Look Ahead: Human Contact

Original article published on Editor & Publisher

For a news video segment to be a truly interactive and immersive experience, you’d have to somehow step inside of your screen. But if you can’t wait till 2065 for that to happen—and don’t have a next-best-thing Oculus Rift device handy—there’s TouchCast.

TouchCast is video that responds like a Web page. Active visual links, in the form of photos, charts, graphics, and other videos pop up in the main video as you’re watching. But instead of these links taking you away to another site, TouchCast simply shrinks the clip down to an easily-returnable corner of the screen, so you can always pick up where you clicked or tapped off.

In October, The Wall Street Journal became the first newspaper to embrace TouchCast in a big way. A recent TouchCast report on the Journal’s WSJ.com site about the new open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act begins with genial anchor/reporter Sara Murray delivering what appears at first to be a standard TV news segment. But then images and graphics begin appearing as Murray invites viewers to click on anything they like for more content.

Tap on a shot of a computer, and you’re looking at the HealthCare.gov site. An infograph appears, and with another click, you’re perusing a Journal article on ACA signup problems. It’s behind a paywall, but still…it’s all there without you ever leaving the main video you initially came for.

Journal senior executive producer Andy Regal said the paper’s TouchCast videos mark a new push to get viewers more involved with Journal content.

“It’s getting much greater engagement than anything else we do,” he said. “We’re pitched different platforms and tech all the time, but TouchCast really puts our journalism in the hands of our readers and lets users experience stories at their own speed.”

According to Regal, there are myriad ways to fuse TouchCast with Journal stories that couldn’t be done before. A typical video piece could be quickly outdated, but not so with TouchCast.

“We’ll do a video segment on a company and say their stock is up a buck, but by the time it runs, it’ll be down a buck. But with TouchCast, if you click on a link inside the video, it will take you directly to how that stock is performing at that very moment,” Regal said. “TouchCast gives us the opportunity to be so much more current in a way we haven’t been before.”

He said the Journal is trying to get away from the traditional broadcast news approach where a reporter is telling you what the news is. Instead, anchor Murray functions more like a tour guide, pointing out highlights of a particular story, and then inviting viewers to click on various elements so they can explore the story deeper.

“It’s much more real and conversational,” Regal said. “When people are watching our TouchCast reports on a laptop or iPad, it’s as if you’re sitting across the table from someone and you’re talking directly to them. I’m very much interested in that kind of video journalism, not just staring at a reporter who’s mandating what you watch. It’s giving the consumer power.”

Learn more about TouchCast and view some TouchCast-infused Journal stories at touchcast.com.

Edo Segal