“We decided it was time from a technology standpoint to plant the flag with our own software, our own ideas and our own designs,” said Newsweek.com Editor Diedre Depke.
Transitioning from a seven-year alliance with MSNBC.com, the Washington Post Co., owner of Newsweek magazine, had to relaunch the Newsweek.com Web site as a separate entity. That meant the company needed to create a cutting edge, news-driven site that is rich in video.
Problem: To successfully expand the video capabilities on Newsweek.com, the company had to develop the technologies.
Solution: Beginning in 2006, Newsweek.com built the site in-house, adding more than 10 new staffers, including Web developers, project managers and experts in video.
“We spent about a year in meetings just planning and arguing and coming up with what we have now,” she said. “Our biggest expense was design.”
Video play: Augmenting print journalism with Web video.
Strategy: Adding a Web staff to create video in conjunction with editors and correspondents has resulted in the production of 7-10 segments a day.
Result: The Web site, which features video prominently, is profitable, with annual revenue growth of about 30 percent.
The Web site is budgeted separately from the print product at Newsweek, which keeps money available for developing new technologies and new products, Depke said.
She said the Web site is profitable, with advertising revenues having grown over the past seven years on an annualized basis between 35 percent and 50 percent. Currently, that growth has stabilized at around 30 percent, she said.
Advertising is sold by the magazine's sales force and the staff at Washington Post Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), which specializes in selling space on Web properties within the company.
“More and more, almost exclusively, when we are presenting to advertisers we’re talking about an integrated buy,” Depke said. “They are buying pages in the magazine and they’re buying advertising online and one without the other is a far less successful way for us to pitch.”
On Newsweek.com, 90 percent of the advertisers placing spots adjacent to video are national brands, like Hewlett Packard and Microsoft, Depke said. International advertisers are also showing interest, with Rolex, Airbus, ING Direct and others buying space. Other companies buying video ads on Newsweek.com include New York Times, Capital One, Chevrolet and Conoco Phillips
She declined to comment on the site’s annual budget or advertising rates.
Currently, the company has four video producers, who shoot and edit segments. That team is led by executive producer Jon Groat, and they work directly with creative director, Rolf Ebeling, and Newsweek.com’s news editor, Carl Sullivan.
“We did not bring in TV people,” Depke said. “We brought in Web-centric video people. They’re young and they really are extremely creative. The technologies that they work with are so completely different from television that we think that was the way to go.”
Newsweek.com is looking toward the broadcast industry for talent now, though, and currently the company is in discussions with a veteran TV producer to help produce politics videos.
The video squad’s equipment doesn’t differ much from the gear used at other publications producing Web video. They shoot with Panasonic DVX100 cameras, Final Cut Pro for editing and Soundtrack Pro.
The video team collaborates with the editorial staff, and Newsweek editors set the agenda and budget the time of the video producers. Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham practices what he preaches with regard to Web video, doing his own segment, “Run Through,” every week. That feature, which lives on the home page on Sundays and Monday, functions as a sort of letter to the readers.
The video team is creating several different types of reports, including original programs using Newsweek editors and writers to present stories, as well as video feeds that are revamped to fit the Newsweek.com style. They’re also producing mini-documentaries that resemble broadcast news reports, Depke said.
Newsweek.com produces 10-12 news stories a day and between seven and 10 pieces of video, said Depke.
The Web staff adds new video to the site about once an hour, changing the main video on the home page once a day. The aim is to increase that pace to change out the video on the home page twice a day in the next few weeks.
Some of Newsweek.com’s video has been recognized by professional associations, including an Emmy-nominated segment about the families of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq.
Evaluation: Newsweek.com is reinventing its online image by developing original video programs.
“There’s value in appointment programming, so if people know that Friday the celebrity program is going to be there and on Wednesdays, Steven Levy is going to talk about gadgets, there is value in people developing relationships with programs and they want to come back and watch them, Depke said.
Since the relaunch, traffic on Newsweek.com has almost tripled, according to Alexa.com.
Newsweek.com will use advertising in the print edition to spread awareness of the revamped site, Depke said.
“That’s millions of people a week,” she said.
-By Allison J. Waldmann