Huffington Post finds feel good videos perform best on Facebook

The Huffington Post says it wants to do more feel-good videos for Facebook, backed by data that shows this type of content performs better than regular or negative news.

Last fall, the publisher launched HuffPost Rise, a new vertical focused on life-solutions content and wellness coverage. Don’t expect breaking news here, rather inspirational musings from celebrities and tech leaders, videos around the health problems associated with bad posture and a breakdown of the difference between a minimum wage and a living wage. The Huffington Post publishes three or four Rise videos to Facebook every day.

“‘If it bleeds, it leads’ is still prevalent” as a mentality, said Danny Shea, editorial director for The Huffington Post. “We’re retraining to get out of the habit of thinking only bad news makes for a great story and focusing on organizations and people trying to solve the world’s biggest problems.”

The good news for The Huffington Post is that good-news content kills on Facebook.

In a test run by HuffPost in January and February, it compared viewership and engagement for “Rise” videos published to Facebook versus all videos posted to its main Facebook page, which has nearly 6.6 million followers. On average, Rise videos had four times more views, six times more shares, three times more likes and two times more comments.

The Huffington Post’s top video, about a 21-year-old who is organizing the largest ocean cleanup in history, has done 56 million views on Facebook since Feb. 11. (On YouTube, the same video has only 11,000 views.)

Another Rise video, about a young black father and daughter combo who have more than 500,000 followers on Instagram, has netted more than 3.1 million views on the main Huffington Post Facebook page and another 6.5 million on the HuffPost Black Voices Facebook page. (Overall, Huffington Post has 79 pages on Facebook with its main account doing 221 million views in February, according to Tubular Labs.)

The Rise vertical has its own page on the platform, but The Huffington Post also publishes most of the Rise videos on its main Facebook page, as well as other relevant pages based on topic. Of course, Facebook has a proven track record in helping feel-good and inspirational content go viral. It’s where the “Ice Bucket Challenge” drowned people’s news feeds, and viral content publishers like Upworthy and CNN’s Great Big Story are actively trying to grow an audience for feel-good fare on the platform.

“These stories are designed for social,” said Shea. “It’s creating content that puts out positive messages, which people want to share with their families and friends in their Facebook feeds.”

The Huffington Post has nearly 15 producers and editors devoted to creating Rise videos. All of them have an expertise in Facebook content and audience development. “It’s everyone’s job, and we are routinely assessing successes and failures,” said Shea.

While it has yet to experiment with the format for Rise, Facebook live video is the next area Shea hopes to take this type of content to. The vertical was originally launched as a Huffington Post’s version of a morning show.

“Live makes perfect sense for us,” said Shea. “Why wouldn’t it work that way?”