Media Moves

Freeland was force behind Reuters Next, and why it was killed

September 25, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

Chrystia Freeland, the Reuters managing editor and director of consumer news who recently left the news organization, was the force behind the redesign of its web site, dubbed Reuters Next, and the reason why the company scuttled the plans, writes Matthew Zeitlin of BuzzFeed.

Zeitlin writes, “Freeland is a 45-year-old diminutive journalism dynamo who made her name writing incisive portraits first of Russian oligarchs, then global plutocrats. Next was to bring some of her glamour to the low-profile wire, and she arrived with the kind of energy and panache that promised to deliver it. What she didn’t bring was a clear revenue strategy, something that had been less important when she was hired than it became to Andrew Rashbass, a Brit who arrived as Reuters CEO this summer with a focus on reviving the business as he had at The Economist.

“‘The project came about through sheer force of will, without Chrystia’s championing, it never would have happened,’ says one Reuters employee. ‘Monetization was not the priority, the priority was building something for the brand.’

“But any effort to build a consumer-facing product that would serve up Reuters content yet not be an obvious revenue center was bound to run into some resistance from the existing organization, which includes over 2,000 journalists and derives significant revenues from sales of terminals like Bloomberg’s to business and newsroom clients.

“‘[Freeland] basically tried to build this thing outside of the entire operation,’ says a former Reuters employee. ‘She had very little contact with the newsroom itself.’

“As a result, sources on Reuters’ digital side said there was flat opposition to making the consumer-facing product as good or better than Reuters’ terminal and subscription products. Of the decision to kill Reuters Next, a different former employee said that ‘the direction the company now wants to go in is about giving power back to the profit centers and abandoning any innovation on the consumer side.’

“A Reuters representative would not comment and instead referred to the memo Rashbass wrote announcing the shuttering of Reuters Next. Freeland did not respond to repeated attempts to contact her, saying that she would only speak to BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief or business editor.”

Read more here. Zeitlin reports that Reuters spend $15 million to $20 million on the now-killed project.

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