The Guardian's first platform-specific video series has just reached 200 million views on Facebook.
Designed to reach social audiences who dip in and out of news, 'dabs' combine video, text and graphics to grab people's attention as they scroll through their feeds.
Paul Boyd, multimedia editor for innovation and audience at the Guardian, who spearheaded the project, explained that as well as allowing the Guardian to tell more intimate and human stories, these videos help communicate hard to understand subjects like science, environment, social justice and global development in a simple and entertaining way.
"Numbers of views are great, but these are numbers around really big subjects," he said, noting that bespoke video content is the key to success on social platforms, especially when they ignite a conversation as opposed to simply telling the audience something the publisher thinks viewers should know.
"We've managed to speak to massive audiences on subjects like climate change by coming at stories in a completely different way to how they would have been told by us before."
The videos, which get an average of 1.4 million views each, have become the Guardian's testing ground for creative storytelling on Facebook, using dynamic imagery, colours and movements to produce 'thumbstoppers' – content that makes audiences stop and watch when scrolling through their newsfeeds.
"People are still scanning, skimming, flicking and swiping on phones, which is a dynamic user behaviour that we wanted to mimic with a similar visual design, using things like swooping transitions and text flying in from the side.
"It's not about length, it is about dynamism, about momentum and movement through visual communication, catching people at the start, teasing them in, and then presenting information that builds up as you get to a conclusion."
Boyd said the production process for this series differed to some of the other projects his team had embarked on in the past, which "might have been guilty of just jumping straight to the idea phase".
Before they started 13 months ago, the team looked at defining why they were producing a new video series, what they hoped to achieve, how they could measure it and what it was going to look like, and now believe preparation and long-term vision are key to successful content on social platforms.
People are still scanning, skimming, flicking and swiping on phones, which is a dynamic user behaviour that we wanted to mimic with a similar visual designPaul Boyd, the Guardian
Boyd explained the tone of the script, music, visuals and transitions were all carefully chosen to suit on-the-go, promiscuous audiences that would be watching on their mobile phones, predominantly with the sound off.
"In the past, we would have video formats that existed on lots of different platforms, and the problem with that is with any sort of design, if you're not designing specifically, it can become vague and therefore not necessarily the best product for the user," he said.
"It's also been about holding our nerve – there's been many a day where people suggest certain stories that would be obvious ratings winners. But it's just being brave enough to hold fire and be disciplined to choose the right story – which, as it happens, changes as the series evolves.
"It's not about volume, it's about what we call responsible reach. We want to speak to our audiences in the right way with the right content – it's not about chasing numbers."
The team, made up of journalists and motion designers, works together on the project to both repackage existing material in a suitable way for Facebook audiences and to generate original stories.
"Lots of the learning here has come from advertising, because you're trying to get a distinct message across very quickly to a specific audience – you're trying to get your voice heard in a very big crowd, making it easy for the busy user to watch what you are showing them."
Free daily newsletter
- Advice from Facebook for reaching wider audiences after the latest newsfeed updates
- 'Look for the sweet spot between news and context' – How to make your live streams more engaging
- Tip: Remember these pointers before setting up a Facebook group
- Spaceship Media is using 'dialogue journalism' to enable productive conversations between communities at odds
- 'We went for goofy': Lessons from Omrop Fryslân's first Facebook Live with multiple cameras