Reuters CEO Andrew Rashbass: We will use PR not advertising to build Reuters TV brand

Andrew Rashbass is interviewed by BBC's Sharanjit Leyl

Andrew Rashbass is interviewed by BBC’s Sharanjit Leyl

Reuters boss Andrew Rashbass said today that the news organisation’s soon-to-launch curated online news station Reuters TV will rely more heavily on PR than advertising to build the new brand, a very different approach to his former employer, The Economist Group.

In an interview with BBC presenter Sharanjit Leyl at the CASBAA Convention in Hong Kong today, Rashbass, who is just over a year into a role as CEO of the Reuters news agency and media arm after a long stint at The Economist, said that the introduction of Reuters TV would not mean “big global poster campaigns, it will be more PR.”

Reuters TVMarketing for Reuters TV would be difficult as the brand would be talking about a new category, Rashbass said, and so communications will spend “a lot of time defining the category.”

Reuters TV will be a curated channel that delivers up-to-date news that can be customised according to where the viewer is in the world.

“I’m a believer in marketing through the line,” Rashbass said at the pay-TV conference. “Today, you need a more coherent approach, so all your marketing drives the brand. You can do more cost effective marketing through the line.”

A famous Economist DM piece

A famous Economist DM piece

“One of the things I learned at The Economist was that if you’re doing direct marketing, make sure that that DM is telling the brand story and the response story at the same time – you can make investments go a lot further.”

“The Economist didn’t localise its product, but it worked out how to find audiences. One of the things about a subscription-based product is that it forces you to recognise that you need to build one subscriber at a time, so marketing is very important,” he added.

On the topic of news, Rashbass said that traditional broadcasters need to find a way to bring production costs down if they are to build sustainable businesses around the way people are now consuming news.

“What has protected the TV business is that barriers to entry are high. They’re shifting a bit, but not fundamentally,” he said.

“We [Reuters] are changing the economics of TV news, but still based on hundreds of millions in investment that we make every year,” Rashbass said.

“Most broadcasters spend thousands of dollars per minute on news production. Our model will be a fraction of that,” he said.

Reuters TV will deliver curated to news for different audiences in different parts of the world, often without an anchor or a journalist to present it.

“We can deliver a curated bulletin of stories that is completely up to date. Others [rivals] ask the viewer to pick individual things they’re interested in. We have a constant stream of material that we put together immediately. We believe that that ability to create a curated show, on demand, absolutely fits with what the new generation is looking for,” Rashbass said.

“Broadcasters need to find a way to get the cost of production down, then a way to generate revenue. Our model will be based on subscription and advertising. We think the combination of those things, with high quality broadcast news, will pay off,” he said.

“We think there’s still a demand for curated TV news, but now it needs to be on-demand; people won’t put up with a five-hour old news show. It’s not the way people are living today in the age of Twitter.”

Rashbass said he thinks news is a solid option for content makers, despite the many threats emerging to traditional providers.

“When people think about shared content online, they think about skateboarding cats. But the most shared content type is news,” he said.

“People are becoming more news orientated than ever. Just because people are not reading newspaper or watching the 9 O’Clock news it does not mean that consumption is falling. People are consuming it on their own terms.”

On the prospects for launching local language editions of Reuters TV in Asia, particularly in China, Rashbass said, with a tone of understatement, that the company was “a little way from wanting to take that on.”

On whether Reuters TV will work, Rashbass said that one of the reasons why it will is because the idea is rooted in “a strong view about way world is moving.”

“If the strategy and business are rooted in a view that turns out to be true in the outside world you are more likely to succeed,” he said, suggesting three things content creators should bare in mind.

“You need a clear view about the world. You have to stick with it when the going gets tough.”


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