How a Spanish startup became the second biggest European news publisher on TikTok
Italian journalist Francesco Zaffarano has recently launched a biweekly Substack newsletter, Mapping journalism on social platforms, featuring interviews with people leading news innovation on social media. Here's the latest interview he published, lightly edited for brevity and clarity. The original is available at this link. Sign up for the newsletter here.
Ac2ality, a popular Spanish TikTok-native news startup, was launched in Spain in the spring of 2020 by Daniela McArena, Gabriela Campbell, Paula Muñoz, and María Murillo right after the first COVID-19 lockdown in Spain. Today, it produces an average of five videos daily for a Spanish-speaking audience.
According to Nic Newman's recent report, Ac2ality has become the second biggest European news publisher on TikTok, with 4.2 million followers in just a couple of years. The first in the ranking is the Daily Mail, with 4.4.
I spoke with Daniela McArena, co-founder of Ac2ality, about creating content for TikTok, the outlet’s business model and their successes and challenges so far.
Q. How would you describe your TikTok account in one sentence to someone who has never seen it?
A. We translate the newspapers – we explain the news in less than a minute in an easy, visual, and straightforward way.
Q. What is your standard workflow to create content for TikTok?
A. A journalist researches the news story and writes the script – the length is around 190 words, the equivalent of a one-minute video. The script is then sent to a presenter who shoots and edits the video. Depending on the video, the process can last between one and three hours.
Q. How would you describe your mix of content? Do you have recurrent formats?
A. We have three different formats:
- 5 Cosas De Hoy (5 things about today): a 30-second brief of the five most important news of the day;
- Explícamelo Fácil: one-minute explainers on a single news story in one minute;
- Trends: we start with a popular video or trending audio to create a piece of content that is related to the news.
@ac2ality el chatgpt lo está petando colega Fuente: Xataka @Gabi Campbell #explicamelofacil #noticiasfaciles #chatgpt #openai #jimmy #aprendecontiktok ♬ original sound - Noticias en 1 min ?
Q. How many people work on your TikTok account?
A. The team comprises four full-time members: one journalist and three presenters/video-makers.
Q. What is Ac2ality's business model?
A. We work with brands to publish branded content – one of our biggest clients is Disney+. We also produce white-label content for other companies’ social media accounts.
Q. What metrics do you look at to analyse your content performance and why?
A. We care about engagement the most because everything else depends on engagement. The more engagement you have, the more views you will get and, consequently, more comments, likes, and followers. But video views are the most important metric for our clients – brands want as many views as possible.
Q. What do you find challenging about TikTok?
A. It doesn’t matter how big you are on the platform – you can find huge accounts with a very low level of engagement. That’s a tricky part of the app. The main distribution channel is the For You page, which can feature any account based on what TikTok thinks you might find interesting. This means you can reach people who don’t follow you, but so can anyone else, and winning that competition can be very difficult. But it’s fundamental to grow.
Q. What is your goal on TikTok?
A. To create and ride a wave of new journalism. The short video format is here to stay. Young people (and those not so young anymore) consume news on social media – more than anywhere else. If traditional news media outlets don’t focus more on that, other, smaller players will win over younger audiences.
Q. What is the TikTok-specific project you are most proud of?
A. Together with TikTok, we created the hashtag #EmprendedorZ. The idea was that people had to post a one-minute video explaining an idea or a business project, and the five winners would win €10,000 to start their project. People posted thousands of videos and amazing ideas.
Q. Do you use any particular tools for your work on TikTok? Which ones would you recommend?
A. Videoleap and TikTok itself. TikTok is an amazing app to edit.
Q. What project or experiment would you love to do on TikTok?
A. One-minute interviews with famous people. The first I would like to do is with Lola Lolita, the most famous TikToker in Spain.
Q. One thing you have learned while working on TikTok?
A. Shadow-banning exists. There are days or weeks when your content is not shown to people, and your views are ridiculously low. It’s like you get punished because you probably did something TikTok didn’t like. It is just part of the game; you need to know how to play it.
Q. One thing you would like to change on TikTok?
A. Monetisation. It should be better, like on YouTube. We are a company, so we don’t get access to monetisation. However, many individual creators with access to monetisation have decided not to join the program because TikTok pay-per-view is very low, and creators complained they saw their views getting worse after getting into the monetisation program.
Q. What would you do differently if you started your account today?
A. Nothing. You learn by doing.
Q. Which three accounts should I check out on TikTok?
Francesco Zaffarano is an experienced Italian digital journalist, currently working as senior audience editor at global development platform Devex. Before this, he was editor-in-chief of Italian social media-first outlet Will Media and has covered a range of roles in social media and audience engagement for several Italian and UK newspapers. Zaffarano has recently launched a biweekly Substack newsletter, ‘Mapping journalism on social platforms’, featuring interviews with people leading news innovation on social media. The original interview is available at this link. Sign up for the newsletter here.