January 28, 2021

Playbook contents


Best practices

Case studies


Welcome to the VidSpark Playbook, a guide to help your newsroom bolster its social media video presence and reach younger audiences. Reaching Gen Z is critical for the continued sustainability of local news, and one of the best ways to engage them is through social platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

Over the past year, I’ve led VidSpark, a Poynter program supported by the Google News Initiative, to help local newsrooms produce social media videos aimed at Gen Z. I worked with Jillian Banner, assistant editor of video strategy, to coach The Star Tribune, GBH News, and 10 Tampa Bay as they launched video series on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to reach new audiences.

Watch an overview of our work below.

We’ve learned a lot from working with these newsrooms and want to share our insights so others can build new audiences of their own. In addition to VidSpark, I’ve grown social video audiences for PolitiFact, PBS Digital Studios, and on my own YouTube channel. I’ve seen the shifts in thinking that newsrooms need to make in order to adopt an audience-first approach that takes specific platform features into account.

What will you learn?

The best practices in this playbook provide tools to help you think about crafting the social video strategy for your newsroom. We’ll discuss how to intentionally build your audience as a community, questions to consider with video formats and platform features to keep in mind as you plan content.

The case studies will give you ideas for how to craft video workflows within a newsroom. We go behind the scenes of the production process and share insights we’ve learned from navigating the platforms. Case studies give a realistic look at the progress a newsroom can make and the aspects that lead to a successful, sustainable video series. You’ll also hear the biggest takeaways from the journalists themselves in accompanying videos.

You don’t have to know the details of video production to understand this playbook. We do discuss workflow and team roles, but we avoid technical jargon. We won’t be covering the fundamentals of video production; we trust you can find that information elsewhere. We will be talking about overall strategy, content development, and production processes specific to particular social platforms.

Who is this playbook for?

This type of social video strategy is the most relevant if:

  • You are ready to prioritize reaching Gen Z and younger millennials. The newsrooms have had to think deeply about what issues are important to younger viewers and how they experience the content they consume.
  • You can act in a way that is agile and flexible. Experimentation has been key for these newsrooms in figuring out what works and adapting their style over time.
  • You’re in a position to make a long-term investment. We worked with these newsrooms for the better part of a year, and much of our time was spent establishing initial workflows and adjusting to platforms. Audience growth is gradual and takes time to snowball.
  • You have capacity to produce video and social media content, or can start to build that capacity. These projects all had dedicated team members who were able to see the work through. Video production for social media takes significant resources, but a few committed team members can go a long way.

So dive into our Playbook and see how it inspires you. And do let us know what you think. You can reach VidSpark via info@poynter.org.

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Ahsante is Editor & Program Manager, Video Strategy at Poynter, where she’s focusing on developing innovative digital content with local newsrooms to reach younger audiences.…
Ahsante Bean

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