Can you report the news using Vine and Instagram?

Writing in AllThingsD today, Peter Kafka drew attention to video news startup NowThisNews, which has started producing very short news story clips on Instagram and Vine. 

NowThisNews is a venture backed by the same people behind The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. It specializes in creating short videos about the news that have slick, creative graphics and are designed to be easily shared. With that in mind, it seems like posting news clips on Vine and Instagram should be a natural fit. Here are some of the clips:

On Instagram: 

And on Vine: 

Being concise is a core principle of good journalism, but can you really tell a news story on six or 15 seconds?

It’s an interesting tactic, and some would say a real shot in the arm for the old-fashioned media format where you create content and expect people to keep coming back to you. In this case, you’re taking the content to where the people are, on Instagram and Vine. 

From what I can see, the Vine format doesn’t quite lend itself well to the news. Six seconds is barely enough time to say a headline out loud, let alone convey what happened. However, stretch that limit to 15 seconds on Instagram, and suddenly it seems to work, with a headline and brief kicker all packaged into one digestible news bite. All you need are some good images, pithy voice-over copy and clear text/graphics to present the story in a simple, but effective way.

For a casual consumer of news, this stuff works. It’s short, easily shareable, and it shows up on places where you spend your digital time without extra effort on your part. As Kafka points out, it’s perfect for delivering infotainment or water-cooler type news, (such as the report on the Kanye West/Jimmy Kimmel feud.) It might be less effective in conveying complex reporting such as conflict in the Middle East or political legislation.

And while the Instagram format may not be enough for a full length interview, or an in-depth feature, it could be enough to tease viewers, serving as a hook to get them to consume the longer content. The only problem I can foresee is that video is difficult to create, and a drain on resources. By using those resources to churn out a large number of short videos everyday, NowThisNews might be spreading itself too thin, and be unable to spend time on more longer features.

For now, it’s an interesting experiment we’ll be watching closely. 

 

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