Reuters gutting web infrastructure for 'Reuters Next,' its big online retooling
Over the past few years, the media arm of Thomson Reuters has been trying to polish its 160-year-old brand to a more contemporary sheen by recruiting A-list journalists and pundits and expanding into areas like blogging, Internet TV and magazines.
It's a strategy meant to broaden the consumer appeal of the financial-news and information service, while staking its reputation as a multi-platform media outlet for the future.
But there's one part of the operation that is decidedly Jurassic by comparison: Its website.
At a glance, Reuters.com looks as prolific and well-designed as the homepage of any news orgnization with resources as its disposal. But fundamental inefficiencies lurk beneath the surface.
The most egregious of these is the difficulty of inserting hyperlinks, people who know their way around the back-end told Capital.
"The current site was built on a legacy system conceived in the wire-agency age," said one of them.
Nor are video embeds a piece of cake. And with the exception of the homepage, live-blogs and other special features, content ends up where it does as a result of automation rather than human intervention.
But Reuters is working on a sweeping web relaunch that's expected to debut sometime in the first quarter of 2013, according to people familiar with the plans.
Known internally as "Reuters Next," the new reuters.com will be a "state of the art" offering with a redesigned front-end and a proprietary content management system built from scratch, said our sources, who described the site as being remodeled into editor-curated, stream-based channels such as world news, politics, business and tech.
“I don't think we're trying to reinvent the face of technology," an insider said. "I think we need a competent CMS with great editorial curation and judgment that finally provides a good platform to display all the fine journalism Reuters has been doing.”
Thomson Reuters, a financial data firm like Bloomberg and Dow Jones that also makes money from professional services in the legal, tax and accounting fields, derives only a fraction of its revenue from the journalism it publishes online. But its investment in Reuters Next, as well as the installation of marquee editors like Chrystia Freeland, Jim Impoco and Ken Li on the digital side, shows the company moving away from a long-held ambivalence toward its consumer web strategy.
A spokesperson for Reuters declined to comment.
Most of the talent working on Reuters Next, including alumni of The Huffington Post, Abrams Media and The New York Observer, has already been hired.
The vertical editors include journalists like Megan McCarthy, the Mediagazer founding editor and former Observer news editor, and Clare Richardson, who was previously world editor at The Huffington Post. (Also among the new crop of online editors are several other former employees of HuffPost, where Reuters.com deputy editor Ryan McCarthy and web product director Alex Leo used to work, too.)
The one area still in recruitment mode is the business vertical, the broad direction of which is being overseen by Ryan McCarthy and Reuters columnist Felix Salmon.
In other Reuters news, the third issue of the company's biannual eponymous luxury magazine will hit the slopes of Davos, Switzerland later this month during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.