NowThisNews attempts to use Instagram Video as social news platform

Mobile video news service NowThisNews is attempting to make information sharing even more social with a first of its kind 24/7 news channel on Instagram. Harnessing the Facebook-owned social media site’s new 15-second video offering, rolled out in June to compete with Twitter’s Vine, NTN aims to tap into Instagram’s 130 million-strong user base by delivering “breaking videos and news content ranging from the latest fashion show to the political statement dominating the news cycle”. Yet while the experiment is certainly interesting, questions nonetheless remain as to the value that seconds-long video footage can add to news reporting.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | August 7, 2013

Unveiling Instagram’s video functions CEO Kevin Systrom placed a great deal of emphasis on the personal, familial moments that they could be used to capture. In fact, talking about why Instagram had decided to offer 15 seconds of footage, compared to Vine’s 6 seconds, Systrom explained that the duration of each film had to be “not too long to take forever to download. Not too short to record your kids. That plus editing gave the right balance.”

However, NowThisNews’s venture into the world of Instagram video highlights the every expanding range of ways news organisations can benefit from social media networks. Rather than using the social media network to promote existing content, as many news brands do via Facebook and Twitter, NTN is tailoring its videos to the platform they’re published on. GigaOm reports that the same story will be produced according to three entirely different approaches according to whether it will be posted to Instagram, Youtube or NTN’s website.

News media outlets like the Washington Post have already branched out into social networking with Instagram accounts carrying photos illustrating election coverage and Supreme Court rulings, and the incorporation of a regular flow of video clips into these accounts could well be the next logical step in boosting social media engagement. Indeed, the short, sharp bursts of news created and placed on Instagram by NTN arguably correspond with today’s dominant news consumption trends. ‘News snacking’ has risen, along with the use of mobile devices, according to figures collected by Mobiles Republic. By offering consumers on-the-go video updates NTN caters to a demand for at the same time as capitalising on the rising popularity of video.

What is more, as Instagram begins to function more and more like its owner Facebook, there is a very real possibility that it could become a platform for the exchange of news and links. A Reuters Institute study published last year showed that 55 per cent of news links were shared via Facebook, and the company’s executives are keen to encourage the trend. Mark Zuckerberg may have balked at the idea of buying the Washington Post, but the Facebook founder and CEO nonetheless harbours a desire to make his social media site “the best personalized newspaper in the world.”

That said, the jury is still out on the ultimate worth of Vine-like services in the world of journalism, as the Editor’s Weblog reported earlier this year. While the ability to edit footage and additional time granted to Instagram videos makes them better adapted than Vine to NTN’s social media news channel, the 1-2 minute reports on can feel rushed and overwhelming at the best of times and it is difficult to see how being further condensed will help matters. Generating revenue from Instagram news channels is of course another concern for any news organisation tempted to follow NowThisNews’s lead. Ed O’Keefe, Editor-in-Chief of the video startup, told Business Insider that “we’re not thinking about monetization at this point”. O’Keefe’s words echo those of Systrom, who revealed at the Instagram Video launch that so far little thought had been put into the advertising implications of the service. Responding to journalists, Systrom revealed that Instavideo is driven “by consumer demand not business need. Brands use Instagram to reach fans. But video we didn’t design with advertising in mind. Over time we’ll figure out how it ends up being useful.”

One experimental element on NTN’s Instagram video feed that does seem to demonstrate the journalistic potential of the service is the use of animated infographics. In NTN’s first use of the ‘motion instagraphic,’ data relating to the rise in civilian Afghan casualties unfurls across the screen without the usual voice overs that accompany the news channel’s video. While very short video news clips in themselves may do little to add to the depth or quality of news reportings (at least according to this article from The Verge), the development of a range of subtler ways to make use of social video is clearly a possibility.

Sources: GigaOmThe AtlanticBusiness Insider

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