NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- CBS yesterday announced a sweeping overhaul of its news operations designed to expand its Web presence and push more broadcast video content to online audiences.
|CBS plans to make broadband news as much of a priority for its staff as broadcast news.
Also: See chart of Top 20 Most Heavily Trafficked Web Sites at the bottom of this story.
The changes are being made in response to consumer desire to view news at will and marketer desire to reach the 45 million people who use broadband Internet access at their offices each day, the network said. The changes involve the CBSnews.com, CBS.com and Sportsline.com Web sites.
The changes also come as CBSNews.com continues to lag behind rival news sites. For the month of June the Web site had an audience of 5.8 million unique users, making it 17th out of the top 20 online news providers. The list is topped by Yahoo News, with 24.9 million unique users.
In announcing the new moves at a press conference yesterday, CBS News President Andrew Heyward said, "We are at the dawn of the Internet news era and there is tremendous room for growth and expansion." Mr. Heyward said CBS was investing in more personnel and intended to make broadband video news distribution "as high a priority as broadcast."
CBS stressed that its online video will be accessible for free and supported by advertising.
Plans call for the network's general news staff to begin producing video content for round-the-clock broadband play. New online offerings will include on-demand versions of 60 Minutes, The CBS Evening News and what network executives said would be a blog-like feature incorporating video from daily staff editorial meetings.
As the company made its announcement yesterday, visitors to CBSNews.com were greeted with a fresh new look and a full-page ad for Ford Motor Co.'s 2006 Mercury Mariner hybrid SUV –- the marketer's first online-only campaign.
Visitors who clicked on any of the broadband video stories of the day, in "The Eyebox," were met with an audio message from Wal-Mart, sponsor of the free video access. The so-called Eyebox will be an ad unit available to advertisers across CBS.com and Sportsline.com, which are also being relaunched at a later date.
'Public Eye' blog
The single most novel idea described by the network is the creation of CBSnews.com's blog-like feature called "Public Eye," which aims to provide greater transparency in the news-gathering process. It also appears to be an attempt to preempt bloggers, who have had a significant impact on CBS and the news business in general. Blog reports were the first to challenge the credibility of a 60 Minutes II report on the President Bush's air national guard service during the last election campaign. In one of the most embarrassing journalistic gaffs of recent years, CBS was ultimately forced to retract its report.
Mr. Heyward, who appeared with CBS Digital Media President Larry Kramer, outlined the extent of the Web plans. "I haven't been this excited for a while," Mr. Heyward said in an interview with AdAge.com. He said ideas for the new site were developed and expanded in partnership Mr. Kramer, who until recently had been head of CBS Marketwatch.com, which is now owned by Dow Jones.
Messrs. Heyward and Kramer suggested the new version of CBS online would allow the public to air their views and complaints for all to see. "Public Eye" will be edited by Vaughn Ververs, a former editor of political site The Hotline, published by the National Journal. CBS described a decision to give viewers a ringside seat at the decision-making process by airing video of story meetings as "unprecedented." The feature is scheduled to debut in late summer.
He pointed out that CBS News personnel were not bogged down in reporting for cable arms. (ABC and NBC separately deploy their news-gathering staff for cable channels such as ABC News Now and MSNBC, respectively. Both news operations already have some form of broadband video, as do other cable news rivals.)
Seeking younger audience
The CBSnews.com relaunch was made, in part, to bypass the cable news model and bring in new younger viewers to CBS News programming, according to the company. While the division puts out the award-winning 60 Minutes, both The Early Show and CBS Evening News regularly rank third against early morning and evening news programming from NBC and ABC.
"There are a few thousand viewers of cable news at noon, while 45 million people are on broadband at work. ... Cable news has morphed into more like entertainment-like programming," Mr. Kramer said. "The hard news is sometimes hard to find." He added that 80 million people are also accessing broadband at home.
While the broadband model is of great interest to growing numbers of advertisers, its expectations and concerns are different from those of the broadcast model. Jeff Marshall, senior vice president and managing director of Starcom IP, the digital media unit of the media-buying agency Starcom of Chicago, said marketers wanted to pay only for the people who completely watched their ads, rather than simply the ones who clicked and started a broadband feed.
"We are getting pretty advanced metrics," he said. "We are tracking that the ad started, we are putting measures in place to track the time they viewed it, did they view to completion, did they view multiple pieces of content. The metrics are much closer to online metrics [than they are for video on demand.]
Mr. Marshall explained that pricing is much like TV in that it is based on the cost per thousand viewers, although he added that there are different structures depending on whether the broadband video is being viewed as live –- such as a highly "perishable" story like the Michael Jackson verdict or whether it builds over time, like the Live 8 concert. "That's much more like a print model," Mr. Marshall explained. Pricing for the typically 15- to 30-second spots can run anywhere between $1 to $80 per thousand viewers in general.
|TOP 20 ONLINE NEWS WEB SITES
June 2005, U.S. Home & Work, Nielsen/Net Ratings
|1||Yahoo! News||24.9 million|
|4||AOL News||17.4 million|
|5||Gannett Newspapers||11.3 million|
|7||Internet Broadcasting||10.9 million|
|8||Knight Ridder Digital||9.9 million|
|9||Tribune Newspapers||9.0 million|
|12||ABC News Digital||7.7 million|
|13||Google News||7.2 million|
|14||Hearst Newspapers Digital||6.9 million|
|16||Fox News||6.0 million|
|18||BBC News||5.1 million|
|19||Advance Internet||4.5 million|
|20||McClatchy Newspapers||3.6 million|