We talk to a digital journalist from the Euronews about the rise of ‘immersive’ videos like 360° and VR. 

Headquartered in France, Euronews has 300 journalists working in 13 languages, and throughout 2016 has been experimenting with immersive videos on social media to bring new depth to their digital coverage.
We talked to Thomas Seymat, a Euronews digital journalist who specialises in immersive videos, about how the broadcaster has been using 360 videos on Facebook, and more.

Hi Thomas. Can you briefly describe your role at Euronews?

My name is Thomas Seymat, I’ve been a digital bilingual journalist at euronews.com since 2012. I am a bit of a digital sherpa in the newsroom, bringing new tools for my colleagues to use. In my current role, I supervise the implementation of an immersive journalism workflow based on 360° videos. Our goal is for the workflow to be fully integrated in both the digital and TV newsroom, across all the languages Euronews broadcast and published online in (13 right now).

How important does Euronews see the role of video in reaching and engaging audiences on the website and on different social platforms?

Euronews was created in 1993 as a set of TV channels, so video is truly at its core and in its DNA. It’s a huge advantage in the current video-heavy news environment. Now, our audience is of course able to watch Euronews live online, but almost the entirety of our linear programs are available in VOD, whether on the website or YouTube. We are enriching our video offer too, with some non-linear content tailored for digital platforms. Among this new content are explainers or social media videos, and of course immersive reports shot in 360°.

Your team has done a lot of experimentation around 360 video on Facebook this year. What have the results been with that format, and how do you think that audiences are engaging?

We have published over thirty 360° videos on Facebook since February 2016. The audience results have been a bit mixed. That’s a natural part of the learning process as we establish what works and what doesn’t. We didn’t really expect that the simple act of publishing 360 videos would be enough, we knew that we would have to develop the right forms to have an impact. Nevertheless, some videos have worked really well, and we did not hesitate to boost these posts to leverage their success. On the longer term, now that we have a better idea of what works, it’s a matter of fine-tuning the videos, but also of the posts that accompany them.
In terms of engagement, it’s always great to read people commenting on how much they are amazed by the immersive experience, and tagging their friends as well. In that respect, VR (or 360° video) is a very social medium. Some of the earlier comments we received complained the shots were too static, too empty. It’s valuable feedback for us, and we’ve gradually improved the quality of the videos, both technically and in terms of storytelling. Below is one of the videos we are the most proud of, and which performed the best.
[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/euronews/videos/vb.101402598109/10154244884558110/?type=2&theater” bottom=”30″]
And I think it is paying off: Facebook recently promoted one of our videos on their own Facebook 360° page. It’s a testimony of the progress made in just a few months. It’s more a feature-style piece, a virtual tour if you’d like, but the informational content is still front and center.
[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/euronews/videos/10154154557613110″ bottom=”30″]

What metrics are most important to your team in measuring the impact and success of video on Facebook and other platforms generally?

Creating a feedback loop is key to assessing the success of the whole 360° project at Euronews, eyeballs aren’t everything. There’s a variety of metrics to look at, including brand news ones – such as heatmaps that tell you where the audience navigated in the spherical video. One metric we look closely at the percentage of the video watched, which is so far similar to “regular videos”. Naturally we feel we can increase this significantly.
In total, by mid-October we had 2.8 million views across all platforms. On YouTube, the watch time on 360 content on our English channel is generally higher than average watch time for “regular video” – maybe helped by the fact that most of the 360° videos are longer. On Facebook, since August, the percentage of quality views (views longer than 10 seconds) for the top 5 360° videos outperform “regular” videos posted during the same period, by almost 10%. We’d like it to be the case for all upcoming 360° videos.

What advice would you have for other publishers looking to experiment with new video formats? Is there a ‘low entry’ means of doing this well, or does it always require big budgets and high production?

Experimenting with 360° videos is increasingly cheaper, thanks to new cameras, and simpler, with loads of resources online, such as Journalism360 on Medium. In terms of budget, we receive the financial backing of Google’s Digital News Innovation funds to set up the workflow, over the next couple years. It allows us to try out things, fail sometimes, and share our experience with the rest of the industry. We also have an exclusivity partnership with Samsung, meaning we use their Gear 360 camera (a great compromise between quality, speed and ease of use) and have a co-branded patch in our videos.
It is necessary because the scale of our project is unprecedented. But media organisations, or even freelancers, don’t need to invest tens of thousands to publish 360° videos. Capture systems are getting very affordable, and you only need a stitching and an editing software to get your videos ready – and upload them on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. One can also upload 360° photos on the latter. It’s a matter of finding the gear and workflow which works best for your objectives; in the case of Euronews, newsworthy reports published with a short-as-possible turn-around.
However, we consider 360° videos as a new tool in the journalist’s toolbox . So ‘low entry means’ should not mean being cheap when it comes to the editorial selection of the topic or the storytelling.
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