The challenge is particularly apparent with video content on the NewsHour’s political page—of which there is a lot, though it is more pundit-to-pundit chat than out-and-about reporting at this stage. “We have a capability and expertise in creating video we want to leverage; we have TV personalities, we have cameras, it’s an easy fit,” says Bowman. “But it’s also a struggle. We’ve found that a lot of shorter videos tend to be more accessible. We try to strike a balance between providing the long form journalism that the NewsHour is known for and keeping videos short enough that they keep a Web audience’s attention.” He notes, however, that video posts of Shields and Brooks are often holding audiences for their entire length, often more than twelve minutes.
As well as fulfilling the need of those who flock to the NewsHour for political coverage, the Politics page is clearly aimed at building a new audience from those who don’t necessarily tune in to the PBS broadcast. As Bowman says, “It’s a way of introducing our brand in a different way.” It’s too early for meaningful metrics to show how successful they’ve been, but the extent to which they will succeed will depend on the extent to which they define themselves as a must-read/must-view site as independent from the NewsHour broadcast and distinguished from online competition. And that comes down to content.
The NewsHour has the resources and the talent. So far, the reporting and analysis on the site are high caliber, and the team says they have plans for expansive coverage of the midterms. (Though there won’t be any wheels, or vans.)
Still, that speed-quality question might trouble them. Scrappier players like Politico, The Hill, and HuffPo update at a feverish pace; they churn out “newness” like scoop factories. And it’s the new that gets Tweeted and clicked on and linked to; it’s the new that builds news audiences quickly.
The NewsHour might have to be content with a slower build—it won’t be challenging Yahoo’s news primacy anytime soon. But if there’s room for a new political voice online, a measured, experienced and urbane one like the NewsHour’s is as good a candidate for the slot as any.