Global news service Thomson Reuters (www.thomsonreuters.com) announced this week it will launch a streaming video service to deliver financial news, live market coverage, and other multimedia content directly to users’ desktops. Don’t call it broadcasting, though—according to Thomson Reuters VP senior technical director of multimedia Adam Denenberg, "This is narrowcasting, with a mix of live and on-demand, open and closed content from a wide range of sources."
The new service is part of a $1 billion initiative to give a cutting-edge face-lift to Thomson Reuters’ news coverage, and the company hopes to outsmart rival financial news outlets by reaching out to video users on their computers, at their desks, instead of relying on a live, 24-hour TV feed. Test channels have already started rolling out content in anticipation of a larger beta launch, slated for this June.
Content will be streamed live, or users can watch it on demand like any other web video. Channels delve into specific financial verticals in order to provide exhaustive content that can be tailored to employees’ unique informational needs, in industry niches as narrow as "coffee futures" or "Islamic finance." There are no ads—the content will only be available to customers who subscribe to the news service or purchase special video access. Video can be viewed on subscribers’ main computers, with options to send it to a mobile device or in an email.
Content will be packaged to include a multimedia perspective on stories, grouping videos with related transcripts and news articles. According to Denenberg, "The multimedia platform leverages many Thomson Reuters core competencies in managing high-value content. All content is fed through a natural language processing engine, generating a transcript from which we do multiple models of semantic analysis. We can then leverage a suite of our metadata processing pipelines to enable automatic tagging, classification, sentiment analysis, and entity extraction."
Despite personnel cuts in other departments in 2008, Thomson Reuters has brought in 120 multimedia journalists and technical staff members to develop and produce their video content, including established financial anchors from CNBC and CNN. Video reporters will be armed with handheld Flip video cameras and other IP transmissions gadgets to enable on-the-spot reporting and broadcast. Transmitter points have been built in financial capitals around the world—Washington, D.C., Singapore, and others—in addition to the main high-tech video production studios in Hong Kong, London, and New York City.
This isn’t the first time a financial news service has attempted to integrate video delivery into its offerings. In fact, one-half of Thomson Reuters launched one of the first attempts made by a financial news service to deliver online video content alongside its news. In 1993, Reuters introduced Reuters Financial TV, back in the days of limited bandwidth. The concept was too ahead of its time, with prohibitively high distribution costs and limited customer utility, and it ended in 2001. Since most of Thomson Reuters’ customers spend the majority of their days online, and broadband access is faster and more widespread, the company hopes the finance profession is ready to try video once more.
Bloomberg, a financial news service competitor, has taken its own stab at incorporating video content into its business coverage. However, it took a substantially different approach to delivering the video than Thomson Reuters. Bloomberg’s financial news is primarily delivered in a live, 24-hour television stream, similar to rivals CNBC or Fox Business News. It offers some video highlights on demand for customers, but its primary focus is on the continuous coverage. Bloomberg TV has been operating for 15 years, but its coverage never matched the cachet of its cable news competitors. The New York Post estimates Bloomberg’s TV and radio departments lose $20 million a year, and both departments lost more than 100 jobs from layoffs in early 2009.
Thomson Reuters doesn’t want to take the cable news channels head on; instead, it wants to open up new informational channels to reach financial professionals during the business day. Reuters global multimedia editor Chris Cramer wrote in U.K. media news source Press Gazette that users shouldn’t expect the "breathless hype and audiovisual tics associated with much of the business coverage chunks available on broadcast and cable." Instead, he characterized Thomson Reuters’ coverage as "timely information and analysis in bite-sized chunks." Also, unlike competing business-news video services CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Thomson Reuters’ coverage will not air on TV. Its broadcast will take place entirely over broadband, and it won’t run live 24 hours a day.
Thomson Reuters debuted pilot programming in October 2008. Currently in prebeta mode, the beta version will begin roll-out this summer. "The focus of the next few months is in refining our own in-house live video production capabilities and bringing more niche third-party video content onto the platform," says Denenberg. Thomson Reuters is seeking to build partnerships with other financial news providers such as Breakingviews.com and TheStreet.com, allowing them to distribute content over Thomson Reuters’ multimedia platform. It also hopes to solicit content from users themselves and encourage clients to create their own channels. Journalists and program directors will be able to interact and chat directly with users in real time, hopefully creating what Cramer calls a "financial community and array of information verticals not currently available in the media marketplace."
All the new features are designed to provide a more interactive news experience, but they’re not designed to replace the Thomson Reuters’ mission to provide serious news to a professional audience. Users shouldn’t expect chatty talk shows or fiery debate among talking heads. If it functions right, Thomson Reuters doesn’t want to entertain users; it just wants to help them get their jobs done.