Will the future of television news lean towards a tabloid style?
Expressen TV, the online video channel from Swedish tabloid Expressen, grew from 20 to 60 members of staff in 2015, and built two new studios, completed in the summer of 2016.
The channel continues to broadcast live from 6am to midnight each day, featuring a mix of newscasts and shows, while its staff numbers are still growing, nearing 100, and the team is gearing up for a second channel launch.
The Expressen TV team is now working on a new finance and business channel in collaboration with Dagens Industri – both titles are owned by the Bonnier media group.
The new channel will be live from 6am to 6pm every day from a studio next door to Expressen TV’s main one.
Expressen TV’s take on television news is an attempt to infuse broadcasting with the popular tabloid journalism style familiar to readers from print. And it’s working, both for the newscasts and the shows broadcast on the TV channel.
“What we can see is that people are more interested in news than I could ever imagine, and when we talk about the shows, we can see that people are staying longer, they are watching more," Bella Levy, head of Expressen TV, told Journalism.co.uk. "Six months ago, that wasn't the case.
“We try to be a little bit edgy, brave, and tabloid. That is one big part of the future of news television for us.
“We follow the traffic. If we're reporting about an event and we see that the traffic goes up, then we stick to the story."
Video views went up by 77 per cent in 2016, and they continue to do so, with an increase of 35 per cent in 2017 so far. Hundreds of screens dot the newsroom, showing journalists audience insights as well as information about their own stories, such as the number of multimedia elements present in each, or the gender balance of sources and experts quoted in their articles.
At the core of Expressen TV’s strategy lies the target to be live in 180 seconds during any breaking news event. The tabloid style means reporters are encouraged not only to film with their mobile phones, but also to report, for example, from the taxi ride on their way to the scene, telling viewers what they know so far.
“You pick up your phone and you start reporting in a taxi. You let your viewers follow you and you ask the questions that maybe nobody else would ask,” said Levy.
Expressen TV broadcasts 100 video clips each day, from its own reporters, from news wires, or from CNN, of which the channel is an affiliate station and will become the exclusive Swedish affiliate from 2018. These 100 clips are then used in articles on the website, as the different teams in the newsroom collaborate together throughout the day.
The TV team is trying to produce materials that work on all platforms, explained Levy, adding that their anchors’ presenting style is more personal than what viewers might see on traditional television.
Audiences online are also more open to change and to being surprised with new formats, while television viewers are more accustomed to certain reporting styles and would not be as “forgiving” of anything that does not match their expectations, she said.
“We want to have a lot of graphics, we want to have a lot of pictures, a lot of things going on. That is also how a tabloid newspaper is, and we try to implement that.
“We don't quite know how this is going to end, but we are working really hard to make it a fun experience to watch. We want you to see the difference, because we are a little bit more daring.”
Update: This story has been updated on 16 June to include figures about video views and more details about Expressen's affiliation with CNN.