Medical workers move a patient at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Sotiria hospital in Athens, Greece, February 9, 2021.

Credit: REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

Five years ago, we launched Reuters Connect - our digital content marketplace - in response to the changing needs of our news agency customers. Little did we know that when the pandemic hit, the platform would play a pivotal role in keeping many of those customers up and running as they transitioned to work from home, and more recently into a hybrid environment.

Stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic with nothing more than an internet connection, many customers turned to platforms like Connect for the first time, as they cut their cord to the office and enjoyed the ease of being able to access thousands of images and videos from their living rooms, home offices, or kitchens.

However, for the thousands of people who were suddenly left without their office systems, organisations had to become increasingly tech-savvy, with growing numbers of users moving to digital from traditional delivery systems like satellite. Thankfully our platform built on the cloud allowed us to become scalable and fast. We were equipped to onboard thousands of new users at the height of the pandemic that was an average of 50 new accounts daily.

As the pandemic continued and customers got used to accessing huge content ecosystems remotely, they inevitably demanded more images and videos to illustrate stories. Reuters Connect - which has approximately 39 million assets - saw an average of 600-800K downloads per month during this time.

Similarly, the Ukraine crisis saw a 35 per cent increase in the number of downloads in the first three months of this year. The first day of the invasion saw the highest number of downloads of Reuters pictures in a single day, and demand for video too broke all records proving yet again that a picture paints a thousand words. Customers sought both packaged and raw footage from on-the-ground – exposing the horrors of the conflict – captured by Reuters or one of our many partners.

When global stories of this magnitude unfold, news organisations look to ensure they are breaking news as well as covering it comprehensively.

Most news events have a similar story arc: in the first few moments, the most important thing is speed: getting the facts out as accurately and as quickly as we can. Next, customers expect some context and analysis: what has happened, and why? Then comes a need for the human aspect: who has been impacted and what is being done to help them? Finally, what is the global fall-out and the geopolitical consequences? Increasingly all this is delivered in a matter of hours.

Keeping up with the supply of credible and trustworthy content during these times of disruption when there has been such a premium on reliable information has not always been easy – especially with social media feeds awash with news headlines, speculation, dramatic video footage and misinformation. As such, the ability to fortify the process of fact-checking, provide in-depth analysis and explore global implications was of critical importance.

The contract with our customers around the world is that we will provide news in real-time as it happens; we want to be there on the ground in places like Bucha in Ukraine to bear witness to what is happening and to report it in an impartial, unbiased and independent way. Yet given we are providing content to hundreds of diverse media organisations, we learnt that customisation is also important.

Using AI, we have developed a hugely popular 'trending' section on the platform, for instance. It has built on customer engagement data and helps users observe what their peers are looking at, so they do not miss anything important.

The definition of speed in the news business is changing too – it is not just about breaking news first, but also ensuring customers are able to find what they need, when they need it and do not get lost in the inevitable flood of content. This is why it is important to put significant focus on search functions and the discovery experience, leveraging metadata, technology and design teams to make it easier for customers to access the best of everything – quickly and remotely.

So, although our customers may be increasingly agnostic about where they are when they access our content – in the field, at home or in the office – what has not changed is their need for a source of news which tells all sides and takes none.

Swagatika Priyadarshini is the director of Reuters Connect at Reuters News Agency. Swagatika has been with Thomson Reuters for more than 8 years, managing versatile roles in corporate strategy and product management. In her current role, she heads the award-winning platform from a business and product perspective and is a member of the Reuters Product Leadership Team.

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