Short-Form Video Frenzy: Why news publishers should embrace the trend

By Arabella Stephenson

3 mins read

Short-Form Video Frenzy: Why news publishers should embrace the trend

By Arabella Stephenson

3 mins read

The short-form video has seen an exponential rise in popularity over the past few years. With TikTok having acquired over 1.5 billion users in just seven years, its re-invention of the UGC (user-generated content) format, with its sophisticated algorithm, mobile friendly format, and bite-sized content has undeniably been a colossal success.


As of 2023, it’s no surprise to see rival social platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat working to replicate its formula with Reels, Shorts and Spotlights respectively. Recent reports have demonstrated that all three companies have invested in the format over the last quarter, and are rapidly catching up, with YouTube even surpassing TikTok’s logged-in viewership with its Shorts now watched by 2 billion logged-in users every month.


With this landscape in mind, news publishers have been presented with an expanding channel base with which to experiment with content and to engage their audiences. Since 66% of people are now reported to use video as their primary source of information, it will be beneficial to consider the main opportunities which short-form video content poses for publishers:


  • Capturing a new audience base – As over 60% of TikTok’s user base is reported to be from GenZ, the adoption of short-form content by publishers is integral to engaging a new generation in current affairs, particularly as under-25s in the UK are now reported to spend around 57 minutes a day scrolling through apps like TikTok.


  • Optimising your mobile offering – The production of mobile-optimised vertical videos is key to creating short-form video content, and with 90% of all video views now reported to be from mobile, it is important that news publishers are creating content optimised for a mobile native audience in order to increase digital credibility.


  • New ways to distribute content – 64% individuals now consume information on multiple screens, thus, the need for publishers to experiment with “bite-sized” short videos to disseminate comprehensive information is integral for an audience with an increasingly selective attention span.


  • New avenues for monetisation – As more social media companies contend for dominance in the short-form format, new monetisation opportunities are being presented by media platforms to build credibility and attract publishers. To that end, YouTube has announced a revenue-sharing program which shares 45% of its Shortsad revenue with eligible creators and publishers. TikTok quickly emulated the scheme, extending benefits to publishers by sharing 50% of its revenue from adverts which appear directly after their videos.


As the benefits of short-form content become apparent, it is evident that more and more publishers are tapping into the trend. Now, with 81% UK news publishers regularly publishing content on TikTok, let’s have a look at some of the strategies being employed by UK news publishers using TikTok: 



BBC News – Investing in short-form video to appeal to a younger generation.


BBC News have recently ramped up its TikTok team, stating that growing the BBC News TikTok is one of the ‘main priorities for 2023’. The BBC’s TikTok investment is apparent as their content output has diversified – implementing a host of young journalists who report on popular culture who are superimposed on the videos they are reporting. This investment in young hosts is an apparent effort to appeal to the algorithm and to reach a younger audience base, however, the platform also strives to maintain its legitimacy by interspersing their young hosts with repurposed interviews and news segments, in order to quickly communicate the headlines.


BBC publisher using short-form video platform Tik Tok
The BBC has invested in a young journalist team who create videos on Popular Culture, specifically for their TikTok account.



The Economist – Preserving brand values through high production standards.


The Economist launched their TikTok account in 2022 and has focused on producing videos which preserve journalistic integrity by investing in story-led clips with high production qualities. These videos tend to focus on topics which would hook a TikTok user without compromising the brand and are strictly informative. For example, its top video is a video investigating the average size of Chickens, which has garnered over 6 million views.

The Economist publishing short-form video content on "what happens when we sleep"
The Economist is investigative publishing content with eye-catching headlines in order to inform their audience



Sky News – TikTok as an additional channel to share news and repurpose content.


Sky News sees TikTok ‘as another platform where it can take its trusted, reliable news’, and uses it as a channel with which to disseminate eye-witness reporting, explainers, and live broadcasts. To that end, much of its content is reproduced directly from broadcasts, even occasionally using a horizontal aspect ratio. Despite this, it racks in millions of views, for example it gained millions of views for live streams of the Government’s press conferences during Covid-19 and 16 million views for a live broadcast of the Queen’s funeral. 


Sky News is using short-form channels to republish it’s broadcasts to a wider audience



While the aforementioned news publishers continue to acquire viewers across TikTok, it is also of note to consider how publishers are integrating Shorts, Reels and Spotlights into their short-form strategy. Interestingly, a quick investigation into their media channels suggests these publishers appear to be using the platforms to republish content directly produced for TikTok, yet all with varying consistency. At this stage, it appears that after TikTok, Instagram’s Reels receive the widest viewership, but Snapchat’s Spotlights remains on the outskirts of media use.


Meanwhile, while YouTube’s Shorts currently receive a lower view count per video for News Publishers, Google’s investment in the format is already delivering for digitally native publishers such as Vox Media, who have reported that the main driver for their channel NowThis’ viewership this year was Shorts – by simply reposting TikTok posts to the channel is has managed to ‘increase its viewership by 50% compared to 2021’. Additionally, Vox Media are taking advantage of Google’s analytics to cut the most viewed clips from The Dodo’s YouTube videos to recreate 60-second clips. This strategy has reportedly yielded more than 1 million views on the brands’ Shorts videos and heralds a useful marketing lesson for other publishers on the platform.


Beyond YouTube, however, since short-form monetisation opportunities remain low, traditional news publishers are still presented with a challenge as to how to monetise them and/or push viewers onto owned platforms. This challenge is particularly pertinent as new research has revealed that young people are twice as likely to pay for news from independent creators rather than traditional providers. As the format evolves into a mainstream source of information and current affairs, it will be interesting to see how the industry responds. Is it a brand-building tool? Is it a channel for your journalists to become stars? How does it move people further into your ecosystem? Is it a long-term play to engage younger audiences until they’re ready to pay? 


Looking for your next content fix? Check out Manifesto Growth Architects’ TikTok account to see all the activities behind the scenes at a strategy consultancy!

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