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Online video news driven by technology, publishers and platforms, not consumers - new report

28 Jun 2016

Growth around online video news seems to have been largely driven by technology, publishers and platforms, rather than strong consumer demand, a new report from the Reuters Institute finds – but breaking news events may hold clues to success.

The report, The Future of Online News Video, by Antonis Kalogeropoulos, Federica Cherubini and Nic Newman, explores the explosion in online video news seen over the last few years, and the implications for journalism. The authors interviewed around 30 news organisations to understand developing strategies and approaches – with a focus on the UK, US, Germany and Italy. Most companies have been investing in video over the past year with large publishers more than doubling their video postings through social networks like Facebook and experimenting with live services such as Periscope and Facebook Live.The results may hold disappointment for publishers focused on news video. The report shows that just a small proportion of time spent on news sites is spent on video (an average of 2.5% across 30 websites) with even large producers of video content, like BBC News struggling to get beyond one in ten of users accessing video on a visit. The report showed a marked increase in interest in online video news when it came to large-scale breaking events. The percentage of users accessing BBC News following the Paris attacks in November 2015 more than doubled, from 10% on an average day to 22% immediately after the attacks.

The conclusions of the report back up survey results from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report (released 15th June 2016), which showed that 78% of global sample of 50,000 saying they never or only occasionally accessed a news video. The survey showed limited growth in the use of news video and wide variations between countries.  

Report author Antonis Kalogeropoulos says:  “Online video news provides a powerful and popular way of covering compelling stories, but not all everyday news coverage is equally compelling. So far, the growth around online video news seems to be largely driven by technology, platforms, and publishers rather than by strong consumer demand.”  Other key findings from the report include: Off-site news video consumption is growing fast – with Facebook a key focus of activity Some common key markers of success for off-site and social videos include brevity, the ability to play without sound, a focus on soft news and a strong emotional element Publishers are beginning to embrace online news video (79% of senior digital news leaders surveyed by the Reuters Institute at the beginning of 2016 said they would be investing more over the course of the year) – but most remain in an experimental phase The monetisation of news video remains the biggest challenge for news organisations. On-site monetisation continues to rely on pre-roll ads, despite acknowledgement that poor user experience affects growth. Broadcasters, newspapers and digital born new organisations face different challenges in adopting content for online video, according to co-author Nic Newman. “Newspapers, in a period of retrenchment, are finding it challenging to fund new investment and retrain a predominantly text based workforce while many broadcasters are struggling to adapt to the new grammar of digital video. Digital born companies are better equipped to take risks in new formats and distribution but many have become dependent on powerful platforms over which they have little control.” Overall, the report is cautious about the long-term dynamics for video news. Video that adds drama and immediacy is valued and expected by consumers on news websites, but only up to a point and in certain circumstances - with both young and old still valuing the control and flexibility of text. 

Co-author Federica Cherubini says: “Although we are likely to see considerable innovation in both formats and production over the next few years, it is hard to see video replacing text in terms of the range of stories, and the depth of comment and analysis traditionally generated by publishers.”

Read the full report online here