Tailoring Broadcast News to Digital Channels: 3 Best Practices

By in Broadcast

The TV and online worlds continue to converge, and that gives local broadcasters a unique opportunity: even as people head online more and more, they still trust local news, reports the Knight Foundation. And while the TV ad marketplace may be choppy, online ad revenue is set to continue growing, says AdExchanger, even amidst a global pandemic.

Accessing this digital revenue stream could be crucial to the long-term growth of broadcast organizations, and that access relies on effectively tailoring broadcast news to different platforms. Driving audiences back to your own website means adjusting how you package the news content you’re already producing, not just for your website, but for all the social platforms where viewers can find you.

As you repackage your broadcast news for digital and social use, keep these best practices in mind.

1. Know Your Audience and Your Platforms

You can’t simply put the same video on different digital platforms without some tweaking. For instance, YouTube’s aspect ratio is not the same as Instagram’s, and in any case, the people scrolling through Facebook want something different from people clicking on your YouTube video (namely, captions). To get the most out of your social and digital efforts, you have to know who you’re trying to engage. Does your audience skew female? Male? How young? Do they watch with the sound on or off? Is the platform’s content discovery haphazard, curated by the user themselves, or guided by an algorithm?

Beyond your audience, these video platforms also have their own demographic skew to consider. Some, like Facebook, tend to think of themselves more as walled gardens that want to keep users on their platform. Remember: You don’t want to build an audience just on these platforms, but rather you want to direct them back to your website. Make that as easy as possible; if you post bite-size social video, accompany that with a link leading to the full-size video on your site.

2. Play Where You Know You Can Win

After you’ve gotten a good look at the audience composition of each platform, start being choosy. Don’t spoil your newsroom’s resources on platforms where videos just aren’t getting views. An example: Digiday reports that some news outlets, like the New York Times, have abandoned Snapchat because they’ve found that their content just isn’t what Snapchat users want.

As you dig into your analytics, it’s worth noting that what counts as a view varies widely from platform to platform. On YouTube, a “view” is 30 seconds; on Facebook, it’s 2 seconds. Other metrics, like “engagement” through shares or comments, or average watch time, will tell you a more complete story.

3. Make Digital Video Part of Your Workflow

Your social and digital video strategy can’t just be an afterthought. Once you’ve chosen your preferred platforms, integrate the production of these videos into your digital distribution workflow.

Tailoring broadcast news for social distribution can be a bit of a chore for your employees if you don’t have a software solution where this capability is baked in. A solution that makes it simple to automatically publish videos to various social channels could increase compliance and lift some of the burden from already-busy editors and producers. You also need a solution that enables multiple people to collaborate on the same videos for maximum efficiency.

What do these best practices look like in reality? Here are some examples from digital-first news organizations that could inspire your strategy.

Business Insider’s So Expensive Series

Each episode of Business Insider’s video series So Expensive explains why a particular consumer good is, well, so expensive. The series is designed to attract an audience that may not necessarily be hungry for news. The prominent Business Insider logo creates a relationship between the outlet and its viewers on that platform, driving them to other content not only on the platform but also on the Business Insider website.

The videos’ aspect ratios differ between YouTube and Facebook. Captions are endemic to videos on Facebook, since 85 percent of Facebook video views happen with the sound off, according to Digiday. Calls to action also vary slightly. Episodes also have different release dates on different platforms—the Instagram release of one episode came a few days after its YouTube premiere.

NowThis News Focuses on Social Video

Shorty Award-nominated NowThis News was created with the express purpose of producing news videos for social platforms. It takes the same story and tells it in different ways across the platforms.

One example: Its Twitter video about Florida breaking a record for COVID-19 cases begins quite differently from the Instagram video on the same subject, because the audiences are looking for different things. The Twitter version puts you right into the action, with raw user-generated footage from the scene, while the Instagram version takes a stats-driven, polished approach.

While these case studies offer valuable insights, digital-first news organizations don’t have a monopoly on social or digital video. There’s more than enough room for broadcasters to play—and they need to, if they’re going to flourish as ad dollars shift from TV to digital.

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Oriana Schwindt is a freelance writer based in New York. She primarily covers the TV industry, dabbling also in travel and culture.