Whenever the name ‘Reuters’ is mentioned, a well respected international news agency is what springs to mind. Since 1850, Reuters has experimented, invented, and created content and news solutions to become the world’s leading international news agency. With over 2,500 journalist and 600 photojournalists globally, Reuters is one of the most respected news agency in the world.
However, the organisation has initiated a switch of its consumer strategy away from general news audiences, to target professionals, with a highly personalised news app designed to inform rapid business decision-making.
The new service which went live on iOS just last week aims to mimic the scrolling experience of timelines on Facebook and Twitter, while allowing users to customize their appetite of Reuters content from 5,000 hyper-niche news “feeds” on specialist topics, industry sectors, and individuals. The app seeks to make news more useful by prioritising topic-based feeds of quick, reliable and relevant information curated to inform decision making, in specific sectors, markets, interests, and countries.
Alongside deep customisation, the app allows users to choose from thousands of topic feeds complete with tailored alerts, ‘market watchlists’ and analysis of stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities.
Rebuilding from the ground up
Issac Showman is the managing director at Reuters and has overseen the development of the app and the organisation’s shift in focus to target industry professionals. In a recent interview with The Drum, Showman said, “We are allowing people to curate their own newswire and it’s an incredibly powerful proposition.”
“We have had to rebuild everything to make this work.”
Perhaps what is most surprising about the app launch is the “Big Shift” in direction of the 166-year-old news agency, coming out of a recognition that edited general news services can better be provided by newspapers and other mainstream news organisations, many of which are Reuters clients. According to Showman, Reuters has been “historically a bit more general (news) focused. What we have found is that is actually something that is done better by many of our clients and media partners.”
By focusing on user utility and personalisation, Reuters hopes to make its news app an indispensable tool for professionals, providing a free-to-access service in a news market where specialist and trusted business information is often found behind a paywall. “It’s quite a deliberate decision – an expression that we have a commitment around, serving the business professional audience,” says Showman. “We have had to rebuild everything to make this work.”
This has been an evolutionary journey that began in 2009 when Reuters – which since it was founded by media entrepreneur Paul Reuter in the mid-nineteenth century – responded to growing mobile consumption of digital news by launching a News Pro app to give real-time access to its newswire. In 2013 it introduced a new Reuters news app aimed at a general news audience.
Having downloaded the new app, users can operate a carousel of topic headings which they construct themselves from the 5,000 feed options – something Reuters is calling “the on-boarding process”. So, for example, ‘Media News’, ‘Sky’, and ‘Rupert Murdoch’, are all subjects with their own feeds, which can be selected and accessed each time the user consults the app.
Is it strictly business?
Although Reuters has shifted focus towards a professional audience, doesn’t mean that showbusiness news is completely off the agenda altogether. “We are aiming at business professionals but it’s not just business content,” Showman says. “People will subscribe to a feed on bonds and another one on Beyoncé. People have varied interests and Reuters is famous for covering the entertainment and commodities markets with the same level of rigour and quality.”
While other news apps such as Sky and BBC also offer deep customisation, Reuters hopes that its depth of information and its exceptional coverage of the markets will give it an edge with professionals. One example of the organisation’s depth of information and coverage is a news feed available on the app headed by ‘Detained in Myanmar’. It contains coverage of the two agency journalists in custody and facing 14 years in jail, accused of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act while investigating the killings of ten Rohingya Muslims in an army crackdown.
As users scroll down their customised news feeds, they are able to see more than just the headlines of the stories, with a one-paragraph summary provided with each piece – continuing with the in-depth information. The experience is not dissimilar to reading an email newsletter and quickly getting the gist of each nugget without needing to click through to the underlying article. It’s the same feel as descending a social media timeline but unlike today’s digital timelines, the influence of fake news is non-existent. An unwritten safety guarantee that every piece has passed through the hands of Reuters journalist.
Measuring success according to the time users spend on the app “over a monthly period” is another “big shift for a publisher like us”, Showman explained. “In the past, we had a list of headlines that people clicked on and opened the article. The product managers were thinking that we need people to click on articles, and ‘page views’ as a measure of success – that would work in a Web 1.0 business but not in the modern environment we are creating.”
The Reuters news app, which is initially available on Apple’s iOS but will be extended to Android devices, is advertiser supported and users have the option of allowing their ads to be customised to their interests. Showman says that Reuters, which operates a mix of a specialist subscriber and advertiser-funded services, will monitor the audience response to the news service and that charging for access remains a possibility for the future.
Although in its early stages, Reuters’ focus on the quality of information and coverage has the potential to set it apart from digital news apps, something that industry professionals may find attractive.