Stepping into the bright lights of the broadcast studio, you are quickly submerged into the world of television news almost as soon as you enter the offices of CNBC International.

But CNBC is not a TV-only outlet, and behind the news presenters' table in the London studio sits the international newsroom, which includes its digital team managing the news site and social media activities.

This year is CNBC's 25th anniversary, and for CNBC International the last 12 months have seen a number of interesting developments in its online operation and how this connects on a day-to-day basis with its TV production.

I met with Deepanshu 'Deep' Bagchee – at the time head of digital for international, now vice president of product and design for CNBC Digital, in the US –  in April to discuss some of those developments, and how thinking has evolved alongside technology around the outlet's approach to areas such as social, data, video and mobile.
  • Data and analytics
Chartbeat screen in CNBC London

One of the most recent additions to the newsroom is a large screen showing the latest engagement statistics for the news site, to encourage greater thinking about how audiences are consuming content online.

Rather than focusing on pageviews, the outlet is keen to get its journalists thinking more about engagement, demonstrated by the screen's focus on the average time users are on a story on the website, based on figures provided by Chartbeat.

"What that does is make the producers start to pay attention to what's getting engagement," Bagchee said. "Eventually what would be great is then the producers start to use that as another data set in deciding what they should cover on the website."

Taking the idea a step further, understanding what is capturing people's attention online can also help influence the outlet's television output, such as ideas for guests to invite on air to discuss a topical story, supporting greater connections between the digital and TV teams.

Eventually what would be great is then the producers start to use that as another data set in deciding what they should cover on the websiteDeep Bagchee, CNBC
Bagchee said they "plan to roll this out across the newsroom both here, in Europe, as well as in Asia", and also referred to a demand from television producers in the international newsroom for access to the statistics on their own computers.

The digital team is also using this data to understand where within stories readers start to exit, and use this to inform the placement of more engaging material, such as multimedia or graphics.

  • Video
Another area which has been subject to an evolution in thinking is around how video is treated online. Obviously, as a television broadcaster, CNBC has much video at its disposal. But discovering the best approach to using this online is something many online publishers have been experimenting with for some time.

For CNBC International, this has entailed a move from simply replicating a video interview in its entirety, to producing shorter clips of key soundbites, centred around a two- to three-minute clip, in addition to the longer-form, online video output.

Even though we take a lot of stuff from on-air, we really try to find what the headline, or the top line of that interview, isDeep Bagchee, CNBC
"Even though we take a lot of stuff from on-air, we really try to find what the headline, or the top line of that interview, is," Deepanshu said.

The length of two to three minutes is based on research which showed "that a lot of people will jump out of a video between two or three minutes and by six minutes we've lost them," he added.

And video will continue to be an area of focus, with efforts in the near future likely to be around honing the user experience, as well as finding ways to offer "more snackable, shareable business video".

Understanding more about the impact of pre-roll advertising, which is currently employed by CNBC International for its online video, is another area Bagchee said he was keen to see investigated further.

"This is something I think we need to do more research on," he said, when asked about whether pre-roll advertising might be an issue when dealing with smaller video durations.

Having said that, he felt the statistics available suggested otherwise. According to the outlet, comScore recorded 3.4 million unique video views for CNBC.com in April, said to be an 84 per cent increase year-on-year.

  • Headlines

As well as thinking about engaging audiences with video, attention has also been given to what tends to be the first chance to engage a reader on digital platforms – the headline.

This has involved not only trying to make their headlines drill right into the most salient point – "what is the story and why should I care" – but also bearing in mind the global audience it could be read by.

"Today with search, social and our partnerships, we have to think about a broader audience," Bagchee explained, "so the headline has to make sense to global business professionals, and not just to day-traders and investors."

He added that direct traffic still reigns supreme, followed by search and "referral traffic" from partner sites and portals.

In comparison, traffic from social remains relatively small. While it is increasing at a pace – "up almost 100 per cent year-on-year", it remains a small "piece of the pie".

But, despite that, it plays a part, and as such, also feeds into the headline strategy.

"Our headlines are now definitely thinking about search and social," Bagchee said. "I wouldn't say we put social first, but it has to be something that appeals to a broad audience."

  • Sponsored content

Another new development is the introduction of native advertising online, as of February.

The outlet already offered other forms of sponsored content, such as its Special Reports, which Bagchee described as content editorial has already decided they "want to cover", but which is then open for a "commercial client" to place their brand alongside.

In comparison, native advertising only began on the site this year, the first example of which was by Xerox, although Bagchee indicated that this is expected to be a part of the online advertising furniture in Europe too.

"[We have] now built native advertising into our templates and into our CMS so we are hoping to now offer this to our international clients as well."

  • Mobile

The impact of mobile has come under continued discussion across the industry, a development which Bagchee said "is just exploding for us".

Mobile traffic is said to account for "more than a third" of visits to CNBC's website, something they have responded to by focusing on delivering "content parity" across its mobile and desktop websites.

This involved "making sure all our content on our desktop site, or most of it, could be found on the mobile site," Bagchee explained. "Whether it was polls, whether it was slideshows, whether it's graphics, or interactive graphics, or charts – all of that should appear on our mobile site."

They have also recognised the growth of mobile content discovery by relaunching their free iPhone and Android mobile apps last year.

  • Co-ordination and communication

Overall, the key to delivering its digital strategy has been the need for good communication and co-ordination.

That includes co-ordination in the way content, particularly breaking news, is shared on social media and other digital platforms where news can be broken, as well as co-ordination between online and TV teams more generally.

While CNBC's US office has its own social media team, the management of this in the international newsroom is across the editorial team, led by the specific writer and the individual in the website editing 'hot-seat' that day, making good communication all the more important.

By not having a separate social media team, communicating on these networks "doesn't become an add-on thing," Bagchee said, "it becomes core to what they do".

The actual act of breaking news on online platforms however comes relatively easily to a newsroom used to working in the world of live television.

"Television producers are so keenly aware of breaking news," Bagchee said. "It's built into our DNA."

However, connecting the two outputs, TV and online, is where attention has been more focused.

What we've done over the last year is try to culturally break down any silos between TV and digital, and get the two sides talking a lot moreDeep Bagchee, CNBC
"What we worked on a lot was co-ordination between television and digital, so TV spot something, make sure the TV news desk immediately alerts the digital side so we can get it up on Twitter as well," Deepanshu explained.

"It's really about open communication. So I think what we've done over the last year is try to culturally break down any silos between TV and digital, and get the two sides talking a lot more."

In 2011, part of the team running the online news operation was placed within the studio itself, a stress ball's throw from the presenters, but they later returned to the main newsroom due to the impact on communication and growing size of the team itself.

"The other thing was they couldn't really make loud phone calls, and couldn't talk," Bagchee added. "So it was a good idea to co-locate them with the studio, but the end result was that we weren't getting that much productivity."

However, what has continued, is an effort to ensure that across both the television and online operations, each stage of a story is covered effectively across platforms, from breaking and following-up the news on TV, online and on social, and cross-promoting across platforms.

"So it's really closing that loop," Deepanshu added.

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