Lessons from 6 news publishers with seasoned approaches to social video: Facebook News Video Summit takeaways

News publishers are experimenting and learning from trials with social video and finding big success with verticals, hosts, and longer form content. Leaders from NowThis, Univision, ABC Localish and other news organizations showcased their findings and ideas on May 21 at the Facebook News Video Summit in New York, sharing their experiences with local and national news outlets from across the U.S.

Earlier in May, Facebook announced that it is putting greater emphasis on original content that draws intentional viewing and drives loyalty. Facebook reports that news publishers are finding the most success with daily news shows, talent-led content and unique production of video.

Best practices for news on Facebook Watch include content that:

  • builds loyalty through a strong content theme, concept or cast
  • is regularly scheduled to build habits
  • captivates viewers for at least one minute, or three minutes if seeking ad monetization
  • is audience-minded
  • includes company branding and strong descriptions so it’s search-friendly
  • has the highest resolution possible, and
  • the publisher spends time with after it’s posted — engaging in dialogue, starting conversations and responding to comments, which can turn a casual viewer into a loyal fan

Last year, Facebook funded several news shows on Facebook Watch. At the summit, six publishers who partnered with Facebook shared their top takeaways and experiences and lessons learned with social video, Watch, and IGTV.

1. Localish / ABC Owned Television Stations used Facebook Analytics to understand audience interest, and built a longer show.

More in Common from ABC Localish is a popular Facebook Watch show.

At Localish, a spinoff brand from ABC Owned Television Stations, the content focuses on the good in people across America, telling local stories that have national appeal while encouraging people to connect with their cities and showcasing local businesses. Executive Producer Michael Koenigs said in less than nine months, Localish launched nine original series including Worth the Wait and Secretly Awesome, created more than 400 evergreen videos, and developed production teams in eight major U.S. cities. Localish was able to use Facebook Analytics to understand which of that content had the greatest potential for a longer format, which will take the breakout hit More in Common from “Facebook Watch to now a 30-minute TV show syndicated across the country,” Koenigs said.

2. Insider narrowed content production based on testing.

Tony Manfred, Head of Video at Insider Inc., said sampling different shows and ideas on Facebook allowed the company to pinpoint the types of video content that performed the best with their audience, which ended up only being about 15 percent of their initial content offering. He said Insider builds social native video rather than creating a TV show that is placed on social media, using a wealth of data to determine which content will be featured. Business Insider has found success within Facebook Stories, where it publishes daily recaps of top news stories as well as stock market snapshots.

“Users love Stories,” he said. “They’re becoming the dominant form of social media consumption in the world, so it behooves us to learn how to tell stories there like we did in News Feed.”

3. NowThis learns how to stop the scroll, then hook and hold viewers.

NowThis reaches 70% of Americans in their 20s and boasts 2.5 billion monthly video views, primarily on platforms. Editor and Executive Producer Sarah Frank said NowThis went through extensive experimentation and testing to establish the best practices for creating videos that resonate with its audience, especially through evaluating failures. One key point to shaping the content was understanding how to stop the scroll and grab the viewer with exciting visuals, quotes, and by giving away the ending of the story at the beginning of the video. To hook and hold viewers, Frank said NowThis has had to find stories that matter to the audience and then experiment with video length with those top-performing, fan-favorite videos. The team found success with strong visual storytelling, fast-paced editing and emotional topics.

Understanding the content that resonates with viewers, NowThis has launched some longer and hosted episodic shows on Facebook Watch that are showing promising results.

“Hosts used to not work on social and now there’s a resurgence of making strong content with talent and encouraging talent to engage with channel followers,” she said.

With the longer shows, Frank said NowThis encourages hosts and staff to create multiplatform components that will push viewers to full episodes and help build loyalty around longer content. Key to both the hosted and unhosted shows is a consistent voice and tone that also helps establish loyal viewing.

4. Univision elevates beloved host on English platforms.

Real America with Jorge Ramos showcases how publishers are embracing new templates for vertical video.

The team at Univision has expanded a trusted host’s brand into a successful English platform news show, Real America with Jorge Ramos. The show embraces the vertical video format of Facebook Stories and IGTV and has found creative ways to think about a different architecture for the mobile screen, said Mark Lima, vice president of news at Fusion/Univision. Since launching the show, Univision has learned that intimacy matters for social video, and much of the show is shot by the host using an iPhone, which creates a narrative intimacy. Additionally, Lima said that the interactivity of the host — getting into the comments and building trust with the audience — is most important when building out successful programming.

5. ABC News correspondents keep it close-up and casual for On Location.

With the ABC News made-for-Facebook show On Location, visual storytelling and shareability are at the forefront in a first-person experience format that removes many of the formalities of traditional TV news. Using the global resources of ABC News, reporters shoot casual, selfie-style videos to demonstrate news scenarios for viewers, bringing them much closer to the action than traditional TV allows. Kelly Harold, managing editor of digital video, said the show is stacked based on visuals, with the most viral and visually interesting story leading the social news show—even if it’s not the top news of the day. Each segment is fairly short, made for vertical, and includes elements like pop-up graphics or words to tell the story without sound.

6. VICE partners with talent to grow brands simultaneously.

At VICE, the team produces 1,500 pieces of content daily. Youyoung Lee, director of audience development, said VICE is a host-forward company, and the team works with highly passionate, relatable personalities to grow the personal brands alongside the VICE name.

“People are more likely to engage with a personality than a brand,” she said.

VICE experiments in Instagram Stories to pilot new concepts and social franchises, finding it a live pool of audience interaction that can provide qualitative and quantitative data. She recommends using storyboarding to plan out the content and ensure each video is enticing enough to viewers to hold their attention — especially in Stories.

“Even 15 seconds can be too long,” she said. “We want to make sure every frame is as juicy and interesting as possible.”

This report was produced by the Local News Resource Center at LMA, which is funded by the Facebook Journalism Project.