For Bloomberg, making video for the web means rethinking everything it knows about the stories people want and how they want them told.
Last week, Bloomberg premiered Hello World, a half-hour technology and travel series hosted by Bloomberg Businessweek technology reporter Ashlee Vance. The show’s first stop is New Zealand, where Vance interviewed scientists and inventors about artificial intelligence babies, rockets, and robot exoskeletons.
— Leslie Clavin (@lclavin) March 23, 2016
The project is a departure from the bulk of Bloomberg’s television output, which consists largely of traditional daily finance and politics coverage from talking heads in television studios. Hello World, in comparison, is meant to be more accessible and easier for the average person to absorb. The show, for example, weaves in Snapchat videos from Vance and the Hello World crew in an effort to make viewers feel as if they’re a part of the journey. (Snapchat says that Hello World is the first show to use snaps in such a way.)
While the show’s runtime lends itself well to television, where it will eventually air, Hello World is also produced so that it can be easily chopped up into segments that are easier to watch and share online.
“With video on the web, the most important thing is that we meet the audience eye-to-eye. We want to have a conversation with the audience, not speak down to them or oversimplify things,” said Michael Shane, managing editor of Bloomberg Digital.
The idea that viewers should feel like they’re a part of the documentaries they’re watching has become a more popular notion of late. Vice, for example, specializes in “immersion journalism,” which puts the reporter at the center of the story and brings the viewer along. Likewise, the larger industry embrace of VR shows that there’s interest in immersing viewers in the stories and situations they’re watching.
Bloomberg’s global web video team, now at 24 people across four cities, produces around five to ten original pieces a week. Bloomberg, which received 28.6 million unique visitors in the U.S. in February, got 99 million video views that month, up from 34 million the same time last year.
Bloomberg plans to launch two other series in the next few weeks, both of which will appear on TV and the web. A new program called Unsolvable focuses on scientists working on impossible problems, while The Spark, entering its second season, focuses on inventions and innovation, such as a new kind of surgical gel strong enough to work inside a beating heart.But while these tentpole series are most likely to draw in sponsorships from big brands (Hello World is launching with CA Technologies as the only advertiser), Bloomberg has experimented with other digital formats as well. Its text explainer series QuickTake, for example, has lent itself well to video, where Bloomberg recently used it to explain the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Financial commentary site Bloomberg Gadfly has also made the jump to video via two-minute clips, such as this one explaining Apple’s “big iPhone problem.” These videos are designed with digital consumption in mind — which is to say that they’re short, get to the point quickly, and have a specific angle.
“With the web, you have to think about what message the audience is sending you when watching your video,” Shane said. “The viewer has chosen to participate, so it’s a more active kind of viewing. We’re keeping that mind throughout the entire creation process.”