Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

TV news is about to change

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast June 19, 2014

We all love a full-on, no- holds-barred fight about the future of television.

So the Sambrook v Ryley slagging match about the future of TV news – particularly rolling news channels like Sky News, which John Ryley heads up – has become a cause célèbre.

As the former head of BBC News and a 30-year veteran of TV news, Richard Sambrook (now vice-chair and head of content at PR giant Edelman) has form. He says instant access to news, supplied by a growing number of online providers, propelled by social media sites and accessed via smartphones and tablets, under- lines the cost inefficiencies of 24-hour rolling news channels. Why, he wonders, do we need endless and sometimes pointless crosses to “our man in the field” – who often knows less than the Twittersphere?

Ryley, unsurprisingly, thinks differently. He believes that rolling TV news is still a good business and forms the “backbone” of a well-rounded 24/7 service.

In some ways, they are both correct. The Reuters Institute Digital News Report, published last week, offered insights across 10 countries about how news consumption is changing. Although largely focusing on print, it carries huge implications for TV news.

It says that 24% of people in the UK already use a mobile device as their primary access point for news (rising to 36% of 18 to 24 year-olds) and 16% of those surveyed share a news story via social media or email every week. In the UK, traditional brands, led by the BBC, Mail Online and Sky, beat MSN and Yahoo! in overall digital news consumption, but in several coun- tries including the US, search engines are ahead.

Accessing news on smartphones narrows consum- ers’ range of sources: in the UK, 55% of smartphone users say they use only one news source each week compared with 45% for computer users. Naturally, they’re less predisposed to TV news. Facebook (22%) and Twitter (12%) dominate UK social media sites for news, with YouTube coming in at 6%. The rise of WhatsApp for news has been strong in Spain, Germany, Italy and Brazil, but it is used far less in the UK (2%).

News consumption is changing faster than many have predicted. Digital news sites are using more video and the likes of Sky News will feel increasingly under pressure as con- nected TVs become the norm.

“Broadcasting is about to go through what print went through over the past ten years,” says Sambrook. “Once you have an internet connection to the TV, everything changes. It’s no longer a closed, one-way system.”

Newspaper websites’ videos are way beyond simply having two journalists debriefing each other on a story they wrote earlier. “Our criteria will be how can video tell a story in a more interesting way,” says Robert Shrimsley, managing editor of FT.com. The Guardian is also upping its video and audio: witness the interactive documentary of the Tasmania bush fire 'Firestorm' and the Edward Snowden story in NSA - Decoded and a look at Bangladeshi garment industry in the wake of the disaster at Dhaka in 'The Shirt on Your Back'.

Clearly, the story of how best to make and deliver the news is changing fast. The full Reuters report can be found here

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