EDITORIAL CONTROL IN THE LIVE STREAMING ERA: A FIRESIDE CHAT WITH CBSi

 

The LiveFronts took an interesting turn when Josh Elliott, Lead Anchor CBSN, and Marc DeBevoise, President and COO, CBS Interactive interviewed one another about the influences of live streaming on the news business and broader editorial landscape.

CBSN, at just over two years old, is one of the only news outlets betting on the live model. As DeBevoise interviewed him from an editorial standpoint, Elliott made clear that for him, the journalism hasn’t changed despite the shift in medium. Though Elliot spent much of his career on traditionally-streamed sports news channels, he finds that “if you are allowing for your delivery system” to influence the reporting, “you’re compromising yourself,” and thinks you “have to be underpinned by the same fundamentals of journalism” regardless of medium.

The two discussed the ways this iteration of news is so nimble: that this is inflection point for viewership and content consumption, and CBSN is able to deliver news at any time across multiple platforms. For Elliott, the CBSN model feels close to ESPN’s: a high volume of top-quality content, and a premium on the ability to be nimble and stay ahead, rather than finding a way to be reactive.

DeBevoise turned the conversation toward political coverage, asking if the 24/7 coverage has impacted the way that the news team covers something as specific as the election. “We have a candidate who largely rode free media to the doorstep,” Elliott said. He clarifies that a looming election changes the game when it comes to discerning what should be covered, and the ability to “be there every day,” like CBSN can, is a clear benefit.

CBSN is doing a number of things really well in Elliott’s opinion, including accurately representing current events in a relentless way. He and DeBevoise flesh out the idea that CBSN is not beholden to the 30-minute coverage cycle that a traditional newscast is, enabling them to edge closer to covering the race in its totality. Elliott does note though, that “the boundless nature of the Internet allows it theoretically to do a better job.”

CBSN has integrated other media technologies to push content out, including Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Twitter. “Part of the essential impact CBSN can have is the participatory nature in finding us, incorporating us. We depend on a more active user,” says Elliott. Elliott and DeBevoise see CBSN as the exact right ship to steer viewers through breaking news situations due to this interactivity and the 24/7 nature.  

Switching gears, DeBevoise offered a behind-the-scenes view of the business, saying that “the idea [to do 24/7 news] was floating around,” and the news wheel was the simplest execution they found. It’s been hugely successful, amassing a loyal following and becoming profitable inside of 18 months. DeBevoise says “no other competitors came into the market with a similar product,” which helps, but he also thinks the model and the election cycle have helped establish the young entity.

The show has captured a surprisingly young demographic – average CBSN viewers being 38, where it’s over 65 for cable news. The younger audience has caused advertising to shift and allowed CBS Interactive to view “authenticity [as] not just the way we live, [but] a business strategy,” DeBevoise shared.

Moving forward, CBSN will continue building out their core capabilities, but also aims to reinvent programming to present a smarter view of original programming. 


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