As Al Gore’s Current Media gets ready for its IPO, the cable channel is drawing more on its Website audience for TV content. Today, it is launching Current News, a three-minute wrap-up culled from audience submissions on the Web that will play every hour on Current TV. As such, the site now has a new look, with the audience contributions front and center. Each one can be voted up the page, and at the very top are the most popular, which get packaged together every hour on TV in the new Current News segment. The video can also be seen on the Website.
From the very beginning, Current has solicited submissions from its Web audience. About a third of the segments on the news channel are shot and produced by freelancers who submit via the Website. If their video is played on TV, Current pays them at least $1,000. But, says Current’s Web strategist Robin Sloan, “There is a pretty limited audience of people who can create good stuff. We wanted to give more people a chance to contribute.” So last October, the company relaunched its Website as Current.com (from Current.tv), and let the audience items that are easier to create than a fully-produced TV-quality video. They were allowed to submit links, YouTube videos, Flickr photos, and Webcam comments.
Now, with Current News and the redesign of the site, the audience contributions that are voted to the top of the page are put together into a video by editors at Current, who throw in some graphics and a quirky computerized female voice that narrates. The feedback loop between the Website and the TV channel will now be measured in hours, not days. “This is the perpetual beta taken to TV,” says Sloan. Here is an example of what the mashup video looks like:
The robot voice really needs to go.
Current Media makes nearly all of its money from the cable channel. Last year, it lost $9.7 million, on revenues of $63.8 million. But revenues grew 68 percent, and its Websiet is finally starting to show some signs of life. Sloan says monthly uniques are at 1.5 million. ComScore measured about 500,000 U.S. visitors in February, which spiked up from 150,000 before that (see chart). Making it easier to get on TV and revolving the entire site around that should help the Web traffic even more.