Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Spain’s has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 20, 2015, 1:09 p.m.
Reporting & Production

From “WSJ Live” to “WSJ Video”: Publishers step away from dreams of live TV-style broadcasting online

Like many other publishers, The Wall Street Journal has shifted resources away from live, appointment-viewing video toward on-demand viewing.

For The Wall Street Journal, it was just a change in an icon — but it signifies a larger shift in video strategy.

wsj-live-wsj-videoLast month, eagle-eyed Apple TV users might have noticed a subtle change to their Journal app. Its icon, which for years had been the grey-and-green “WSJ Live,” was replaced with one reading simply “WSJ Video.” The change follows a May announcement by the Journal that it was canceling three of its scheduled live programs. The WSJ was becoming less “live” — a shift mirrored by other outlets.

Not that long ago, top news publishers were talking about wanting to beat TV to the punch on live online video. Newspapers had been disrupted when digital distribution opened them up to new competition, the theory went — wouldn’t television networks be open to the same sort of threat? Why couldn’t someone like a Wall Street Journal build an online successor to, say, CNBC? Outlets from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Politico all built out live programming with the aim of becoming appointment viewing for the deskbound information workers of the world.

Launched in 2011, WSJ Live was at the leading edge of the movement, heralded as a innovative product for the newspaper and hoping to take advantage of the tablet revolution. WSJ Live was pitched as “Original Programming, On Demand, Immediate, Relevant, WSJ Live brings influencers and decision-makers live news and on-demand video directly from 2000+ reporters across the globe.” Our own Ken Doctor enjoyed the product:

It leverages the tablet-sized screen well. It mixes on-the-hour scheduled programming with on-demand access. It balances the talking heads of its global reporting workforce, via Skype, with anchor-hosted programs (News Hub), photo stills, and graphics. It is faster-paced than most news video, with some of the print-reporter geekiness at least acceptable and often enjoyable compared to the slick, no-surprise, Wolf Blitzer-me-to-sleep monotony of cable news. Within the business news world, it sits somewhere between the casualness of American Public Media’s Marketplace and CNBC’s button-down coverage.

At its height, WSJ Live was producing more than 4 1/2 hours of live programming a day, with shows like News Hub, Money Beat, and Asia Today. In 2012, it said had completely sold out available advertising slots on the app.

But most live online news video efforts have struggled to find an audience. The Times killed TimesCast. The Post cut back severely on PostTV’s live programming. And the Journal has followed suit. Its video page still lists six scheduled programs, but only two have produced new material since May; together, they produce about half an hour of new live video each weekday.

Andy Regal, executive editor of video at the Wall Street Journal, said the branding shift doesn’t signal the final nail in the coffin for live video at the Journal: “We continue to stress live video. We are covering press conferences and live events all the time.” (The Journal’s iOS video apps are still branded as WSJ Live, but they haven’t been updated in over two years.)

But the larger shift is, as at other publishers, away from TV-style live programming and toward more slickly produced video available on demand. It’s a decision born out of a business imperative, says Regal. “People come to the Wall Street Journal when they have time, or need a break or when there’s a big event,” he said. “If we continue to try to drive people to appointment television, it’s just not a workable business model. That’s been proven by most who have tried it.”

Regal said video views are still rising: “Everytime someone comes to our site, they are watching more video. So we have to make strategic decisions.” As a result, the Journal decided to devote more resources to video to illustrate stories it is telling in more traditional formats. “We of course believe in traditional interviewing, but with better technology, infographics, and data we can tell stories more visually and turn them around quickly,” he said.

Regal points to a recent video about the DuPont board fight as an example of the type of creative storytelling that video is now capable of. “It’s a dry subject matter that we made visually interesting.”

Regal said he hopes the new direction will free the Journal’s video reporters and producers up to make interesting and valuable journalism. “We’re doing the same things, but now we’re not beholden to a specific time which means now we can do them when we want to.”

The Journal also bet on something called WorldStream, a product that featured short reporter-recorded videos, often from the scenes of news. While there was a initial push to make the product consumer-facing, Regal says that these reporter-produced videos are now largely being pulled into other videos that the Journal produces. A recent look at WorldStream shows only seven new videos have been uploaded since June 1; Journal journalists were filing about 12 videos a day in the first few months after launch.

Regal said further tweaks are planned for the video hub, including improved navigation: “From the top level, The Wall Street Journal sees the importance of digital storytelling. We anticipate that engagement continuing to grow.”

While traditional publishers have scaled back live video, that doesn’t mean they’re investing less in video overall, even if financial results have often been disappointing. Online natives like BuzzFeed, Vox, and Quartz are betting on video in ways big and small. (“It’s way too easy to produce mediocre video, and to lose money on digital video efforts,” Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney wrote recently. “Any honest assessment of media companies’ current non-TV-originated internet video would reflect that.”)

One company is moving in the opposite direction on live video: The Huffington Post, which has bet big on its two-year-old HuffPost Live. Last month, Arianna Huffington announced that it would grow into a 24-hour video news network called HuffPost 24 which will be available online and through mobile apps. It’s part of a strategy which eventually will see video as 50 percent of all content on the site.

Top image from the original WSJ Live iPad and TV apps in 2011.

POSTED     July 20, 2015, 1:09 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Spain’s has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
“We have a potential of six million readers. You may not convince all six million people to be your socios, but if you learn more about their interests, you can get closer.”
Chasing subscriptions over scale, The Athletic wants to turn local sports fandom into a sustainable business — starting in Chicago
“It’s very easy today to be click-driven and produce articles that don’t have a lot of substance or depth and don’t cost that much to produce, but that dynamic is disappointing for fans who want higher-quality content.”
Hot Pod: We now have new, free rankings to show how podcasts stack up against each other
Plus: Parsing the RadioPublic announcement; premium podcast subscriptions; Bill Simmons oversimplifies things.
What to read next
Hot Pod: As more podcasts become TV shows, can their founders retain creative control?
Plus: Podcasts as time-shifted cable TV; MTV News launches its first podcasts; Postloudness moves beyond Mailchimp.
0The Hindustan Times is working to build the definitive online source of real-time air quality in all of India
In addition to pulling in data from government stations for its map, the organization is deploying and testing its own air quality sensors across the country.
0A new growth area for foreign reporting: podcasts? With reporters in-country, GroundTruth hopes so
“There’s pretty much nothing, as far as I can tell, in terms of real, international, on-the-ground reporting in the world of podcasting.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Chicago Tribune
The Miami Herald
New West
Los Angeles Times
Las Vegas Sun