Emotion and identity: the key to compelling mobile videos - Reuters News Agency

Emotion and identity: the key to compelling mobile videos

Making great mobile videos is not only about finding the right format. It also requires telling stories in a different way.

By Evangeline De Bourgoing | Oct 10, 2018

We asked Jane Barrett, Reuters global head of multimedia, what publishers should keep in mind to produce impactful mobile videos

Get closer

For Barrett, when producing mobile videos, the biggest no-no is to repackage what went on TV. Big ensemble pictures might work on TV but on mobile, they will feel confusing and cold. You need to keep shots close to keep the audience close.

For compelling mobile videos, it is not only the shots you need to keep close, you also need to get closer to the subjects of the stories. Barrett also recommends publishers to favor human interest stories over big general stories.

Let’s take the example of the coverage of Hurricane Florence. Dramatic images of palm-trees bent over by the wind, torrential rains, and massive floods play well on TV. But what works best on mobile are close-up videos of people telling their personal experiences of the hurricane. These videos affect the viewers emotionally and create a feeling of empathy that act as a pathway to a better understanding of the story.

Our clients usually say that the two things they want from mobile videos is emotion and identity. What they mean by identity is a cause.

Jane Barrett, head of multimedia, Reuters

Make it personal

In September, as the rebel enclave of Idlib in north-west Syria was bracing for an attack, Reuters filmed Idlib civilians’ preparations for the battle. In a powerful video, they showed a father crafting improvised gas masks with plastic bags and paper cups to protect his children from a chemical attack. “It is a personal story that is emotional but if you share on social media it proves that you personally care for the plight of civilians in Syria. It tells something about your identity”.

Stand out from the crowd

According to the Digital News Report 2018, 51% of news video is now consumed offsite. Facebook accounts for 33% of video consumption which is as much as all news websites put together. In this context, how can publishers make their brand memorable? Barrett has three recommendations:

  • Create a very clear visual branding: Right from the very start of the video, viewers must be able to recognize a brand’s distinctive colour scheme, fonts and style.
  • Show what you stand for: A strong voice and clear values is key to creating a personal relationship with the viewers.
  • Focus on loyalty: With the tremendous growth of YouTube and the recent expansion of Facebook Watch, publishers should turn their attention to subscriptions. Encouraging viewers become loyal to their channel requires publishers to focus more on relevance for viewers, rather than on creating scale.


Find the right length

When Barrett started as head of multimedia eighteen months ago, she recalls people saying that 49 seconds was the perfect length for a mobile video. But it has totally changed: Mobile videos have gotten longer. Publishers now tend to produce three minute long mobile videos. Different factors can explain this quick shift:

  • Last March, Facebook launched a new ad breaks program that lets publishers serve video ads inside videos that are at least three minutes long.
  • Facebook has boosted its investment in Facebook Watch and has expanded it across the world.
  • Publishers are increasingly aware of the great potential of YouTube.