Workshop at 25th ISOJ presents best practices for election coverage using YouTube

In a year when almost half of the world's population is expected to go to the polls in national and local elections, the 25th International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ) featured a workshop that offered suggestions on how journalists and media outlets can use YouTube in their election coverage.

Nicolette Scott, strategic partner manager at YouTube News, gave the workshop "Optimizing Your YouTube Strategy for 2024 Elections" on the second day of the 25th ISOJ, April 13.

Scott opened the session with some YouTube access data: according to her, 300 million live viewers log in daily to the platform, and shorts have 70 billion daily views. She encouraged journalists to take advantage of this vast YouTube audience in their election coverage.

"Reach is even more critical during an election cycle because there's a big opportunity to connect people to trustworthy, high-quality election news and information on YouTube given our scale. (...) We want to ensure that people are connecting with credible sources to help them make informed decisions," Scott said.

How to prepare to cover the elections using YouTube

Scott highlighted three starting points for successful election coverage on the platform:

Responsible content sharing: "We remove and reduce harmful content, we raise reliable sources, and we want to reward and empower responsible, authoritative creators," Scott said.

Leveraging YouTube’s full suite of products and strategies: "We talk a lot at YouTube about multiformat strategy, and what that means is thinking about multiple content types and covering through different formats, whether it's video on demand, long-form content, shorts, live stream, podcasting content."

Understanding YouTube's rules: "You want to understand the community guidelines, copyright, our ad-friendly rules. All of this can be found on our website (...). This is also really critical with a sensitive topic like elections."

Using YouTube for election coverage

Scott offered some suggestions based on examples she showed of media outlets that have used YouTube in recent years to enhance their election coverage.

She pointed out that this coverage goes far beyond voting day. Before the election itself, it is possible to offer candidate profiles and explainers about the electoral process, as well as compilations and recaps of what happened during the campaign. It's a good time to build your audience and get them to follow all your coverage of the electoral cycle, Scott said.

Election day is a good time to engage your community by offering, for example, a live broadcast of the results in real time. After the vote, it's possible to offer analysis and context dealing with the impact of the results on public policy, or public figures' reactions to the result, she suggested.

Scott pointed out that YouTube's audience has a wealth of options, so it's important to "be different.”

"Think about how you can present the content in a way that's unique, differentiate your content to stand out, because if you are searching for something on a candidate or elections results, all of the search results are probably going to look really similar, because they're all covering the same thing. So [think about] how can you really stand out, be engaging, think about the combination of your titles and your thumbnails," she said.

In 2024, YouTube's big tip is to "focus on creating content for the living room.” According to Scott, there is a growing trend of YouTube being used on TV, which is now the fastest growing screen among the platform's audience.

"So think about creating content that's engaging, HD quality, longer-form. And for partners who might have access to broadcast content: if you have a nightly news channel, consider uploading the full episodes during the election season to bring more accessibility to your content for viewers that don't necessarily have access to TV," she said.

Shorts to reach new audiences

Scott highlighted shorts, a format of vertical videos up to one minute long, as "a great way to grow and reach new audiences.” She shared best practices for using this format, which were gathered from an analysis carried out by YouTube of the most viewed shorts globally.

  1. Include dates: The best-performing shorts on the platform always include the date of the events shown in the video, she said. This is important to situate the audience and provide context, and to avoid misinformation.
  2. Text over video: The viewing experience of shorts is different from that of long, horizontal videos, YouTube's classic format. Most people are going through the shorts feed with the audio turned off. Therefore, they will tend to continue watching your shorts if you offer subtitles that allow them to know what is being said in the video without having to turn on the audio.
  3. Title and introduction: It's important to "hook" the viewer in the very first seconds of the short, before they decide to move on to the next one. To do this, make an effort to have a title and introduction that arouse the audience's curiosity.
  4. Pay attention to the audience's attention span: "Shorts are meant to be short," emphasized Scott. Get to the point and don't try to cover several topics in a single one-minute video. Focus on a single theme and be pithy.

YouTube "doubles down" on news

Closing the workshop, Scott shared the News on YouTube website, which offers resources and support to media outlets and journalists who want to improve their experience when offering journalism on the platform.

"On the YouTube side, we're actually doubling down on news and investing more in the products to really raise the credible information when it comes to not just elections but any sort of breaking news event," she said.

Republishing Guidelines