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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How video, and a champion, can transform newsrooms

November 2, 2022 | By Claire Gould, Global Editor in Chief – Oovvuu @cakesinaus

There are no two ways about it: video storytelling is the future of news. 

However, it is currently being used as a secondary source to illustrate the written word, almost as an afterthought.

As highlighted in the 2022 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford, you only need to look at Gen Zers and Gen Alphas to see the growing prominence and relevance of video. Practically everything these under 30s consume is done through video. And there’s no delineation between news content versus social content etc. for them. It’s all content. It’s all news. It’s everything. 

Couple this with the continuing shoe-horning of TikTok trends and viral videos as news from online publishers, and you’ve got an up-and-coming audience with an appetite for video content before anything else. They’re always connected and they’re ready to scroll. 

Why, then, are newsrooms the world over not adopting a video-first strategy? Worldwide, just 0.7% of articles have a video in them. 

A video strategy isn’t enough 

Having worked in newsrooms for nearly my entire career, I know that many publishers have a video strategy in place.

That strategy could take many forms, from creating in-article video galleries, to targeting social media as a video distribution channel to trawling the internet for the best viral content. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has sat in a news conference and debated the merits of making a viral video (a true contradiction in terms). 

So, to clarify: At least on paper, newsrooms have a video strategy. But things aren’t going according to plan. 

They know video is important and it’s something their audience wants. And it’s the most profitable medium newsrooms can utilize. There’s an audience that wants video and there are advertisers who want to run their ads against video. So why has video success been so elusive for so many publishers around the world? 

Quite simply, it’s all in the execution. 

A publisher can have the most innovative video strategy the publishing world has ever seen, but if they don’t have someone dedicated to enacting that strategy, it’s never going to reach its full potential. Commonly, publishers KPI their newsrooms on embedding video and think this will solve the problem. My experience is that it does not. Newsrooms are frenetic, and video is rarely a priority. 

Ownership makes all the difference 

Independent Online, known to readers as IOL, is one of South Africa’s leading news and information websites with over two million monthly readers. In early 2022 its video numbers had become stagnant despite video being highlighted by the editor as a priority for all staff. 

As with most newsrooms, there were competing priorities and adoption was slow. Indeed, feedback from the editorial team around the video priority was: “It’s kind of a lack of focus,” “I’m super busy” and “To be honest, I really thought someone else was doing it.” 

When it’s everyone’s job, it’s no one’s job. 

In August 2022, IOL made the decision to hire a dedicated video embedder. An experienced journalist, she knows what makes a good story, what is meaningful to audiences and can work at the speed required for a hectic newsroom. She was given access to the CMS and permission to add videos to articles herself, working hand in hand with her boss and reporting up to an existing executive in the newsroom who volunteered to be video’s champion. 

The benefits were immediate and nothing short of excellent. 

“We are extremely happy with the deployment of an embedder across IOL. The positive impact is clear to see for all. Our streams are up 3x and user engagement is at an all-time high. It really does pay to have a team focused on driving our video strategy.”

–Faheem Khota, Content Manager: Video & Audio, IOL News

 The results speak for themselves: 

  • 370% increase in video streams since she joined the newsroom 
  • The percentage of articles with video (saturation) has risen from 8% to 48% 
  • Play rate has risen from 3.9% to 8.5% due to more considered video choices 
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Due to this huge upswing in all video metrics for IOL, video advertising inventory is sold out and video consumption is at record levels. That means video is working for all facets of the organization: editorial and commercial. 

But they’re not stopping there. IOL is now seeking to take the next step in video growth. 

To date, the embedder has only fulfilled a reactive role – adding videos to the existing stories. IOL has now initiated a new focus with them on two key growth opportunities: 

  1. Watch stories. The embedder will work with the video champion and Oovvuu’s extensive video catalog to create video-first stories which will get homepage exposure 
  2.  Fast video hubs. The embedder will use Oovvuu tech to quickly create video-only collections in big and fast moving and recurring stories: 
    a. The Ukraine and Russia conflict 
    b. The impact of big tech 
    c. Manned exploration of space etc.

Oovvuu’s Africa lead Myles Brown has led the relationship with IOL. He said: “In truth, it wasn’t easy getting IOL to take the first step. It took months. But now it’s done, there’s no looking back and they are highly motivated to grow. We have shared the numbers with other publishers in the market and now they are asking for embedders too. It means we are giving new jobs and training to journalists, which is very satisfying to be honest.” 

This seismic shift in the IOL newsroom is not unique to one publisher or region. In fact, it could and should be replicated around the world. IOL’s proactive tackling of a problem that is endemic in publishing everywhere, with hindsight, is so simple. If you aren’t in a position to create large quantities of video, you can start by working with a provider (like Oovvuu) to get the video assets.

Then, to be successful with video:

  • Make a person or a distinct set of people accountable. 
  • Make them subject matter experts. 
  • Harness the passion for what they do by empowering them to do the work.

In the end, it’s about delivering a world class end-to-end experience for our audiences. Today’s audiences, particularly younger ones – who are your growth opportunity – want video. Not every organization has the capacity or ability to create the quality and quantity of video that will be required to move the needle. But, if they are able to outsource that component, they can easily leverage their longstanding ability to employ subject matter experts to manage their content in a way that incorporates video to better engage and serve audiences. 

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