough benefits such as anywhere access, searchability, sharing, interactivity, personalization and so on.
These benefits help explain why online video's adoption rate has been so rapid. Consider that YouTube delivers almost three times as many streams (10 billion) in a single month as Comcast delivers VOD sessions (3.6 billion) in an entire year. Or that with more than 4.5 million of its subscribers streaming at least 1 program or movie in the 3rd quarter, Netflix already likely has more streaming users than any cable operator (except Comcast) has VOD users.
My conclusion is that the cable industry would be best served by understanding these differences and what they say about consumers' shifting desires and behaviors. Then the industry should aggressively embrace these differences to capitalize on this new medium in ways far beyond just providing the underlying broadband access, as it does today. TV Everywhere, as it is currently conceived, is just a starting point. To be clear, I'm not suggesting the industry should not also be optimizing the TV experience. But rather than devoting 80% of its energies to this, it should be equally balancing its investments so that it is concurrently trying to optimize the online (and mobile) video experience as well.
A point that Paul made seemed right on the money to me: when the WSJ thinks of different platforms, "context is key." Trying to serve their users' needs, given what they want at a particular moment and their physical situation drives the WSJ's product strategy. But note, just as the WSJ's online edition is the poster child for success in paid subscriptions (which the WSJ has now extended to paid mobile applications), it is also celebrating this week its new (and first-time) status as America's most widely-circulated newspaper. The takeaway for the cable industry: you can simultaneously invest and succeed in both new and traditional media, they are not mutually exclusive.
Prior to yesterday's panel, in an acceptance speech for receiving CTAM's 'Grand TAM' annual award, Bob Miron, the chairman of cable operator Advance/Newhouse, correctly acknowledged the rise of freely-available broadband video as a significant new challenge to the cable industry's traditional business model. Based on his 50 years in the business, his prescription for success was to remember the "customer is king." In myriad ways - some overt and some subtle - the cable industry's customers are telling it that broadband video is a new medium they highly value. To succeed in the broadband video era the cable industry must fully acknowledge, embrace and capitalize on this.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Even before the recent economic crisis, broadcast networks were facing unprecedented challenges. An article in yesterday's WSJ, "Network Audience Keep Eroding" caught my attention as it highlighted the current season's viewership shortfalls. The article pointed out that 4 of the 5 major broadcasters have suffered double-digit percentage declines in same day prime-time viewing among 18-49 year-olds as compared with a year ago.
To me, the overarching thematic challenge that broadcasters now face is how to successfully address the core 18-49 year-old audience. This group is important not only for traditional reasons relating to its appeal to advertisers, but also because it represents the leading edge of audience behaviors that will only accelerate in the future.
So what should broadcasters be doing? Here are three suggestions:
Broaden definition of programming and brand promise
Broadcasters must re-imagine what constitutes compelling visual entertainment. The traditional paradigm of 30 and 60 minute time blocks, scripted to accommodate pre-set advertising pods and programmed sequentially on specified evenings is increasingly meaningless in an on-demand world. Programming should be looked at as anything that entertains the audience, on their terms, period. This is particularly relevant for 18-49 year-olds who arguably have the most entertainment alternatives.
Though it breaks with traditional success formulas, network executives should be excited by this, as it loosens creative constrictions. Further, it offers up the opportunity to expand a network's "brand promise" to become positioned as a "wherever, however, whenever entertainment provider." Going forward networks should view themselves as being in the entertainment business, not just the TV business. This would also help bring advertisers along, as they too are suffering from diminished consumer access.
Embrace new distribution platforms, and help drive new development
In the above vein, broadcasters must fully embrace new distribution platforms like broadband, mobile, VOD and DVR. Creating programming specifically for these platforms, suited for each one's strengths and weaknesses is essential. Simply repurposing TV shows for these platforms is insufficient to meet 18-49 year-olds' entertainment appetites.
Further, broadcasters need to take a leadership role in how these new platforms evolve. It is not enough to accept what technology and service providers choose to prioritize and offer. Instead broadcasters must have their own roadmaps and requirements, and work actively to see that their needs are met. This is a new role for broadcasters and they need to learn to embrace it.
