"Can we please stop doing video as social TV?" – Journalists on creating social video

April 10, 2017

Written by NewsWhip

We hear some ways that newsrooms have been experimenting with social video on different platforms, from the recent International Journalism Festival in Italy. 

At the International Journalism Festival in Perugia last week, a panel of leading social video publishers shared how they are going about making successful videos for social media audiences.

From what we’ve seen over the last two years, social video is perhaps the fastest evolving content format that publishers have to adapt to. For instance, just a few months ago, Facebook announced that videos that achieved higher completion rates would be favoured in the news feed, while previously publishers had focussed on making extremely short videos for the platform.

While the rules of engagement change rapidly, there’s still huge potential to reach vast audiences with video on Facebook, Instagram and more. At the panel in Perugia, journalists shared their experiences of working with social video to reach new viewers.

‘Don’t do what everyone else is doing’ – Esra Dogramaci, Senior Digital Editor at Deutsche Welle

Esra opened by playing a video from the New York Times that saw millions of views on Facebook last year.


The video did not follow many of the conventional social video advice – it was not square, and ran to almost three minutes – a fairly lengthy clip by Facebook video standards. Esra’s advice was twofold; to not blindly follow what everyone else is doing, and to focus on meaningful metrics, rather than reading too much into social video views, which can be misleading.

As well as that, Esra noted that the following factors play a large role in creating successful video for social media viewers:

  • Publishers need to optimise for each platform.
  • There is fear of being different, which is still difficult. Digital people might feel ostracised in their newsroom. Don’t be afraid to talk to competitors!
  • Many people still don’t care about data. Either people are being told the wrong metrics, or inflated metrics that don’t mean a thing.

Check out Esra’s full presentation, ‘10 Things I Learned About Social Video‘ for more. 

‘Reach is great, but how do you monetise?’ John Crowley, Editor-in-Chief of International Business Times UK

John’s site, the International Business Times, is a digital first news organisation that has an ambition to ‘dominate’ video. John says that having experimented with TV like programming on Facebook in a different newsroom, it fell flat as a format.

International Business Times use Facebook Live as another way of telling the news to their audience. In the recent terrorist attack at Westminster, London, the IBT newsroom was able to quickly dispatch a reporter to the scene with an iPhone, microphone and remote WiFi hotspot. This kind of video storytelling is now critical for their news operation.


In terms of measurement, John says that ‘reach is great, but how do you monetise? Driving people to site can be a false economy.’

In five years time, you’ll have newsrooms where everyone will be expected to create video. John recommended trying video creation platform Wochit, which allows newsrooms to turn around social video very quickly.

‘Never stop experimenting’ Natalie Malinarich, Mobile and New Formats Editor for BBC News

A year and a half ago, Natalie’s team at the BBC started thinking about how to make video for a mobile audience.

At the outset, they asked themselves some fundamental questions about user behaviour. Do people flip their phones to watch mobile video? Do they listen to the audio? What times of day are most popular? Are social video audiences really not the same as video viewers on the web or TV?

The result was a new ‘Videos of the Day‘ feature in the BBC News app. It’s a mobile-first segment in the app that allows users to swipe through a round up of vertical videos from the day in news. As well as covering the news of the day, the BBC team also post ‘in case you missed it’ roundups at the weekend, in ways that BBC wouldn’t cover in their main TV bulletins.

Despite the effort needed to create a new format for the app, Natalie says that most of the work actually involved thinking about how the team would employ storytelling through the new format. “We found we needed ‘a voice that felt BBC, but at the same time, was different to TV… it took a long time,” she explained.

To tell interesting and unique stories through the video app, the BBC team looked at what they could do with extra material that their investigative journalists came back from the field with. One example was a feature called ‘Texting a Chimpanzee Dealer’, which was a report on animal smuggling in Africa.

Through this and other projects, Natalie says the team’s understanding of what works for social and mobile video changed. “Your starting point has to be ‘what’s the point of this video?’ Who’s it for? Never stop experimenting,” she says.

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