As the world adjusts to the “new normal” of remote working life, forward-thinking publishers have been coming up with new ways to connect with their audiences and help them through the crisis. In a matter of weeks, Harvard Business Review has spun up its own live video offering: HBR Quarantined.

HBR’s new weekly LinkedIn Live show focuses on how businesses are coping with the consequences of coronavirus. The show, co-hosted by Editor in Chief Adi Ignatius and Chief Product and Innovation Officer Joshua Macht, debuted on April 27 with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman as a special guest.

Ignatius, Macht and HBR’s Senior Multimedia Editor Scott LaPierre talked to DCN about what prompted the launch, how the first show went, and where they plan to take it in the future.

Evolving an idea

The initial concept for HBR Quarantined stemmed from Ignatius and Macht wanting to explore their dynamic in different formats. “Adi and I go way back together. We’ve grown accustomed to taking chances together and inventing things,” Macht said, explaining that a podcast was initially on the table. “Within weeks we went from, ‘Maybe we should launch a podcast,’ to ‘We’re going to do a live television show on a platform that’s pretty new.’ Then, all of a sudden, we had a show.”

Ignatius said that the genesis of the idea came from a desire to connect with the millions of their audience who are now working from home. “They, like us, are wondering, ‘When do we get to go back to work, and what will work look like when we do?’” he explained. “We’re always talking about these issues. So we figured we could do a service delivering insight on COVID-19 and how it affects businesses and the economy.”

But unlike other HBR products, the show is designed to have a very different tone. “Harvard Business Review tends to be a brand that speaks to a very high altitude. That’s our secret sauce: high-level pieces that are based on research,” Ignatius emphasized.

“This show is something different. It’s meant to be warmer, really connecting in the moment. We’re all in the same boat and trying to figure this out together. So, it’s certainly an experimentation with a different kind of voice for us.”

Viability in quarantine

Under normal circumstances, a product like this would be resource-intensive. But LaPierre highlighted that quarantine has actually lowered the bar for everyone in terms of production values and expectations.

“The way a lot of video producers are seeing the COVID-19 crisis, perversely, is as an opportunity to try new things,” he said. “HBR is not a TV station. We only have a small video team. So it would be hard for us to launch a true broadcast live video series. But now, everyone’s been equalized in terms of what they’re capable of doing. It’s a chance for us to make a viable series that doesn’t look that different from what others are doing.”

LinkedIn’s Live tool is just over a year old, and the platform was relatively late to the video space compared to its competitors. But for HBR, their vast social following on LinkedIn – 10.2 million followers – made it an obvious choice to debut this type of show.

Read the rest of this article by Esther Kezia Thorpe on Digital Content Next…

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