As news organizations work to cover one of the most unusual and highly anticipated elections in the history of television, this year’s News Technology Summit, produced by Multichannel News, B+C and TV Technology (Sept. 8-11), will be paying particular attention to strategies for streaming news content and the deployment of newer technologies that can improve news operations in a digital world.
As part of the summit, representatives from major news organizations, digital operations, researchers and technology providers will speak, including executives from Axios, ABC Owned Television Stations, ABC News, the Associated Press, the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN), CBS News, CNN, Fox Television Stations, Gray Television, HBO, Meredith, NBC Owned Television Stations, News-Press & Gazette, Newsy, PBS, E.W. Scripps, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tegna, TikTok, Vice and Vizrt.
In the opening keynote, Christy Tanner, executive VP and general manager of CBS News Digital, will discuss how the streaming service CBSN has boosted the CBS audience by creating localized versions and focusing on fact-based reporting, social justice issues and longer-form investigative stories.
The streaming service has also been expanding internationally to take advantage of the enormous interest in the upcoming U.S. elections, Tanner noted. “About a month ago, we announced that our CBSN app is live on various platforms in 89 countries,” she said. “We know that the global audience is watching the U.S. election and we will be able to deliver in-depth coverage to them.”
Susie Banikarim, executive VP and global head of newsgathering at Vice News, sees similar opportunities. “At a time when other news organizations have been cutting back on international coverage, we have really been leaning into it with a new initiative Vice World News,” said Banikarim, who will speak on an election-focused panel at the summit. “There is a lot of interest in what is happening in the U.S. among global audiences and a lot of interest in what is happening around the world from U.S. audiences.”
The agenda will also feature Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond and Axios on HBO directors and producers Matthew O’Neil and Perri Peltz discussing their successful move from digital to TV.
New Habits, New Media
The move towards streaming has highlighted the growing importance of platforms and apps in aggregating news content. In the opening panel, Ryan Kadro, head of news, daily programming at Quibi, will discuss some of the original news content the platform is putting together from networks like BBC News, CBS, NBC and Telemundo, and explore some successful strategies for attracting younger audiences on mobile devices.
A separate research panel will present original data on how Americans are getting their news and information, with presentations designed to help news organizations craft successful strategies for delivering such content.
In addition to changing consumer habits, the summit will focus on how COVID-19 is changing the way news organizations operate. Patrick McCreery, president of Meredith Local Media Group, who will be speaking about election tech in the COVID-19 era, noted that the pandemic has significantly changed the way they produce news in ways that could have a long-term impact on the business.
One major trend has been the move to cloud and IP-based technologies, which provide more flexibility and make it easier to quickly spin up or down new services. CNN Washington, D.C., bureau chief Sam Feist noted that the network’s recent push to deploy newer cloud and IP-infrastructures allowed it to have people running control room operations from home when the pandemic hit.
“It’s been a monumental undertaking by engineering and operations teams that has allowed production teams to work from home, but that has been how we’ve been producing our coverage since the end of March,” he said.
Feist will be speaking on the opening panel, “News Tech Under Fire” with senior executives from ABC News, the Associated Press and Quibi, discussing some of the major trends in the news business that are prompting a reexamination of the traditional technologies used to produce the news.
News You Can Use
The summit will also feature case studies designed to offer practical discussions of newer technologies and some of the opportunities these technologies offer news operations.
Nick Evansky, VP of technology and operations at NBC’s WCAU/WWSI Philadelphia, noted that the October 2018 completion of a new facility based on an internet protocol network has given the NBC and Telemundo stations a leg up in covering this year’s election. “Having things on a network with an IP address gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of configuring things differently or quickly adding new technologies or services,” he noted.
During the summit, executives and engineers at the NBCU Boston Media Center, which opened in January 2020, will discuss the new facility and explain how the deployment of an IP infrastructure and other new technologies are improving their operations.
The summit will also offer practical advice on coping with some of the problems created by digital media. For example, Hari Sreenivasan, anchor of PBS NewsHour Weekend and host of public television’s YouTube series Take on Fake, will offer practical tips and ideas for journalists trying to fact check information on social media and the web.
“We have a polluted information ecosystem where disinformation and misinformation were algorithmically elevated by social media platforms,” Sreenivasan said. “So we wanted to create some smart content [with the Take on Fake series] that can give people some tools to grapple with this information overload.”