5 tips from The Aspen Times on using Facebook Live and video to engage followers


By Emilie LutostanskiLocal News Resource Center

The Aspen Times Editor David Krause was introduced to video storytelling at a TV news gig before his current role. When he arrived to Aspen three years ago, he met some production staff already tinkering with 360-degree camera technology, and a culture of video production has stuck ever since.

Fast forward to 2020 when COVID-19 cases and Black Lives Matter rallies have hit the popular Colorado tourism destination. The Aspen Times staff has kept the cameras rolling on their Facebook page throughout the overlapping news cycles.

These are some 2020 video projects at The Aspen Times:

“It’s interesting to see the different things that people will gravitate toward, but the key — just like stories and anything else, if the content is interesting then people will watch it,” Krause said.

New to shooting video as a newsroom? Krause recommends newsrooms follow these tips:

1. Don’t worry about a script

Have some notes ready but otherwise let your setting and the events in your community tell the story.

“We live in a great place where there’s a lot of interesting things that happen, so let’s just give it to them live,” Krause said.

2. Incorporate video into planning

The Aspen Times increased its meeting frequency during pandemic coverage to 9 a.m. weekday meetings to discuss stories in the works for the next 1-2 days. That has opened up the team’s existing weekly meeting to focus more on what stories could include a video component, Krause said. A lot of the video work is split between him, Digital Engagement Editor Rose Laudicina, and Photographer Kelsey Brunner.

The team is considering how to cover the Fourth of July in Aspen while quarantines cause the city to skip any major events this year.

“But we’re still here, so let us show you what it looks like here even in this time,” Krause said. “Sorry you can’t be here, but we’ll put you here for a little bit and let you escape for a little bit.”

3. Consider the proper video formats for each story

Considering whether to shoot live video while skiing down a mountain? Krause and his staff learned the hard way that it isn’t necessarily a good idea where mobile service might be spotty. That is why each video assignment should be done in the best format that takes into account potential logistical constraints. Consider these 3 options:

  • Facebook Live: Uncut footage aired directly to followers from the scene
  • Produced Video: Roll video and then edit before uploading footage
  • Look Live: Roll video and then upload the footage with minimal to no edits

4. Check-in with your audience

During recent Black Lives Matter field coverage, it was common for The Aspen Times to activate Facebook Live for extended periods, including one feed that ran for nearly an hour and a half. Krause said it helps to have someone keeping an eye on audience comments and moderate as necessary.

Also, keep streaming as long as your audience sticks around. Dozens remained online to watch Aspent BLM rallies, so Krause kept the cameras rolling all weekend, he said. But be sure to provide context behind the live feed as users arrive and depart.

5. Combine resources to maximize return

Swift Communications, the parent company of The Aspen Times and several other daily publications in nearby mountain resort towns, named Krause the head editor of a strategic operating team of newsroom leaders responsible for increasing collaboration among the local operations.

COVID-19 served as a timely regional news event that helped prompt the editor group to coordinate Zoom Live webinars that were promoted via Facebook and other avenues. Each Thursday for nearly two months, the Swift Communications group hosted experts to discuss various pandemic-related topics ranging from mental health to education.

“As a group, it was just one of those things that we knew it would go well in our markets but didn’t have the time to do it individually,” Krause said. “So we just said, ‘OK, let’s use all of our resources.”

And once a video is posted on Facebook, always embed the media into the final story, he said.