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For the fifth session of the Facebook Journalism Project’s Digital Video Accelerator, Jon Laurence, former deputy editor of U.S. media organization NowThis, was invited to share his knowledge on video distribution platforms. The Accelerator program, held in partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), provides global news producers with a clear, detailed roadmap on how to use Facebook to enhance business objectives. Held May 27th in São Paulo, Laurence explained to attendees how to connect with and understand their audience, as well as shared some best practices for building a strong audiovisual brand from text and images.

During Laurence’s tenure at NowThis, the organization grew to become the largest producer of social media-optimized news videos in the world. Previously, he served as head of digital for the UK’s Channel 4 News, where he was awarded “Online Editor of the Year” by the Drum Online Media Awards and received a BAFTA nomination for digital creativity. His presentation on video distribution focused on two topics:

“It’s amazing how this program brings together content for all types of media,” said Allen Chahad, editor-in-chief of television journalism at Brazilian media conglomerate Grupo Bandeirantes. “There were inspirational lessons for creation and more assertive lessons on strategy. The sum of these gives us a diversity of information, and as I work in a very diverse group and am responsible for coordinating the group’s integration (newspaper, radio, television), I absorbed knowledge to apply on all fronts with a growing focus on digital.”

How to Achieve Large-Scale Distribution

Laurence emphasized the importance of thinking about distribution at every stage of the video production process for digital platforms. With exercises and case studies, participants were able to share practices that generate better engagement in their online environments. Specifically, Laurence highlighted four key factors for achieving large-scale content distribution:

  1. Subject How well does the subject of your content match the interests of your audience? Emotional subjects and personal topics perform particularly well.
  2. Production How well-produced is the content and how platform-specific is the production? Remember that quality production doesn’t need to be expensive and can be done through a mobile phone. Find the proper balance with the amount of material you produce.
  3. Editing How well does the content engage the audience? Engagement should focus on increasing view time, keeping the audience past the first few seconds of the video.
  4. Publication You need to know how your content appears on each platform and if respective platforms allow you to post the same video multiple times.

Laurence then presented videos related to environmental causes and under-covered communities, themes that he believes resonate well on social platforms.

“People are driven to share these videos to motivate some kind of action or to inspire change,” he said. “This is the importance of showing empowered young citizens, active in their communities, offering solutions. Others are motivated to share such stories that haven’t been seen elsewhere in mainstream media.”

How to Monetize Your Content

Once you create emotionally resonant, well-produced content, how does your organization leverage it to drive revenue? Laurence highlighted three major methods:

  1. Shared revenue Grow profits by sharing the content with other digital platforms.
  2. Sponsored editorial Bring in a brand to sponsor your content, boosting their visibility and your bottom line.
  3. Branded content Produce and publish videos that tell the story of a company paying your organization.

According to Laurence, a leading benefit of shared revenue is that it can scale to other platforms, but the disadvantage is that the publisher has less control over the ad content. Sponsored editorial and branded content can more easily scale without hurting publisher values in this way, but can still poorly impact a publisher’s image when the sponsoring brand is viewed in a negative light.

“One of the most interesting things about the session was realizing the importance of thinking about distribution from the beginning of the process, which isn’t always so clear,” said Lucas Mendes, creation coordinator at digital media company Webedia Brasil. “It’s not posting and then waiting to see what’s going to happen – it’s thinking beforehand to build the best narrative and have the best performance at the end.”

The Video Accelerator Program
The Facebook Journalism Project’s Video Accelerator Program helps news publishers create excellent video and build sustainable business models that work. Funded and organized by the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists, each Accelerator includes hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans and coaching from industry experts. Catch up on all the lessons from the Video Accelerator here. For monthly updates on the Accelerator Program, sign up for the FJP newsletter.