Focus on experience, not just ratings
Broadcasters need to look at their shows as the hub of an ongoing and immersive entertainment experience, not just a once per week interaction to be measured in ratings points. A network's "customer relationship" is repeatedly put on hiatus between episodes (and worse, between seasons!), thus undermining the viewer's loyalty and engagement. A friend recently lamented to me that NBC is offering just 14 new episodes of "The Office" this season. Realistically, what kind of customer relationship should NBC expect to have when so many other weeks of the year pass without offering a product to its customers?
Broadcasters have incredibly compelling assets that can be the basis for deeper audience engagement and experiences. Mining all the various interactive tools and capabilities which 18-49 year-olds already regularly engage with are crucial to bonding with audiences and creating excitement and ongoing loyalty. To be sure, some of this is already happening, but in perusing the networks' web sites it's obvious there's a lot more that can be done.
Broadcasters are getting squeezed by audience fragmentation, new technologies and the shift to on-demand consumption. The 18-49 year-old cohort is ground zero for networks to maintain their future health. What the networks choose to do, and how well they succeed at it is surely a business school case study in the making.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
WSJ continues to distinguish itself among all newspapers in how well they’re executing on their broadband video opportunities. I did a case study on WSJ’s video efforts last quarter with Bob Leverone, their VP in charge, so I’m very familiar with their operation and approach. It’s very sophisticated.
Most recent case in point: A few days ago I was perusing the WSJ Online (to which I subscribe) and there was a headline about Barclays Bank raising money from China and Singapore to help fund its attempted $90B+ takeover of ABN Amro, a Dutch bank. Ordinarily I wouldn’t care much about this kind of story, but because a good buddy of mine works for Barclays in London, I thought I’d take a moment to understand what it all means.
From the graphic above, you can see that the Journal has an embedded video player (theirs is from Brightcove, but could as easily be from Maven, PermissionTV, thePlatform, etc. depending) with a 5 minute interview being conducted by Dennis Berman, WSJ’s M&A reporter with Bob Diamond, Barclay’s president.
Prominently weaving this interview in with the customary text-based reporting is a textbook example of how NON-VIDEO publishers are using broadband to distinguish themselves and why existing video providers (namely cable & broadcast channels) have a mountain of credible competition coming their way.
Mr. Berman expertly led Mr. Diamond through the interview betraying no evidence that he’s actually a print reporter. In fact I liked his open collar, non-made-up appearance, it felt quite authentic. The overall package delivers a multi-dimensional view of the story. And note the byline is actually from 3 other reporters, not Mr. Berman. So the Journal is tapping his expertise for the video contribution, creating a new twist on newsroom collaboration.
Meanwhile, the Journal’s video has opened up an entirely new revenue stream. And with its unparalleled reader/viewer base, they’ve been able to monetize their inventory at $75+ CPM, certainly among the highest rates around. The Journal’s broadband potential and how it will support Fox Business News’s upcoming launch has to be squarely on Rupert’s radar as he attempts to take over Dow Jones.
At Broadband Directions, one of the mantras is that open broadband access allows all kinds of traditional media companies with no video heritage to get into the video business. Newspapers are a perfect example. Since our report last summer on the top 40 U.S. newspapers, I’ve been closely tracking their progress in broadband video.
Reading WSJ Online’s coverage of the NBC-News Corp deal I was very impressed with their approach. If you have an online subscription, the page is available by clicking here. Part way into the story, there were 2 video windows displayed, each with a caption describing the video. Clicking the play button resulted in an in-line, high-quality video. One with reporter Martin Peers, and the other an interview with S&P analyst Tuna Amobi. Both with unobtrusive 5 second pre-roll ads. Truly a “multimedia” experience. I thought it was a great example of how far at least one newspaper has come in incorporating video into their presentation of the news. A real user experience win.
Coicidentally, I’m going to have Bob Leverone, VP of Video at Dow Jones (who oversees WSJ.com video, among other properties) on my Cable Show ’07 panel in Las Vegas on May 9th.
I think it will be a great opportunity for attendees to hear how yet another competitor is moving into video.