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Video: A primer

The role of video in your storytelling toolkit is complex, requiring decisions about what your audience wants and what you can provide with quality and differentiation.

Video as a storytelling tool is certainly not new — not even for legacy newspaper publishers who have been experimenting with and getting increasingly better at using video in a variety of ways. But the role of video in the storytelling toolkit is complex: What is the role of video in my newsroom? What do our audiences want/need? How much should we invest? Do I need a dedicated videographer or team? What does it take to be good? How do I distribute video? What platforms and technology do I need to use?

Here are a few of the key considerations:

  • Of course, lots of demand can (and has) led to low-quality video and poor-to-terrible video advertising. There is great debate over whether growth in video views actually translates to demand for more news video. More news sources mean more fragmentation and, by and large, more low-quality news video. Further, research shows younger audiences actually prefer text. So while the question of whether to fully “pivot to video” is an interesting one, the biggest questions are around whether and how to create, produce and distribute quality storytelling.
  • At least for now, video also gives you a big advantage on social media. Facebook videos have higher reach than any other type of post, being served in users’ News Feeds far more often than links to articles. (See the “Storytelling Formats” topic for more on livestreaming.) And even Apple News is experimenting with Featured Videos (for the unfamiliar, Apple News accounts for as much as 15 percent of participating publishers’ traffic).
  • But is it worth “pivoting to video”? Aside from being an annoying user experience, a high volume of auto-play, social-friendly video clips may not be a sustainable strategy. Google and Apple are both testing features to block auto-play video and Facebook and other platforms can change their algorithms at any time.
  • So where should news organizations invest if not in short silent social clips, and not in live video of people reading the news? News organizations of many sizes have found success in narrative, cinematic video journalism – and they can be proud of the storytelling they’re doing, too. Other techniques with a low barrier to entry are 360 video clips and drone video clips, which many smaller news organizations can use to provide viewers with a uniquely local perspective, even without expert cinematography, narrative scripting or video editing skills.