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.
At the recent VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit, Alisa Bowen, now the head of product for Dow Jones, and until recently the GM of the WSJ Digital Network, explained the video strategy as "WSJ Everywhere," targeting audiences with a user experience appropriate for whatever device they happen to be using. She added that video allows the WSJ to play in a whole host of different environments where people want to engage with the brand (the WSJ Live iPad app is a perfect example). The approach is clearly working; the WSJ is now producing over 100 hours of original video per month which generate over 10 million streams per month across the 20+ platforms video is deployed on. All of it is well monetized.
The absolute key to the WSJ's video success is the involvement of its hundreds of journalists around the world. As has always been evident in their articles, these people have deep expertise in their respective subject matter. Video allows them to shine, adding additional nuance and context and allowing their personalities to come through. Unlike their blown-dry broadcast and cable news counterparts, WSJ journalists come across as real people - often a bit unkempt, with unmatched clothes and/or unfashionable haircuts. Sometimes they appear in a minimalist studio and sometime via a grainy Skype link. All of it contributes to an authentic viewing experience, where the emphasis is on substance, not style, though there's plenty of light-hearted banter as well.
With WorldStream, the WSJ is pushing its journalists even further into video. While the memo is short on details, WorldStream is described as a video blog, with submissions of up to 45 seconds. Videos can be used for embedding in articles and as a database. From a user-facing standpoint, it may feel more like a Twitter stream, with a raw, continuous series of video updates. With its informality, the WorldStream also appears to be an easy on-ramp into the video realm for more of its journalists, increasing their comfort level.
The conventional wisdom has been that newspapers are dead ducks, ravaged by changing consumer preferences and digital's new economics. But the WSJ is continuing to prove that naysayers might not have the final word; a smart, aggressively-deployed online video strategy that leverages core assets can have a transformational impact. I hope journalism schools are taking note.