What video makers can learn from John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’

Six things the show is doing to resonate with social-first viewers that we can keep in mind and even copy.

May 22, 2020

John Krasinski’s Some Good News has become quarantine’s breakout internet show.

In weekly installments of roughly 20 minutes each, Krasinski offers a rundown of positive things going on in communities across the country, all tied to the episode’s theme. The show features stories sourced from social media, interviews with hometown heroes, and appearances from celebrity guests. It’s funny, heartwarming, and exactly what my socially isolated soul needs right now.

The homemade show is having a huge impact. With only eight full episodes over the course of two months, SGN’s YouTube channel has over 2.5 million subscribers and 70 million views. SGN videos have hit YouTube’s trending tab, and are getting the attention of young, digital-first viewers.

Yet he’s not the first to produce an online Good News show, as he acknowledges in his first episode. So what is he doing so well, and what elements could we stand to model in our own online news video productions?

Of course, a large and irreplicable part of SGN’s success is that its host is a celebrity. We can’t all be married to Emily Blunt, and I can only dream of having Lin-Manuel Miranda on speed dial. Yet, while other celebrities are criticized on social media as being out-of-touch during the COVID-19 pandemic, Krasinski has been thoroughly embraced.

Here are a few things SGN is doing well to resonate with social-first viewers that we can all keep in mind and even copy.

SGN uses levity to relate to the audience and mix up a news format.

Krasinski is clearly having fun with this, and he’s not taking himself too seriously.

He plays the role of an anchor, and wears a suit jacket and tie, but at the end of an episode he reveals the patterned boxers he’s been rocking below — or a tutu if he’s feeling fancy. His set features a homemade sign drawn by his kids. He’s not afraid to poke fun at himself, saying in the first episode. “If it isn’t clear yet, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.”

Humor doesn’t detract from the message, though. It humanizes it. In our own news videos, we can find ways to add lightness and create something that’s entertaining as well as informative. Be transparent about the process, and when you fumble, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

SGN incorporates audience engagement into the show.

Krasinski started the show after a call-out on his own social handles asking for uplifting stories. The show soon created its own dedicated social handles that the audience could tag on stories they wanted to see featured. Not only are stories sourced from social media, but audience-made show jingles are spotlighted at the top of episodes.

SGN routinely displays viewer comments, feedback, and fan art, and incorporates them into the show. After Krasinski received criticism about the way he was spinning the globe in his intro, he featured audience corrections spinning the globe in the scientifically correct direction. SGN feels like a collaboration, rather than a one-way presentation of information.

Krasinski is sincere about centering the voices and concerns of young people in the show.

By speaking directly to topics central in teen’s lives right now, like creating your own prom or making graduation special despite the circumstances, SGN clearly centers itself on the experiences of young people, without pandering or mentioning “youth” or “teens.”

Krasinski speaks to “you,” the audience, directly. He spotlights the voices of Gen Z on the show; they are the special guests. By focusing on young people and presenting in a casual, relatable way, he includes the viewers that are essential to spreading any message and remaining relevant in today’s digital age.

SGN’s combination of clear audience expectations and innovative surprises keeps the audience coming back week to week.

Krasinski is consistent enough to give the audience a reason to follow along. The value is clear: Krasinski will guide me through a collection of positive stories that will make me laugh and probably also cry.

Yet, the surprises in each episode prevent the show from getting stale. Which celebrities will make guest appearances? How will the show create virtual celebrations — graduations, weddings, sports events — that are usually held in person? How did SGN get Oprah and Malala back to back? Did Krasinski really get ordained as a minister? The variations in format keep the show fresh, and keep me wondering what SGN will pull off next.

SGN is experimenting with remote technology, but isn’t limited by it.

SGN experiments with storytelling structure, using the limitations of producing via video chat to an advantage. When it comes to online video, story trumps fancy production value, so SGN’s do-it-yourself production feels accessible and relatable.

Yet the show does employ some sophisticated editing, as its big “Hamilton” sequence showed, cutting between different singers of the hit musical all logged into a Zoom meeting. There aren’t specific show credits, but I suspect there’s a team behind this. They’re not flaunting their production capacity, and they don’t need to.

The show has heart.

What makes Krasinski’s show so refreshing, especially as celebrity projects go, is that it’s not about him or his talent. It’s about the good in all of us. As Krasinski reminds us, “You are the good news.”

Krasinski feels like the guy next door, talking with you not at you, working through a webcam like the rest of us. He’s spotlighting community heroes, and using his star power connections to make the days of everyday people a little brighter.

In a landscape of depressing and deceptive news, SGN is a welcome bright spot for people who are craving levity, honesty and authenticity.

Ahsante Bean is Poynter’s editor of video strategy and leads VidSpark, a Poynter program supported by the Google News Initiative that aims to help local newsrooms reach teens and Gen Z through social-first online video.