CNET Tries a New Kind of Tech Story
In covering the refugee crisis, the digital native finds an audience for long-form content.
This summer, the consumer-facing technology publication, known for its product reviews and how-to tips, mobilized reporters from around the world to report on the global refugee crisis.
“Life, Disrupted,” which launched August 3, is a month long investigation into how technology benefits or hinders people in refugee camps.
In a world of aggregated reporting and 15-second engagement averages, funding an international serial report may seem unintuitive. But Connie Guglielmo, editor-in-chief of CNET News, tells Folio: it’s paying off.
This year, there isn't a set sponsor, but traffic for the project is higher than ever.
“We saw the success of our package last year which proved two things — that people still want original content, original reporting, and that in many cases they’re interested in long-form pieces, which was always a great surprise,” Guglielmo says.
Though produced under the title of CNET’s annual summer Road Trip feature, this is the first time the coverage has taken on an issue of this magnitude. Last year, the team looked at where Silicon Valley innovation could be found across the globe. Before that, the series featured a single reporter writing tech stories as they traveled on a literal road trip.
That all changed when Guglielmo joined in March 2014. Guglielmo was tasked with expanding the CNET coverage and audience. She was also part of the team that launched the quarterly print magazine that November.
The Silicon Valley feature was the single most successful news package of 2015, Guglielmo says. While she wouldn’t share metrics on how well the story did, it was well enough for her to justify funding the on-location investigative project.
“If we do find a story that we want to tell that requires a resource commitment, we can pool our resources. From a publishing perspective, it’s proved valuable.”
CNET, which is part of CBS, is bucking the trend over the last decade which saw major news outlets closing international bureaus in favor of outsourced and syndicated coverage.
Guglielmo is quick to say that CNET isn’t launching any form of international bureau beyond its limited number of foreign correspondents. However, more than a dozen reporters were mobilized for this project. The primarily San Francisco-based American reporters flew out to Greece, while reporters already in Europe and Australia covered stories in their regions.
“I tried to use the team that we had in place to maximum affect,” Guglielmo says.
Reporters were equipped with smartphones and asked to immerse themselves in camps. Photographers and videographers were dispatched in some locations. The result was a comprehensive package detailing both the technological limitations of global refugee camps, and the lived-experience of reporters on location — presented to the audience in the form of video diaries Guglielmo says were inspired by Matt Damon in The Martian.
“CNET is generally desktop and mobile; mobile readership is growing; we’re seeing the photo galleries and video stream getting a lot of attention because people on their mobile devices like to consume a lot of video. These are not unique to CNET; we’re just seeing that what these trends are is validated,” Guglielmo tells Folio:.
“We want to have readers reading original content — we’re seeing that they’re doing that.”
New content from the “Life, Disrupted: Road Trip 2016” series will continue on CNET through the first half of September.