• The Digital News Report 2016, published by the Reuters Institute this past June, explores changing patterns of news consumption in 26 countries based on interviews with more than 50,000 people.

    As you’d expect, the 124-page report has news about the rise of digital news (64 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 get their news primarily online) and, in Canada especially, the decline of print.

    It’s worth noting, in this death-of-print context, that online news consumers continue to favour text over video.

    Although publishers and technology platforms are pushing online news video hard for commercial reasons, we find evidence that most consumers are still resistant. Three-quarters of respondents (78%) say they still mostly rely on text. When pressed, the main reasons people give for not using more video are that they find reading news quicker and more convenient (41%) and the annoyance of pre-roll advertisements (35%).”

    News video chart - ReutersWhat does this finding mean for those of us who have been advising clients to put more video into their digital communications programs? Some suggestions:

    • So, like, give them some text. Every organization needs to present a strong central narrative and frequent updates in text form. We know that the web and social media require short, clear paragraphs. But those paragraphs also need to be coherent, and they need to answer the reader’s questions.
    • News and communication are not the same thing. The purpose of most organizational communication is to create or strengthen an emotional bond. If you want to convey a human quality or connection, and not just information, consider video. (But keep it brief.)
    • Different people learn in different ways. At last twenty-two per cent of the Reuters sample do prefer video, even to receive hard information, and that number is growing. Online video news will reach an important market segment – especially when the content is visually compelling and packs an emotional punch.

    Producing compelling video on a restricted budget is a challenge, of course. You want to portray real people in real situations, maintain production quality and do it all within a few hours. As it happens, the Reuters report doesn’t offer much guidance on what viewers regard as compelling, at least not to me. It does raise obstacles to the success of even the best online video, and some of these – advertising, for example, or small screens on phones – are not likely to go away soon.


    Your thoughts? Do you prefer print or video for your online news consumption? Leave us a comment.