One month in: Four things The New York Times has learned using Facebook Live

The New York Times is one of the several publishers going all-in on Facebook Live, the social network’s format that lets people and publishers transmit live videos to their followers.

To spearhead the new initiative, The New York Times named Louise Story to lead a new team of six full time staffers focused on developing videos for Facebook Live, producing 90 of them within the past month. Topics have included a live streamed nuptial from the Weddings section, a walking tour in Havana and an interview between Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Caitlyn Jenner.

Story is a 10-year veteran of the Times, a former investigative reporter in the investigations unit who has been involved in digital initiatives, including a spot as a committee member on the Innovation Report that highlighted the newspaper’s adoption of digital.

“There’s a lot more we can do for audience engagement,” Story told Digiday, explaining why the newspaper is betting on Facebook Live, partly with a nudge from Facebook. “What we’re focused on with it is finding content that resonates with the audience.”

Here’s what she learned one month in:

It’s not video, it’s “live interactive journalism.”
Unlike a traditional, one-dimensional piece of video, Story said it’s more accurate to call the Times’ work on the platform “live interactive journalism” because of the two-way communication with Times’ journalists and Facebook commenters. The video often feature the on-screen reporter answering questions and live commentary written in the video’s comments.

BuzzFeed’s watermelon explosion nailed why the format works.
BuzzFeed garnered millions of views for simply tying rubber bands around a giant watermelon until it exploded. To Story, that’s the type of video the Times learned from because there’s an element of suspense and people can tune into any time and still figure out what’s happening. Story pointed to a more serious, but still suspenseful live video from reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal of a young man turning himself into the police for harassment charges.

Videos don’t have to be tied to stories within the newspaper.
Story is developing a new format called “Take Me Theres,” serial programming that is not connected to an article or news event, rather is an independent idea, such as taking viewers on walks in parks around New York City. Starting Wednesday, it’s also launching a new five-part series called The Whistleblowers on the Times’ Facebook page at noon Eastern Time with reporter Gretchen Morgenson that lets people ask questions to people who gained prominence for exposing wrongdoing.

Judging a video’s success isn’t dictated by the number of viewers.
Story said the Times is “being sophisticated” in what it measures to judge a video’s success, rather than focusing on the average time people watch it and share it. “We’re spending a lot of time looking at the comments and sentiment of those and conducting research through audience qualitatively to see how they perceive of how we’re doing,” she said.

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