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Felix Salmon: A lot less wonky
“It’s been kind of exciting,” Felix Salmon said when I asked him about his experience with his new show on YouTube. Salmon has been making himself a name as a business blogger for Reuters, tackling subjects like the European debt crisis and the struggling U.S. housing market with a self-described “wonky” style. “I’ve been blogging a long time. It’s something I’m very used to. It’s very much inside my comfort zone,” Salmon told me during a phone conversation earlier this month. Video, however, is completely new to him, and the YouTube channel initiative made him jump right into the cold water.
Salmon is the star of a new show called Felix TV, which gets published twice weekly to Reuters TV, a channel the news organization launched in early January. On the show, he explores similar subjects as on his blog, but with a very different style. “It’s necessarily a lot less wonky. You have to be short, you have to be sharp, you have to be punchy,” he told me, adding: “It’s a good discipline.”
As someone who is used to writing long posts with extensive quotes, Salmon necessarily has to broaden his appeal, which also means making his stories more accessible. “I have this idea that if someone is reading my blog and doesn’t understand something – they are already on the Internet and can use it to look it up,” Salmon told me. That’s not possible within a video, and some of his viewers may actually not read or even know his blog. “Felix TV probably has a much bigger potential audience than my blog posts,” he said.
One should point out that the keyword here is potential. Most episodes of Felix TV currently only clock a few hundred views at a time. However, Salmon isn’t worried. At all: “I’m quite happy about that, to be honest,” he said, explaining: “It’s early days, and we are going to be getting much better. It’s forcing us to up our game.”
This sentiment was echoed by Dan Colarusso, who leads Reuters’ video efforts. “I’m not worried about the traffic at this point. The shows are just starting to hit their stride, and we have to make a smarter effort to get these videos into the bigger conversation about the best stories of the day,” he told me via email, adding: “I’m sure we’ll get better at that before too long.”
Colarusso also told me that Reuters has “very big plans for video,” but that not all of it will live on YouTube. Other programs, like a recently-launched Jack and Suzy Welch show, will be exclusively on Reuters.com. Colarusso said that his YouTube team currently consists of a team of six senior producers and about eight producers.
So will YouTube’s bet on original programming pan out? Salmon thinks so. “We have moved from a world where the most-viewed YouTube video was Charlie bit my finger to a new world where the most-viewed YouTube video is a Lady Gaga video,” Salmon said. “From very low production values to very high production values.” And Reuters clearly wants to be part of that world. “We want to take advantage of the fact that not only are our journalists super-smart, but we are one of the few truly global news organizations in this game,” Colarusso told me.