Reuters is about to release its Insider service to its subscribers this week, ready to deliver on-demand video content from the news organization and its media partners. It’s a gentle, but potent, tweak to position Reuters for 21st century news-breaking.
Insider has been in the works for two years, ever since Reuters took a strategic decision to try to incorporate more video technology into its news reporting. The new service is customizable, and will incorporate 3,000 new clips per week from Reuter’s own video content office, and the company’s strategic partners like CNBC. Reuters home-brewed clips will be available Web-cast style as they roll out of the cutting room and then go straight into the video-on-demand system, complete with transcripts, and they’ll also get heavily tagged so that it’s easy to dig through the system to find relevant clips.
It’s a pretty bold move, and Reuters noted that it was deliberately designed to differentiate Reuter’s system from other business news broadcasters, which typically offer linear TV-style programming that addresses different niches, and which requires a user to pay attention more of the time. Speaking to Paid Content, the head of Project Insider, Mike Stepanovich, noted that part of the thinking is inspired by high-tech home entertainment: “People have DVRs at home, but not necessarily at the office,” where this sort of function is the strength of an on-demand service.
The system also has provision for users to easily upload video content too, complete with a mini editing suite that lets users embed Reuters graphics. This may, in time, help transform Reuters from a text-centric agency into one that also plays happily in the video media news-breaking game. And the reasons for this move couldn’t be more clear at the moment: It’s because of Twitter, and Facebook to a lesser extent. While news-breaking on Twitter is by no means a verified, strictly journalistic way to transmit news to the world, it has an immediacy, extra eye-witness value, and a possibility to link real-time video and photo data to tweets that makes it very fresh and 21st century. (Facebook would also love to assume a role like this, and that’s part of the motivation behind some of its recent user privacy re-jigs.) With new high-tech media competition like these systems, Reuters is obviously worried that some of its subscribers–who supply some 90% of its revenues–would be seduced away.
Insider is definitely a step in the right direction, particularly since it’ll come with an integrated iPhone and, later, iPad app (which also indicates Reuters has thought about the tech, and won’t be basing the system on Adobe Flash), but the company isn’t rushing to add the VoD powers to its public ad-supported Web services. Here Reuters is still demonstrating a little of that “not invented here” syndrome that’s endemic through the news industry, and if Reuters’ business teams are smart they may rethink this soon–otherwise the company may risk falling behind the cutting edge of the news industry’s high-tech changes.