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July 14, 2016, noon
Mobile & Apps
LINK: abcnews.go.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   July 14, 2016

Need another example that news organizations are going all in on video, especially live video? ABC News on Thursday released new iOS and Android mobile apps, a new Apple TV app, and a redesigned web homepage that all emphasize video consumption.

ABCNewsHomeAppThe new apps and site now support up to eight simultaneous live streams, and there’s a dedicated live tab in the mobile apps. Videos now autoplay and are shown inline. When users open the revamped Apple TV app, they’re taken directly to video rather than a grid of options.

“We have a new [executive producer, Dan Silver] who is focusing heavily on producing more video for our audience. As the product guy, I’ve been focusing on developing product experience that can bring those videos front and center,” said Doug Vance, ABC’s vice president of product. “On our homepage, users can watch video directly inline on desktop. In our apps…there’s autoplay. When we autoplay video in a homescreen experience in the app, we start it muted, so it’s a friendly experiences for our users to scroll through the feed and find videos that they’re interested in.”

ABCHomepage

The new products now allow users to sign in across platforms and have more control over push alerts. Users will now be able to personalize their alerts to follow specific stories, and they’ll show up in the mobile apps and the web. ABC is also experimenting with location-based alerts.

ABC pegged the release of the new products to the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions, but it’s been beta testing the apps and homepage over the past month or so. ABC says that number of mobile video plays more than doubled during that time, but it wouldn’t tell me how many videos were actually watched on average per session, so it’s unclear whether that percentage increase is actually significant.

“You can’t design products in a vacuum,” said Colby Smith, ABC’s vice president of digital. “You have to have the product reflect the content strategy, and you have to have the content strategy reflect the vision for the products. They have to be tackled together. The executive producer is really focused on telling each story as visually as possible: What are the video elements we can [put] around it?”

Though news organizations are flocking to video, it remains to be seen how much audience desire there is for that type of coverage. A survey released last month by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University found that only about a quarter of respondents across the 26 countries that were surveyed watched online news video in a given week. Another Reuters report that came out last month analyzed Chartbeat data from 30 outlets in the U.S., U.K., and Germany and found that users spent “only around 2.5 percent of average visit time” on pages that included video, meaning users spend 97.5 percent of their news consumption time on text.

Regardless, livestreaming is certainly having a moment. Facebook has been heavily pushing its Facebook Live functionality since it launched earlier this year, and it’s emerged as a news force as Facebook Live was used to broadcast Philando Castile’s death at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.

Twitter, meanwhile, has signed deals with CBS News to livestream the conventions, and it’s also partnering with Bloomberg to stream a number of the network’s shows. Twitter also streamed Wimbledon, and it will broadcast some NFL games this fall; it announced a streaming deal with the Pac-12 just this morning.

But as the presidential election kicks into high gear, news networks like ABC will have a leg up when it comes to live streaming. The Washington Post reported this week that the networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox — are raising the prices of pool video, which is a shared video service for events in government and politics where there are space constraints.

As its confronted by a glut of live video content, and now more places than ever to stream it, Smith says ABC decides where to stream — whether on social or its own platforms — by analyzing each individual story.

“We are definitely going to treat live distribution similarly to how we treat text and video distribution,” Smith said. “What we do is we look at everything case-by-case. Me and the audience development team ultimately decide what goes where on a story-by-story basis. The framework we use to decide is: How interesting is it to the audience on each of these platforms? Ultimately what we’re trying to do is superserve the audience on each of these platforms.”

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