How Sky News distributes video on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat

The Sky News mantra is that it’s the home for breaking news, and on social media that’s no different.

Its video views have gone from 94 million a month in May to 148 million in July across platforms, according to Tubular Labs. The broadcaster was the first to film a Facebook live video several hours after the attack in Nice last month, with foreign affairs editor Sam Kiley answering questions from the audience. That video has had 180,000 views. On YouTube, it live streams news around the clock; when an event is breaking, the viewers jump from 5,000 to 100,000, according to the company.

Sky News has been launch a partner for Twitter Moments and Snapchat Discover, and it makes a point of using new platform features within 24 hours of release. Case in point is Instagram Stories, which other publishers have jumped onto over the past week and a half. Sky News has been using it for presenter takeovers; for instance, political correspondent Sophy Ridge took over the account to report on the Labour Party town halls. Because Ridge was also chairing the event, she was in a unique position to report on the outcome.


Richard Evans, head of social media and digital partnerships for Sky News, said it’s seeing a similar number of views for its regular Instagram videos, which are getting up to 10,000 views; other media companies are reporting anything from tens of thousands of views to north of 100,000. However, the retention for Sky News is a respectable 75 percent for Stories that last up to 12 frames.

On Facebook, video retention is a lot lower. It sounds obvious, but retention is helped by visually engaging footage, or at least the promise of it. During a 12-minute Facebook Live video with world-champion rock climber Shauna Coxley, which has been watched 115,000 times, views spiked during the two periods where she demonstrated her technique.

Sky News front-loads the first three seconds of videos — the amount of time required for a view to count — with the most visually compelling information. For this video where actor Jamie Foxx pulled a child from a burning car, Sky News opened the piece with a shot of the actor hugging the boy’s father, rather than filming the full press conference. “Other news organizations covered it in an edit from start to finish,” said Evans. “We started on the hug, and the emotional bit got people invested.”

The average watch time for Sky News’ Facebook videos is 45 seconds, so it makes sure all the videos are under 90 seconds, with subtitles and the best visual storytelling at the start. Still, having seen viewer retention on some hourlong Facebook Live videos — like this one of Will Smith on the red carpet — Sky News is now planning to experiment with more special reports videos 15 minutes and longer on the platform.

Two years ago, Evans was Sky’s only social producer. Now the social media team has six producers creating video, content for all platforms, plus two staffers working on Facebook Live content. This signals more effort on increasing the quality of its Facebook Live videos both in production and in the content, although Evans wasn’t able to give more information on the plans.

On a given day, two other employees from the visual journalism unit also edit mobile video content for the Sky News apps and social media. Sky News has a separate Snapchat Discover team, 10 people are trained to produce for the platform, but two on any given day create content for it. On average, Evans estimates between five and seven videos are published on social platforms each day.

“In an ideal world, we get the footage in from where they have been shooting, and someone from the TV team is editing the footage in one suite while someone else is editing for mobile and social,” he said.

Not all of Sky News’ experiments work. On Facebook, the broadcaster scrapped explainer videos because they weren’t being shared enough. “Why would people share an explainer on how the U.S. election works? You’re admitting you don’t know,” said Evans. “So instead, we pick out an interesting facet and lead with that, like that there are no limits to how much can be spent on a presidential campaign. We have to change how we pitch it to the audience rather than the story itself.”

Images courtesy of Sky News via Facebook.

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