Viewer habits are evolving in favour of shorter clips viewed on social media, especially for breaking news and sports highlights. David Davies finds out what this means for day-to-day production and the ‘content continuum’.

It’s no secret that viewing habits are seeing a profound change, especially in terms of the daily consumption of news and sports content. With the relationship between audiences and legacy media continuing to fade, it is increasingly the likes of Twitter, Instagram and YouTube that are – for better or worse – shaping public opinion and debate. Simultaneously, an increasingly frenetic digital world calls for content to be impactful, clear and – perhaps above all – concise.


The Switch: Clipping and editing

Several recent studies have helped to put these developments in context. The latest Global Sports Survey from Altman Solon highlighted the fact that – as part of a picture of increasing viewership for sports in the wake of the pandemic – audiences now “prefer to receive news and highlights through social media, replacing time spent watching sports live.” Meanwhile, a Sony analysis of the “most engaged” Twitter videos found that nearly half had one or more of the following criteria in common: letting people relive “tear-jerking moments”; exploring specific news events “more critically” with regard to what was said and by who; and making sense of events via “singular and relatable perspectives”.

The Sony analysis also highlighted the role of “cloud production and multi-format delivery” in allowing broadcasters to add value and achieve a quick turnaround for maximum impact. This has been further confirmed by IBC365’s own new interviews with broadcast services companies and vendors, who in general identified the cloud and AI as the primary enablers of the new, super-quick editing & posting processes demanded by social media users.

A Short-Form Revolution: ‘Appealing, engaging and shareable’

There is a broad consensus around the practical and creative implications of more critical moments in news and sports being viewed by social media – a shift that requires broadcasters to be “more agile, adaptable and responsive”, in the words of Vinayak Shrivastav, CEO of Magnifi by VideoVerse, which specialises in video intelligence solutions powered by AI.

Vinayak Shrivastav

Vinayak Shrivastav, VideoVerse

Social media platforms, continued Shrivastav, require content that is “visually appealing, engaging and shareable. These days, content creators have to observe character limits, aspect ratios and sizes, and adapt their workflows accordingly to ensure that content is optimised for each social media platform. Social media has also accelerated the pace and quantity of content created and thus the need for content that is attractive and fast.”

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Citing a report from Tubular Labs that short form content grew by 135% quarterly YOY in 2022, Shrivastav underlined the need for clips that convey “a clear message in a brief period, and [capture] the audience’s attention in the midst of numerous distractions. The more impactful the content, the greater the chances it has of going viral.”

These views are echoed widely elsewhere. For live video production and distribution company The Switch, senior VP of Engineering & Product Management Robert Szabó-Rowe remarked: “Social media has been around for a while now, and so I think it is clear what type of content [resonates with users] and is required for different destinations. On the sports side, [the social media content] tends to be driven by highlights such as goals, penalties and other significant moments during the event.” For entertainment programming – which has recently been a big driver of social media workflows for The Switch – it’s not uncommon for “broadcasters to want to clip out every speaker, every speech in an awards show, for example. They will want to have the option to turn everything into a ‘moment’ for social media.”

But while the demand for short-form content has risen dramatically, its role in the overall ‘content continuum’ can be on the short side. “The main bulk of the consumption is immediate, although there is definitely a tendency for some people to view it a few days afterwards. But after a week or so it does become less exciting to people,” confirmed Szabó-Rowe.

A Short-Form Revolution: Auto-publishing and avoiding ‘fracture’

Nonetheless, it is increasingly beneficial for organisations to view all content – long-form, short-form, audio-only, written and more – as part of the same combined pipeline, not least to speed production and avoid duplication. While some broadcasters have been vocal about their desire to achieve a fully integrated content operation (not least the BBC with regard to its recent local, news and World Service restructuring projects), others have been a bit slower to act.

Robert Szabo-Rowe The Switch

Robert Szabó-Rowe, The Switch

“I think [integration] is where everything should be in time, but while some broadcasters are merging their digital and [traditional] broadcast operations to enable that, there are those who are still keeping the groups separate and that can cause a fracture in the pipeline and affect delivery,” said Shrivastav.

Magnifi parent company VideoVerse recently strengthened its portfolio with the acquisition of esports AI-powered content creation and social media distribution company, and it’s clear that the overall business regards AI/ML as a fundamental tenet of how content providers – and their audiences – will engage with, and utilise, social media in the future

For instance, said Shrivastav, “AI video editors can help in the distribution of key moments that come from the same video stream, but are adapted to each social media platform, through auto-publishing functionalities. Viewers are now accustomed to having a multi-channel relationship with their favourite brands. Auto-publishing helps publishers succeed in this multi-channel environment. With the push of a button, you can publish your videos on all major platforms and increase engagement with your viewers.”

Shrivastav – who anticipates an increasing role for AI in supporting the total automation of live streams – indicated that Magnifi is supporting developments by offering AI solutions that can be used across social media: “The Digital Highlights Pro solution allows users to auto-create and share key-moments and highlights in near real-time, for both live or recorded content, on multiple digital platforms; and the Auto-Flip solution offers the option of auto-resizing video into multiple aspect ratios to be compatible with different social media channels.”

A Short-Form Revolution: ‘Cloud production came into its own’

The Switch is not alone in highlighting the role of the cloud in making it possible for broadcasters to feed more outlets – including socials – with more content, more quickly and efficiently. To this end, Szabó-Rowe pointed to the pandemic-accelerated popularity of its cloud video services platform, MIMIC, that provides clipping and editing tools to create and post event highlights to social media as they happen.

“We launched [the platform] about three years ago, then found that cloud-based production really came into its own [shortly thereafter] during the pandemic days,” he confirmed. “Clipping and editing is one of those areas where it’s not too hard to encourage operators to use [and become comfortable with] cloud production, so we quickly found that a lot of daily shows were using this feature to [feed socials with content].” As Szabó-Rowe points out, broadcast budgets and operations vary in size and scope, and with MIMiC it is evident that they now have a “strong proposition for use with social media, which has this major emphasis on goals, key moments and so on.”

Recent machinations at Twitter (among other social networks) suggest that this is an area of media that is likely to remain highly volatile. Nonetheless, it affords an unrivalled opportunity for news organisations to connect with younger audiences and – critically at this unsteady juncture in time – help them navigate a way through the minefield of unsubstantiated commentary, rumour and misinformation. Therefore, it’s likely that there will continue to be a steady evolution of tools that can help broadcasters service this demand in a streamlined and cost-efficient manner.

As Olivier Bovis, Head of Media Solutions at Sony Europe, remarked: “Twitter’s past, present and probably future are full of twists and controversies, but it remains the go-to social media platform for news and broadcast and media brands still play a critical role as guardians of high-quality, credentialled content. What is most important is that this is sourced and delivered in a flexible, agile, and seamless way to give audiences the range and depth they’re looking for – at the same time keeping efficiency and commerciality top of mind.”

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