How The New York Times is Making News With Social Video

How The New York Times is Making News With Social Video

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Founded in 1851, the New York Times (NYT) is one of the most recognized media companies in the United States, as well as across the world. Over the last 160 years, NYT has built a name for itself as a destination for authoritative news and professional journalism, so much so the brand has earned 122 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper can claim. The media company has also managed to handle the transition from print to digital well, now claiming 2.5 million paying subscribers (both print and digital) comprising 60% of the brand’s overall revenue.

As more of its content went digital, the NYT began to create an engaging, social video presence on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Twitter, and Instagram. Across all of its social profiles, the media brand boasts 15.2 million total followers, with 13.9 million of them (roughly 91%) hailing from Facebook alone. Thanks to these dedicated fans, NYT routinely pulls in millions of views a month from its video content. Here’s how the publishing giant runs its social video accounts to keep those viewers coming back for more.

NYT’s Primary Source of Views? Facebook

Whoever at NYT decided the brand needed to produce video content for Facebook was seriously on to something. Across more than 2000 videos on its Facebook page, the New York Times has garnered 1 billion total video views as of August 2014. Its average views per video is nothing to shy at, either; each clip pulls in about 420k views each.

Why such the high viewing rates? It seems NYT has stuck to what it does best: reporting. Most of the media brand’s videos are news clips, most of them no longer than 1-3 minutes total. This format has done well over the years, not just for the New York Times, but also for other media publishers; as busy audiences turned to short-form video updates instead of long-form journalism, the popularity of video content such as NYT’s increased.

In March, for example, 82% or 72.6 million of NYT’s total video views stemmed solely from followers watching short videos on its Facebook account. The brand’s most popular video from that month, highlighting a statue of a girl facing the Wall Street bull statue, raked in 6.5 million views, with over 200k engagements and an average 30-day engagement rate (ER30) of 0.2x above the norm.

YouTube Claims NYT’s Next-Highest View Count

With just over 861k subscribers on YouTube, NYT created a channel where its video journalism could easily take front and center. Thanks to more than 8500 videos, ranging from political news pieces to human interest stories, NYT has captured more than 365 million views to date, with each clip seeing around 42.8k views. Almost 50% of these views come from the United States, with the majority (79%) of the media publisher’s YouTube audience comprised of male viewers.

NYT’s YouTube channel contains content tailored to the platform, which undoubtedly contributes to the brand’s success on it. For example, many of NYT’s videos are under three minutes, a popular length for easily digestible content. The media company also isn’t afraid to post longer content, as well, such as reported or interview videos of over ten minutes each, some of which get more views than the short content.

However, NYT’s most popular video to date was its own 30-second “The Truth Is Hard” commercial from February 2017; that clip resonated with viewers and pulled in 15.7 million views in its first 30 days (V30), with a third of these views (3.3 million) appearing in the first three days of the clip going live.

Vine (Temporarily) Boosted NYT’s Social Video Fame, Too

Surprisingly, an analysis of NYT’s social video strategy wouldn’t be complete without considering Vine. While that short-form video platform is now shut down, the New York Times uploaded very effective content during the span of the app’s existence. Overall, NYT only uploaded 102 videos to Vine, but fans gave these clips around 3.2 million total views (known as loops), resulting in an average of 31.4k views per video. While equating a loop with an actual view count was once debated, those are still impressive stats for a social account of only over 7000 followers, which makes up just 0.049% of NYT’s current social reach.

NYT’s most popular six-second video on Vine was from March 2015, and simply showed a pencil erasing various Republican names on a ballot to finally fill in the circle next to Ben Carson’s name, a politician who eventually announced his nomination for the 2016 Presidential election. That Vine received almost 895k loops, 4700 likes, and 135 revines (aka shares).

Unfortunately, due to Vine’s demise, we’ll never know if the NYT might have continued this success, but based on these figures, it’s safe to say the brand would be thriving on that platform. Regardless, the media giant knows what it’s doing on platforms like Facebook and YouTube, and provides a wonderful case study on how media companies, in particular, can best create social video for sharing news-related content which audiences can’t get enough of.


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