Reuters Next Canceled

081396-PRN-THOMSON-REUTERS-LOGO-1-n`081HighReuters has decided to cancel Next, the consumer-facing website that had been in the works for more than two years, Chief Executive Andrew Rashbass announced this morning in a staff email.

“Next is a long way from achieving either commercial viability or strategic success. In fact, I believe the existing suite of Reuters.com sites is a better starting point for where we need to go,” Mr. Rashbass wrote. “Therefore, I have decided to cancel the Next project and put our efforts into enhancing and improving the existing Reuters.com sites. We will repurpose as much of the Next development work as we can for that.”

“I know this will feel somewhat ‘Back to the Future,’ but the existing Reuters.com has many strengths, which I recognize coming from the outside that perhaps people here take for granted,” Mr. Rashbass wrote.

Additionally, Jim Roberts, the executive editor of Reuters Digital, is leaving the company. Mr. Roberts took a buyout from the Times in January and landed at Reuters in February. Design Director Daniele Codega is also leaving. Bill Riordan has been promoted to publisher of Reuters.com.

Full memo below:

Dear all

I want to tell you about some changes in our consumer business.

We reach hundreds of millions of people indirectly through selling our stories, pictures and videos to some of the world’s biggest media companies who publish and broadcast them. It is vital for us also to present our news directly to consumers first, because doing so is a source of revenue and potential profit for our business; second, we can’t achieve our aspiration of being the greatest news organization in the world without a direct consumer audience; third, it is important for our brand strength, for the reach we need so that big names with big news want to speak with us and for keeping us an attractive place for the best journalists; and finally, a successful consumer offering allows us to find new customers for all parts of Thomson Reuters.

For more than two years, we have put most of our consumer-facing efforts into developing what we call Reuters Next. The project had ambitious commercial and editorial goals, and the team has worked incredibly hard. As part of the project, we have launched a well-received mobile app for iOS. However, the project as a whole has struggled to meet delivery deadlines and stay within its budget. Also, it does not capitalize on our strengths. We need to take advantage of the fact that we have a constant stream of high-quality, real-time news (something most news organizations lack), created by more than 2,000 journalists around the world; we need to focus on our unique photography and video to win in an increasingly visual media world; and we need to make our core strength of international news relevant to local audiences, which means, among other things, having local-language sites.

Next is a long way from achieving either commercial viability or strategic success. In fact, I believe the existing suite of Reuters.com sites is a better starting point for where we need to go. Therefore, I have decided to cancel the Next project and put our efforts into enhancing and improving the existing Reuters.com sites. We will repurpose as much of the Next development work as we can for that.

The team has done a good job in difficult circumstances, and I thank them all for their unfailing hard work and commitment. They are top-quality professionals, and I am delighted to promote Bill Riordan to the position of publisher of Reuters.com from within the existing team, reporting to me, to lead all noneditorial aspects of the business. Shane Cunningham, global head of strategy and sales, will report to Bill. I am sorry to say that Jim Roberts, executive editor, Reuters Digital, and Daniele Codega, design director, have chosen to leave the company. However, I am grateful to them both for agreeing to stay on for a period to help with the transition as Steve Adler on the editorial side and Bill on his side finalize their Reuters.com leadership teams. Steve and Bill will make further announcements in due course.

I know this will feel somewhat “Back to the Future,” but the existing Reuters.com has many strengths, which I recognize coming from the outside, that perhaps people here take for granted. It is one of the world’s most visited business and news sites with 37 million visitors each month; it achieves premium advertising rates in a highly competitive market; it has responded well to changes in the ad market such as the growth of real-time bidding; it has versions in Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, French, German, Spanish and Italian. And its dependence on automation is a virtue not a vice. Yes, it has issues, and the team will now focus on fixing those and on taking the business forward.

I’ll be holding town halls in a few weeks time, so you’ll be able to ask me questions then. In the meantime, feel free to email me.

Best wishes

Andrew