Ready for your closeup? Speakers Corner is coming back

It’s baaack. Speakers Corner, the outlet that let Canadians share their opinions on everything from fashion to politics with the TV-watching masses, is returning next week. The Rogers-owned Toronto news station CityNews is reviving the brand on March 26. The new Speakers Corner is a digital entity. While its last iteration was a TV show […]

It’s baaack. Speakers Corner, the outlet that let Canadians share their opinions on everything from fashion to politics with the TV-watching masses, is returning next week. The Rogers-owned Toronto news station CityNews is reviving the brand on March 26.

Speakers Corner's new look

The new Speakers Corner is a digital entity. While its last iteration was a TV show on City, it will now be permanently available on the affiliated CityNews.ca and 680News.com websites.

The brand—which was dropped from airwaves in 2008—will make its official comeback after CityVote 2014, CityNews’ Toronto mayoral debate. After the live broadcast, which airs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, viewers will be prompted to create and post Speakers Corner videos to share their opinions of the candidates and the debate. Moving forward, the brand will be open to people sharing thoughts on any subject they’d like.

Dave Budge, general manager for CityNews, said people can submit their video using whichever platform they want, from Vine to Instagram to e-mail. “Basically anything other than coming downtown and dropping a loonie into the booth,” said Budge, referencing Speakers Corner’s birth as a coin-operated video booth outside the City studio. First opened in 1990, people’s dollar-a-shot commentary was recorded and some of it was used on the TV program.

(While opinions and debate made up the significant portion of the original show’s content, Torontonians certainly took advantage of the booth for more entertaining purposes as well. Barenaked Ladies ostensibly got their break after cramming into the tiny space to sing in 1991.)

“The booth is a nostalgic thing that really isn’t relevant or valuable other than the nostalgia value,” said Budge in an interview with Marketing. He said CityNews wants to make sure today’s Speakers Corner is accessible to as many people as possible, and that they can send content whenever and wherever they want. “So there’s no cost, there’s no travel, it’s just if you’ve got a smartphone or webcam and an opinion to share, you’re in.”

Or, technically, may be in. A curated selection of the videos submitted will be used on CityNews and 680News’ websites and incorporated into TV broadcasts. First, though, content will be screened for interest level and journalistic merit, said Budge.

If, for example, great content comes in regarding a specific news story, those comments may be included on-air in CityNews’ reporting of the story, said Budge. (The same goes for Breakfast Television, which will also be able to use videos submitted in its program.) Alternately, comments about story suggestions may be used to investigate stories the news team didn’t yet know about. Additionally, some videos may be packaged together and aired. “If a standalone segment that just says ‘Here’s Speakers Corner’s greatest hits today’ makes sense, then we can do that,” said Budge.

Given that just about anyone can post their recorded opinions themselves on other platforms, Marketing asked why now was the right time to bring back the brand. Budge said Speakers Corner will take advantage of the way “other interactive media has developed and become part of the daily conversation.”

He doesn’t see platforms such as YouTube as competition. “[YouTube and Speakers Corner are] two similar, but distinct, uses of the same technologies,” he said. Someone posting a video on their own YouTube channel is very different than sending it through Speakers Corner, where it has the potential to be seen within news coverage by the many thousands of more people in the audiences of CityNews or 680News, he said.

“They’re not mutually exclusive… and I think it’s a positive development in the type of access that the public has to CityNews,” he said.

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