702.tv Launches Crusade to Get News to ‘Non-News’ Consumers

“News never looked so good,” touts the tagline on 702.tv’s promotional ads, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the show’s non-traditional approach to news.

On Thursday, June 11, the new Web and TV product from Greenspun Interactive soft launched with the first episode on the Web. Last week, it launched two new episodes on TV.

Rob Curley, president and editor of Greenspun Interactive, said the project is part of a challenge laid out to his team by Brian Greenspun, Curley’s boss and a Las Vegas mogul who owns the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly, Greenspun Interactive, Vegas.com and a host of other properties in the Sin City.

“If I were to try and tell you that this was built to save democracy, I’d be lying,” Curley said in a phone interview with Poynter. “We’re not trying to reinvent the news, we’re trying to go after an audience that doesn’t care about the news and trying to figure out how can we trick them into learning something. If we can reach that market and help our advertisers have success, we get to fund more journalism.”

To describe 702.tv to journalists (whom he emphatically emphasizes are not the target audience of the program), Curley has used the analogy of a bowl full of Skittles with a handful of vitamins mixed in; the show has a colorful, fun-loving format with a little bit of news that’s good for you.

The 30 minute, twice-weekly show airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. on VegasTV, a cable station that Greenspun has a major stake in. The show will also be distributed through multiple platforms — the Web, mobile devices and Apple TV.

The 702.tv team plans to go five days a week in the fall, with a potential lead-in from syndicated episodes of “The Office.” A staff of 11 produces the show with much of the content coming from local Web videos created from the company’s entertainment sites, including the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly. Curley said that generally a three-to-four minute package on the Web during the week ends up becoming a 90-second piece in a TV episode.

Curley said the new product will be marketed through ads and content promotion in the Greenspun family of publications, including two daily pages in the Las Vegas Sun devoted to sports and entertainment news, interactive billboards around Las Vegas, semi-monthly promotional parties and appearances on local media outlets.

The Web-TV hybrid product may sound familiar to those who have followed Curley’s career; he led the Naples (Fla.) Daily News’ Studio 55, a highly-produced TV-Web news hybrid project that raised the bar for newspaper video programming. (The current version of Studio 55 is now significantly scaled back from its original depth and polish.)

The original Studio 55 host, Denise Spidle, and sports videojournalist Alex Adeyanju are part of the four-person on-air team for 702.tv. They’re joined by entertainment reporter Emily Gimmel and sports videojournalist Christine Killimayer.

Curley freely admits 702.tv is in its early stage of development and is going to be constantly evolving. “The whole thing is a work in progress,” he said. “One of the things we learned out of Studio 55 is this sucker better evolve every day — and that means the broadcast piece and the Web piece.”
The team is experimenting with new revenue models, including the use of “promotional partners” within the production to earn money. 702.tv hasn’t integrated any yet, but Curley said they will be clearly labeled and produced separately by Sun Media Productions (also a Greenspun business).
While this project may not impress everyone, it’s an interesting one to watch as Curley and his team attempt to understand and connect with a new audience of non-traditional news consumers, as well as find new business models.

Knowing your local audience members and what they’re interested in is critical for survival. While this kind of show contains a lot of entertainment content, humor and sex appeal, I know that Las Vegas is a very different world (having just spent 10 days there for the National Press Photographer Association Multimedia Immersion and Visual Journalism Workshops) from the one my local audience inhabits in St. Louis.

Disclosure: I know and am friends with several Las Vegas Sun photographers and have known Curley for a couple of years through the Internet. I also attended the recent 702.tv launch party, along with about a dozen faculty members from the NPPA Multimedia Immersion and Visual Journalism Workshops in Las Vegas.

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