Nic Newman: the rapidly changing landscape for news video

The rapid adoption of social video - the so-called "pivot to video" has not been well supported by research - until now. Nic Newman presents his early findings.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017.

Nic Newman, Research Associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Nic kicks of by debunking some of the most common video myths…

Common myths

Is video eating the internet? No. It’s not true that audiences can’t get enough. The growth is coming from supply side and technology changes, not demand side. There’s precious little evidence that young people want more video than older people – but they’re getting so much more of it.

And short form? Well, yes, it’s working now. But is it the best way for the future?

Video consumption varies wildly by country. High in the US and Canada, but quite low in Denmark. The majority of people are not consuming news video. People still have an over-whelming preference for text . The figures are shifting a little towards video – but not hugely. And there’s little difference in the preference between the young and old.


Text provides control – it lets them get information quickly. Video is often supplementary: adding drama, context or reality. It’s adding trust – the footage is seen as credible.

Video road blocks

Nic Newman

Pre-rolls are a real turn off for people. They are really viriolic about it – and their resistance is growing. The contrast between Facebook – where video just plays – and news websites where they have to endure a 30 second ad is marked.

61% of videos on Facebook are entertainment rather than news. Only 11% of BBC news users access video in their app, and 7% of Guardian users – but that goes up to 19% and 22% during breaking news. The growth is mainly offsite.

A brief history of social video

2015 was the auto-play year, with vertical, square, and Immersive/360 taking off. This was the year when internet video started rivalry TV for breaking news.

2016 had the consolidation of live formats. Twitter did good work in bringing together the social and video environments – but ethical issues are rising with battles, suicides and assaults.

In 2017? Short social video is a major priority, as is live – with their own sites, long form and VR lagging behind. But things have changed since January. Short form is commoditising rapidly. It’s really hard to monetise it. Facebook is now pushing towards longer view with midrolls ay 90s. Live is retreating – Facebook is no longer paying for it. Live is not efficient in an attention poor world.

Long form is increasingly being shot with extras for social in mind. Long might be trends towards immersive: look at Economist films. And VR? An empathy machine.

VR: key points

  • Moving away from documentary focus towards real time content – 360 is the major consumption route
  • There are significant barriers around headset ttake-up and productions costs
  • No real business models yet
  • The content is still technology-driven rather than audience-driven

Things to consider

  1. Understand what your audience’s video needs actually are – and how they differ onsite and off site
  2. What might future users want?
  3. Is it a good investment against other content types?
  4. What are the realistic opportunities for revenue – especially as more pile into the market.
  5. What’s the role of offsite? Revenue? Priming the funnel?
  6. What formats and tools can make the process easier?
  7. What new skills do we need?
  8. Is this something we do ourselves – or do we partner with others.
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.