The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently published a fascinating report on The Future of Online News Video. It takes a hard, statistical look at news video and news publishers online and in the social space. There’s a wealth of valuable data for news organizations and video creators, but one of the biggest takeaway is that emotional storytelling in social video is extremely important, even for hard news publishing.
This may sound counterintuitive, because when we think of hard news, we often think of factual reporting, not emotional resonance. But as we have learned about social video broadly, emotional resonance drives viewership and engagement. This stands true for news video, as well.
Viewers want an emotional experience
The researchers analyzed numerous videos from a variety of news publishers. The data revealed two important elements related to emotion in videos.
First, lifestyle/entertainment videos made up 40% of the most successful Facebook videos, even from publishers and brands traditionally associated with hard news content. Think videos of baby animals, children, recipes, etc. While not uniformly true, lifestyle/entertainment content is much likelier to have a positive emotional focus, than the average news story.
Second, and more importantly, it was found that 7 of the top 10 news videos on Facebook were primarily emotional, versus primarily factual, despite the fact that overall 58% of all videos studied were factual. This doesn’t preclude an emotional video from sharing factual information, or vice versa, but it reiterates that viewers on social are best captured with emotional content. Not only are viewers most interested in watching emotional videos, but they also prompt social actions publishers want.
Emotion drives social engagement
When a social video invokes an emotional response in a viewer, they are much likelier to engage with that content, through shares, likes, and comments. Perhaps they want to share the emotional experience with their friends or the piece draws them into a conversation .
Whatever the case, emotions motivate people to act, in daily life and on social media. News publishers, as all brands and content creators on social, would do well to pursue a focus on emotional storytelling if they want to maximize success in the social space.
News publishers face a new challenge
However, that social video success relies on emotional resonance presents a new challenge for news outlets. How do you report hard news with an emotional angle, especially if the news is unpleasant and if you wish to remain objective?
There’s no surefire answer, and the need for an emotional angle raises other potential concerns for news publishing. Does the need for an emotional angle mean that only lighthearted or biased coverage can have a place on social?
While the concern is understandable, the report also makes clear that there is still a desire for hard news on social, especially when big stories are breaking.
Still, publishers should be experimenting with emotional storytelling in all their coverage on social. An emotional arc exists within most any human narrative. It’s up to creators to suss it out and utilize it in presenting fact-based news without always skewing coverage. Facing this challenge head on can not only lead to greater success on social, but might just see publishers who blaze the trail define what news looks like on social as we move into the future.