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A shift to depth in video

“By treating video less as a marketing tool and more as a public service, they will no longer be surrendering the digital space to subpar journalism.”

2019 is the year that more original, enterprise reporting will be done through digital video.

If 2018 proved anything in the news business, it is that the “pivot to video” is a dead model. There is no fortune to be made by ceding video to advertising pre-roll dollars or by churning out one inane text-on-screen video after another for “brand extension” on Facebook. So what if 2019 proves the opposite—that what audiences really hunger for in digital video is in-depth reporting and great storytelling instead of quick hits and banal explainers?

There are signs that an audience exists for such content. A recent Pew survey found that one in five YouTube users say the site is “very important” to help them understand things that are happening in the world. And Pearson Education found that 82 percent of Generation Z students prefer learning from YouTube videos than from a textbook. Not only are more people watching videos on their phones, they’re watching longer. If digital news organizations want younger audiences to get their original reporting, video is an essential and impactful way to deliver it. And look at the success of podcasts — why not digital videos, too?

Of course, the challenge to reaching this growing audience remains the same one that is threatening all news organizations: cost. To report, produce, and edit high-quality video content is expensive. Organizations need to come up with ways to fund them beyond traditional advertising, and distribution platforms like YouTube need to help users find the best journalism amid the barrage of junk, preferably with human curation like we’re seeing from Apple News. All of which is to say it certainly won’t be an easy business model for news organizations. But by treating video less as a marketing tool and more as a public service, they will no longer be surrendering the digital space to subpar journalism. At least that’s a cause worth fighting for.

Kyra Darnton is executive producer of Retro Report.

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