Who’s watching? What is the role of online video today?

The role of online video,  when it comes to news stories – is one which has shifted significantly over the last 5+ years. When I started out as a broadcast journalist more than 10 years ago, the so-called ‘integrated newsroom’ was still in its infancy – with the odd story being ‘put online’ (usually as an aside, or afterthought) to support what we may be broadcasting live on radio or TV.

Today, according to the recently released Reuters Institute Digital News Report, consumption of video news has increased in nearly all countries questioned.

The likes of Buzzfeed of course, rely on a sociable news model, taking their news beyond the ‘online article’ model and instead offering anything from live blogs, infographics and quizzes to promote the sharing of content.

However traditional publishers (Trinity Mirror and New York Times) have grown audiences and advertising revenue through creating their own video output.

Broadcasters are also driving audiences onto their digital platforms, Al Jazeera English (an Edelman client) has seen a 33% rise in the number of people viewing its YouTube content in the last 12 months (up to nearly 16m from about 10.5m) and a massive jump in how many minutes people are watching for (up 47% from around 44m minutes to just over 82m). It says that their online editorial team is dedicated to focusing on original reporting, leveraging their sources and generating stories that offer a depth that won’t be found elsewhere.

The Reuters research shows that whilst live streams are very popular on big breaking-news stories and scheduled events, they do tend to be watched by those who are most interested in news. It is the section of the public who are less news hungry who will make snap judgements about watching a piece of online content. More than half (52%) of those questioned in the UK say that in the last month they’d watched an online video that they felt added ‘drama’ to a text story (an eyewitness account or similar), but a similar amount (48%) say they watched a video which provided context or analysis.

This is where I think PRs who work closely with clients and stay across news stories can add value. We often have access to people who are able to offer specific and detailed analysis on a story that can be easily accessed by audiences. I’m not advocating a brand video – and I think there is a fine balance – as I believe that was potentially the mistake made by some companies (and titles) when the idea of that integrated newsroom was being developed. However, content that gives a viewer something different – a new perspective on a business decision; what a particular company’s actions mean for the consumer; or a future prediction – can be valuable and most importantly, compelling.

Two other key factors came out of the study, which are also well worth considering when it comes to brands developing online video content. The first is how social networks are being used to distribute online news – globally 41% of people say they use Facebook to find, read, watch, share or comment on news each week. It means that we, as viewers, almost have an inbuilt filter in what we’re seeing on our news feeds – birds of a feather and all that. Brands using Facebook to distribute need to understand that they may resonate with existing supporters, but their content may only be viewed by a similar demographic.

The second is that whilst the UK media environment has always been a fast-paced and competitive one, 42% now say that they use their phone to access news every week – the competition for peoples’ attention has got even tougher. News outlet apps and their content are not only under pressure to engage quickly – with users viewing on their commute or similar – but are also now competing with Angry Birds and Tinder.

As we continue to be bombarded with information, the position of the online news video is integral to outlets growing their audiences. Our time remains finite and being given updates and opinion we can easily digest and share will be paramount.

Edelman is the exclusive communications partner for the annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report.

Follow Shauna on Twitter for more.

By Shauna McCarthy, Associate Director of Edelman

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