What would we do if major news networks disappeared? If newscasts would ceased to exist in their present form? We infer that there would be applications that give viewers the news they want with more control and context over curated and centralized information. As a team of four journalism graduates who worked in Canada’s main newsrooms, we believe newscasts could be improved by taking full advantage of what social television can offer. Our solution is called PivoTV : a social television application for smart phones and tablets that provides users with a personalized and connected newscast.
If television in its traditional form has long been criticized for encouraging passivity, new information technology and social networks are now quietly turning the tide. They are forging a generation of more participatory viewers. The message conveyed by this new active audience is “We don’t want to just consume content, we want to make it ours”. This trend is forcing producers and broadcasters to better understand the value of the relationship between users and content.
Social television can be defined as “the services and technologies that enable socialization around television content” whether before, during or after a show. Television content has always been social, as it only survives if people are listening to it and speaking about it, but today the global context has changed. It is one of greater mobility. Social television answers a need to connect across generations and continents, expanding our physical living room to a “global living room of extended family and friends” . Although social television often takes the form of interaction between viewers on Twitter and Facebook, we believe it can go beyond these obvious online social networking services.
A NEW WAY TO CONSUME TV NEWS
Internet and social networks are changing the way information is consumed by television viewers. New content providers such as YouTube and Netflix, supported by the multiplication of screens of all sizes, have led to a new television experience that can be more social and synchronous as well as asynchronous. In addition, it becomes “possible for content to accumulate meaning”, adding layers of information on top of the main content.
A number of studies show that more and more people turn to the web and social media to get news. A third of Americans cited Facebook as a source of news. Although most users don’t log in to Facebook to specifically consume news, they end up learning about events through the friends and the organizations they follow. Facebook therefore provides news that often hits close to home. Indeed, after entertainment news, the most popular type of information on this social platform “is news about events in one’s own community”.
As for Twitter, only 8% of Americans turn to this platform for news. However, these consumers are “younger, more mobile and more educated”. Finally, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center shows that 36% of Americans watch news video on the web, a number that shoots up to 48% for young adults, 18 to 29 years old.
From these statistics, we see that both news on the web and news shared within an online community are gaining in popularity. As consumer habits are changing, so should the way news is delivered. PivoTV was born out of this idea. It aims to provide a user experience that caters to these new behaviors, offering news that is personal, connected, social and mobile.
SOCIAL, CONNECTED AND INTERACTIVE NEWSCASTS
The current format of television news does not take full advantage of the potential of social television. Based on current studies and on our experience as professional journalists, we developed an idea that pushes the current boundaries. PivoTV is an application that revolves around five main ideas: control, context, centralization, curation and conversation.
1 – Control
It is well known that only a fraction of the content and stories produced within a day by journalists is actually shown in a regular newscast. PivoTV allows viewers to explore news that are outside a traditional television lineup.
We allow the viewer to choose from this wide range of stories and angles instead of being imposed a fixed program. Viewers should be able to watch news that relates to their lives. For example, a viewer might be interested in issues that focus on a region outside his own, where his family lives. This wider range of choices also profits newsrooms, as it extends the life of items that are often only broadcast once (if any) and encourages local content development.
2 – Context
Most network TV news packages are only two to three minutes long, in which journalists try to answer the five Ws and one H (who, what, where, when, why, and how), present both sides of the story, include reactions from citizens and experts, provide some context, etc. Journalists therefore have very little space and time to provide in-depth coverage. The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group highlighted this problem in a 2008 study. They found that young adult consumers “were overloaded with facts and updates and were having trouble moving more deeply into the background and resolution of news stories”.
PivoTV specifically targets this weakness. The application does this by linking each news items, whether it is a story, an interview or a live-hit, with archives on the same subject.
3 – Centralization
PivoTV provides a centralized news hub in a single tablet and mobile application. All the content can be found in one place: live broadcast, related content (TV, radio and web), archives, comments, etc. Also, all items on a given topic are linked together making it easier for viewers to drill-down and really understand an issue. We believe this centralization will provide an easier and richer news experience, where users won’t need to surf from one news website or application to the other in order to access all of the news.
4 – Curation
One of the strengths of professional newsrooms is their ability to curate content. They go through huge amounts of information, filtering what is most relevant as to “turn noise into signal”. They also make sure the information is verified. PivoTV exploits this strength by providing information that has been filtered and vetted by professional journalists, unlike links on most social media website or found with a Google search. This application also adds a second layer of curation provided by the user’s social network. Through this community-based curation, users see content that was viewed and appreciated by their friends and acquaintances.
5 – Conversation
Conversation around information is fundamental to the integration and participation of citizens in democratic life. PivoTV wants to encourage this conversation by letting users share with their friends and acquaintances the stories that they like. The application also creates a conversation between newsmakers and viewers through organized chat sessions where the public can ask questions of the journalists or experts directly. Chat sessions focus on major news stories and help citizens to really explore and understand an issue. These “Q&A” chat sessions foster greater social interaction between news producers and viewers.
Upon opening PivoTV, the user can choose between two options: watching a linear newscast accompanied by additional content placed around the main screen or browsing through the main stories of the hour.
PivoTV could be developed in many different ways. It could become a news aggregator, where content would be gathered from a variety of traditional media websites, as well as other hosting and video sharing websites such as YouTube and Vimeo. In this case, PivoTV would still include journalistic and social curation, instead of only depending on a search algorithm.
This option offers the most flexibility and depth to users, but content producers could see it as copyright infringement, such as in The Associated Press v. Meltwater U.S. Holdings, Inc., et al. case, which would have to be negotiated. But in a world where media convergence has had the effect of truncating the multiplicity of viewpoints, PivoTV as a news aggregator proposes a novel solution that facilitates access to different points of view.
However, PivoTV could also be used as a central application for one media organization. For example, Radio-Canada includes several radio and television stations such as “ICI Radio-Canada Première”, “Espace musique”, “Radio-Canada International”, “ICI Radio-Canada Télé”, “ICI RDI”, “ICI ARTV” and “ICI Explora” as well as an archive of content going back 78 years. In this case, PivoTV would provide viewers with a centralized hub and interactive interface for all the content produced by this public broadcaster. In turn PivoTV would raise the visibility of the Radio-Canada content and maintain and even increase its viewership resulting in increased revenues.
We believe that in either case, PivoTV offers a new way to consume news. It is an innovative multimedia application that provides social, personalized, and indepth vetted and verified news, locally and internationally. In this perspective PivoTV helps viewers socialize around news and increase their participation in public life.
1. Montpetit MJ, Klym N, Mirlacher T (2010) The Future of IPTV: connected, mobile, personal
and social. In : Multimedia Tools and Applications 53(3): 519-532
We would like to thank Dr. Marie-José Montpetit for her help in refining our original concept, as well as Dr. Margot Ricard from the École des médias at UQAM.