Why newsrooms need smart TV apps

If your news organization doesn’t have a smart TV app, designing one should be a top priority, data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism suggests.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | June 21, 2013

In fact, 51 percent of those included in the new survey have used smart TVs to access news. That figure is not far from the 63 percent who have used a smartphone for news, and it certainly surpasses the 17 percent that have used an e-book reader for the same function.

Smart TVs are the “next screen,” and news organizations should hurry to cement themselves in this new arena.

It’s no surprise that the trend is picking up speed: the devices combine “the two things we love most — TV and the Internet,” Dan BrilotYouGov‘s media research director, writes in the Reuters report. And there’s no question that news organizations can make use of the novelty. Young people list the Internet as their main source of news, and those in the older set give TV this distinction, the Reuters data shows. Smart TV can bridge this gap and take hold of new audiences.

While the Reuters report says smart TVs have only reached 10 percent of households so far, by 2015 55 percent of TVs will be “smart,” able to connect to the Internet without an additional device. By 2016, two-thirds of all TVs shipped worldwide will have this capability, and more than 400 million people will have smart TVs, Ad Age reported. Moreover, add-ons such as the Google TV box and the Xbox provide ordinary TVs with internet connectivity in minutes.

Urban Brazil is taking to smart TVs much faster than elsewhere, with a 13 percent market share in Brazil and only 4 percent in U.S. and U.K. Spain, France and Italy follow Brazil at 11 and 12 percent.Charts by Reuters InstituteCharts by Reuters Institute

While video-on-demand services such as Netflix are the biggest motivator for smart TV purchases, news apps are the third most common type installed, according to the Reuters report. In France, 73 percent of smart TV owners use their devices for news, and in the U.K. that percentage is about a third.

Several news providers have hurried to this emerging market. The BBCThe New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalGuardian USAl Jazeera, the Huffington Post and USA Today have all created TV apps. Just last week The Washington Post announced two new video shows, which will be rolled out to smart TV.

When designing a smart TV app, finding a balance between the “lean back” experience of TV watching and the active experience of Internet use can be difficult, Brilot pointed out. But the survey shows there’s a genuine interest in “push” alerts that interrupt TV shows. Shared devices such as TVs don’t seem ideal for push alerts, but if the updates are generalized to breaking news and weather rather than social media notifications, they can be relevant to all viewers. In fact, 56 percent of U.K. residents surveyed said they’d be interested in breaking news alerts on TV, and 64 percent in France.

These apps make cutting cable more feasible, but newspapers must remember that just because smart TVs facilitate video expansion, they cannot hope to compete with the polish of professional news crews. Instead, news organizations should focus on creating 3-to-4 minute videos that “give viewers a window onto a specific world,” said David Hayward, head of the journalism programme at the BBC College of Journalism (more video tips for newspapers here).

Click here to read Brilot’s essay, “Smart TVs — the Final Frontier for Interactive News?” (pdf)

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