CBS makes news for Web

NEW YORK — CBS News pulled the wraps off a Web-based 24-hour news platform through which it will provide streaming video from correspondents as well as live coverage of events such as the London bombings or the Space Shuttle launch.

Billed as a “bypass” of cable news, the Eye’s rebuilt online presence will transform the network from one focused exclusively on broadcast and radio news to one that posts Web content around the clock, said CBS News prexy Andrew Heyward.

“We have the opportunity to create a whole new genre of journalism –broadband journalism,” Heyward said. “We’ve always been a 24-hour news organization in our newsgathering, but we are going to a 24-hour mentality where our journalists think of their work as something that can be broadcast any time of day.”

In addition, the net appointed National Journal media writer Vaughn Ververs as public eye editor, or ombudsman, to write a blog monitoring the net’s performance and field viewer complaints.

While ombudsmen or public editors are commonplace at newspapers, CBS News said the creation of the position is a first at a broadcast network. Move’s intended to help mend the relationship between the net and its viewers.

“The column is designed to create greater openness and transparency; we want to create a dialogue between the journalists and executives and the people who actually use the news,” Heyward said.

The net appointed CBS vet Linda Mason to oversee standards and practices at the news division following a “60 Minutes Wednesday” report on President Bush’s National Guard service the net later repudiated.

‘Cable bypass’ strategy

As the two networks without a cable platform, CBS joins ABC in pursuing a “cable bypass” strategy to win viewers — and revenues — from an audience of viewers who consume news on the Web at work.

“On the Internet, daytime is still primetime,” said MarketWatch founder Larry Kramer, who was tapped to head CBS’ Digital Media after the sale of MarketWatch to Dow Jones.

But the two nets are taking different approaches. CBS’ service is all advertiser-supported; access to video is free to consumers. ABC News Now also has ads but charges $4.95 a month for access to video, though most of its 30 million subscribers get it as part of their broadband subscription through Comcast, SBC Yahoo!, Bell South and AOL.

ABC has deals to provide the service on mobile phones and Sony’s PlayStation 2. “At ABC News our strategy has been to have the highest quality content anywhere, anytime and on any different device,” said ABC News digital group senior VP Bernard Gershon.

CBS said it will not create a separate newsgathering staff for CBSNews.com; instead, it will train correspondents to create Web versions of whatever they’re preparing for the “Evening News” and encourage them to file breaking news for the Web.

“The network is dedicating its existing newsgathering assets to this new medium; many of our competitors have created separate staffs and separate operations and walked gently into this world,” Kramer said.

Both ABC and CBS point out that with 80 million Americans having access at home or at the office, broadband is beginning to rival the reach of cable TV.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more