How to Create News Videos that go Viral on Social Media

August 25, 2017 • Photography and Video, Research, Short stories • by

video news

Vice News video report on the August 2017 Charlottesville riots, viewed nearly six million times.

Hard news videos, particularly about politics, are the most successful online, followed by videos about celebrities and lifestyle, according to a new study into how to make news videos that go viral on social media. Sports videos are the least watched, capturing only around 2% of the audience.

The study, How to Create News that Rocks on Social Media, is based on content analysis and interviews with the the heads of video, business, and social media in eight British and Spanish newsrooms – including HuffPost, Sky News, El País, and the Financial Times – about how they develop video for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Online video news consumption has been steadily increasing. In the United Kingdom the number of people watching video news online has gone up from 16% in 2014 to 22% in 2017. In Spain it has increased slightly faster, from 17% to 27%.

The study’s author, Judith Argila, head of New Platforms at TV3 & Catalunya Ràdio (CCMA), analysed the extent to which newsrooms had a strategic vision of video news distribution to meet growing audience demand, including brand awareness and financial investment. Argila also questioned organisations about the profiles and skills of their video production teams, and how they were incorporated into newsrooms.

Argila conducted content analysis of the 134 most successful videos in February 2017. The results showed a consistency in the most popular topics and subtopics. Politics (24%) and lifestyle and celebrities (22%) were the topics that featured most highly. Health and education followed at 17%, business (11%), art and culture (7%), followed by environment, crime and security and science and tech, with sport at the bottom of the table at 2%.

One interviewee, Josune Imízcoz of Spanish video site, PlayGround, said: “It is not true that cat and dog videos are the only ones that work in Facebook. We are a good example that there is audience in Facebook for more serious topics: we have hit high numbers in international affairs, social issues, environmentalism, feminism, uncovered conflicts in the field… Our most successful stories are hard news stories. People are really interested in news – they were just asking for a different approach.”

Argila concluded that short, texted videos are the predominant format for news distribution. The study also identified the role of testimonial videos for virality and the effectiveness of raw material for breaking news.

The report is available to download here.


Judith Argila was a Journalism Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism 2017. She was sponsored by the Google Digital News Initiative

pic credit: Screen shot, Vice News /HBO

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