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Summary:

Easy steaming means live news has become a commodity. Four experts offered their take on what this means and what news companies must do to adapt.

Globe, news

With the advent of streaming, live video news is cheap and ubiquitous but no one is sure what to do with it. Established TV companies like ABC must decide how the era of internet streams meshes with their traditional broadcasting model. Meanwhile, upstarts like the Huffington Post are cranking out reams of video streams without an obvious way to pay for it.

Video news experts explored how to go forward at an event held Tuesday at the British Consulate in New York. Here are five takeaways:

Takeaway 1: Live news is a commodity, media firms are responding

Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News, observed that consumers now take for granted that they can see anything, anytime and from multiple angles. He says this means media companies must work to  “create something bespoke out of this commoditized raw experience.”

News firms are responding to the commodity issue with strategies based on curation and engagement. According to Huffington Post President Roy Sekoff, people no longer want scheduled shows but instead clips and highlights on which they can comment.  “People don’t want to watch a full hour of Meet the Press, they want a minute and 30 seconds of Romney saying [something].”

Even if footage of real time news and events is no longer hard to get, it can still offer new ways of attracting an audience. Ray Mia, CEO of Streamworks, a service that helps companies use real-time video, cited a phenomenon in Japan where a live-stream of events in Syria has become an ongoing forum for news discussions.

And even when live news is a pure commodity, there is still money to be made. “We can get cable news ratings just through streaming events,” said Joe Ruffolo, VP of Digital Meida at ABC News. He added that putting events like Michelle Obama’s convention speech on YouTube video leads to millions of additional, monetizable streams.

Takeaway 2: Streaming is a lifeline to young viewers

“The first time my kids plan to watch a network evening news cast is never,” noted Heyward. He says that networks have failed to engage young people in a systematic way. The streaming format presents a new opportunity to do that and perhaps teach new viewers to associate traditional news brands with a given level of quality.

Takeaway 3: We need a better marriage between video and text-based media

Traditional print-based publications like the New York Times and the Huffington Post are rushing into the video space but the results have been underwhelming. Heyward noted that many of the videos simply amount to a print reporter regurgitating a story. “There’s a glut of video but not enough quality video… This is better consumed as print – give me something new.”

ABC’s Ruffolo said his company is experimenting with building fresh types of news by overlaying different forms of textual information onto video. He says text should not be written off because it’s a fast and efficient way to consume information. Combined with video and social engagement, it has a strong future.

Takeaway 4: Metrics are a problem

As with much else in web-based media, no one can figure out how to measure what counts as success for streaming video. Even the experts at the event were unsure if it should be clicks or some more nebulous measure based on “engagement.” All they could agree on was that the status quo doesn’t work and that everyone  is waiting for some type of standardized Nielsen rating for the 21st century.

“Analytics need to get better across board,” said Streamworks’ Mia. “The tools and technology are not there.”

Takeaway 5: Unique video experience requires a unique ad experience

Ruffolo says ABC’s goal is to “create a unique content experience for everyone” but, from a business perspective, the  “key is how to pair that with a unique advertising experience.”

The ad industry should be blazing a trail in the new live video paradigm along with the content industries. But, as we’ve observed before, they have been slower to adapt. According to Sekoff, this is in part because “brands have to become comfortable with new forms of monetization. They also need metrics to convince [people to commit to] ad spends.”

The panelists predicted the industry will adapt soon and that the present era of pre-roll ads will evolve.

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The panel was moderated by former MSNBC editor-in-chief Merrill Brown and sponsored by Streamworks and by UK Trade & Investment.

(Image by  alexwhite via Shutterstock)

  1. Good point on #3, I think we especially saw this with the launch of HuffPost Live — not exactly the biggest success.

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