That little red notification icon on Facebook might now be a magazine reaching out to share a live broadcast with you.
Video has probably featured more and more in your Facebook feed recently, whether live or recorded. Facebook says there are about 4 billion views of videos on the site each day, and media companies especially have been experimenting with using new live video options.
Magazines aren’t new to video. They’ve been publishing videos on their websites and video channels for quite a while now. The Magazine Media 360 audience data show growth of about 14 percent in magazine video viewers from 2014 to 2015. Video has been a successful way for many magazines to increase their audiences. But the challenge du jour is maximizing the unique opportunities of Facebook video, including its new live and 360-degree capabilities.
National Geographic is among the magazine publishers that have been especially successful with Facebook video. While lots of their videos have received hundreds of thousands of views, some have been watched many millions of times.
Rajiv Mody, vice president of social media for National Geographic Partners, says video plays to the organization’s strengths.
“Video has been a great format for us. When you think about National Geographic, we really push the envelope when it comes to visual storytelling,” Mody says.
The organization started focusing more intently on video last October, Mody said. The most successful videos have focused on topics you’d associate with National Geographic, too — like animals, space and the environment.
One of the top-performing videos focuses on Manitoba’s Narcisse Snake Dens, home to the largest gathering of snakes in the world. Mody says while the video topic is intriguing, the headline for the post was critical to its success, too: “If You’re Scared of Snakes, Don’t Watch This.”
“It was very enticing. Everybody wants to watch it immediately,” Mody says. “We find that being smart about how you frame the content, and writing engaging headlines — those are enormously important.”
With 17 million views (and counting), the snake video also connects clearly to National Geographic’s usual topics and audience.
“These are things that remain true to who we are, and that remain true to the community that’s on our Facebook page itself. We’re focused on areas they are engaged with and interact with,” Mody says.
While trying to focus on its audience’s interests, National Geographic has also successfully brought its audience new video forms. Several 360-degree videos are top performers with millions of views. The 360-degree videos, Mody says, have especially brought “tremendous exposure.”
The next area for experimentation, Mody says, will be live video. National Geographic has tried out livestreaming on Periscope, but not yet on Facebook.
“Our explorers are out in the field, and we’ve done work with live video there,” Mody says. “[We have] amazing reach all over the globe, and what live video could really do to help bring that presence to people — that’s directionally where we’re going.”
Like National Geographic, Hearst magazines have also dedicated more energy to video in the last year.
“We’ve been doing a lot of experimenting,” says Brian Madden, vice president of audience for Hearst Magazines Digital Media. “We’ve seen video views on Facebook explode, with about 200 million total views across all of our brands. This time last year, we probably had 20 to 25 million video views. It’s been a huge change.”
Some of the videos posted by Hearst magazine are unique to Facebook, but the organization has a dedicated video team that works with editorial staff to tailor content and style for a variety of video platforms, Madden says. For example, a beauty video might appear as a time-lapse version for Facebook, with a longer version on YouTube and a vertically oriented version on Snapchat.
“We’re creating so many videos that keeping track of what’s working and what’s not, and iterating and trying new things, has been challenging, but it’s a great opportunity,” Madden says.
Hearst has already been trying out live video on Facebook. Madden explains that the Facebook audience is much more engaged with the live video than with recorded videos. Maybe two to five percent of the viewers will like, comment on, or share a recorded video, Madden says, but 10 to 15 percent do so for a live video. (It’s not just Hearst; Facebook says viewers comment over 10 times more often on live video than on recorded video.)
“It’s taking Facebook to another level. We can connect to our audience in a much deeper way,” he says. “People are connected in the moment with our brand, something I think Facebook is very capable of creating.”
While food, beauty, celebrities, and other lifestyle topics have all performed well for Hearst, not just any idea works for live video. Live videos, Madden says, should be based on “what creates a moment. … What’s something you’d want to be live? How do you create something that people will feel it’s important to see live, versus something they can watch in a recording?”
Creating those compelling moments with magazines’ content and brands is a new challenge for editorial staff.
“Our editors are so passionate about their brands and about their audiences that being able to interact with them at that moment and level is an exciting thing for them. They’ve embraced it,” Madden says.
Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Linfield College. She teaches media theory, writing, and editing, and does research on magazines, social media, and political communication.