«With videos you can show the audience how you fact-checked a certain story. This doesn’t just help in debunking a claim, but it also empowers the reader»
Kritia Goel, Associate Editor at The Quint (India)
According to many analyses, videos perform better for user engagement than any other kind of content, generating more comments and interactions.
This could be due to the fact that videos are generally able to attract and maintain the attention of the audience for longer time spans, and require lower levels of attention than, for example, a long text piece or a graphic full of words or charts.
Fact-checkers haven’t wasted any time, and many outlets have quickly implemented videos in their social media strategy.
Different platforms, different formats
Not all videos
are the same
Each social platform is built to host different video formats. Let’s look at the main characteristics on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, and how fact-checkers have been taking advantage of them.
YouTube allows individual users and corporations to create personal channels to post their videos, which are played horizontally and can last as long as 12 hours.
Many fact-checking outlets currently have their own YouTube channel, for example BOOM (India)(Figure 1), Colombiacheck (Colombia), Doğruluk Payı (Turkey), and Faktoje (Albania).
Figure 1. BOOM’s YouTube Channel
An example can be found on PolitiFact’s channel, which features the “Truth-O-Meter”, “Fact-checking Joe Biden”, “Fact-checking Donald Trump” and “PolitiFAQ” playlists.
On the other hand, this feature can be interesting for fact-checking outlets which are part of bigger editorial projects, such as AP Fact-check (United States) or Rappler (Philippines). The latter, for instance, doesn’t have an individual YouTube channel for its verification section, but it has created a specific playlist which groups all the videos that deal with fact-checking and debunking.
WebQoof – the fact-checking section of the Indian media outlet The Quint – adopted the same strategy, which we will analyze more in depth in this chapter’s case study.
Furthermore, YouTube videos can include advertisements and be monetized based on the number of views they get, an opportunity that has been seized by creators in all kinds of industries.
Similarly to YouTube, Facebook also allows users to organize their videos into playlists, as we can see on Newtral’s (Spain) page (Video 1). On the other hand, a perk offered by Facebook which is absent in YouTube is the possibility for users to directly share videos on their feeds, adding comments and tagging people in the post.
Video 1. Newtral’s facebook video on fact-checking
Depending on their social media strategy, fact-checking outlets can post the same content onto both YouTube and Facebook (and less often Instagram), or decide to create different content for each platform. However, due to the different characteristics they present and the mixed targets reached by each platform, a strategy based on diversification is generally preferred.
Until 2018, videos could only be uploaded on Instagram as regular posts, which had to be shorter than one minute, or in 15-second Stories.
In 2018, the platform introduced its new service IGTV (Video 2), which allows users to post longer videos: 10 minutes for regular users, increasing up to 1 hour for verified accounts with a large audience.
Video 2. Tirto.id’s and Maldita’s IGTV video on fact-checking
Some fact-checkers have quickly embraced this last feature: WebQoof, for instance, has been using Reels to quickly present the results of their fact-checking analysis.
On the other hand, many fact-checking outlets still prefer to use Instagram to share more traditional video content, such as videos where journalists explain the results of an analysis, dive deeper into the details of a particular topic, or just debunk potentially dangerous hoaxes.
TheQuint’s YouTube strategy
WebQoof doesn’t have an individual YouTube channel for videos, but it publishes its content on a specific playlist called “Fact-Checks and FAQs” on TheQuint’s channel. As of January 2021, the account has 2,85 million subscribers.
In order to understand more about their video strategy we spoke with Kritia Goel, Associate Editor at TheQuint. «We started the WebQoof section in response to the growing menace of fake news and its impact on public perception. Since its inception, we have fact-checked and debunked over 2,000 claims», Goel said. «We fact-check politicians, political speeches, debunk narratives on social media and fact-check claims related to news events and breaking news situations».
Video 3. Example of a video published by TheQuint on YouTube
WebQoof used to post «sporadic videos» on YouTube regularly in 2017, but a real strategy and focus on this format started in 2018 in response to an increase in readership. Today, TheQuint publishes several videos per day, and twice a week it produces content related specifically to WebQoof (the amount can go «up to three or four in case of a big news event»).
As we mentioned, WebQoof’s videos are published in a specific playlist on TheQuint’s YouTube channel. This strategy has proved to perform well: «One thing that we have observed is that WebQoof videos help us achieve better average views and improved watch time,” Goel said. “By adding WebQoof videos to TheQuint’s YouTube channel we have seen the average time spent on videos has gone up».
We also asked Goel how fact-checking videos perform compared to the other videos they publish. «The performance of the videos is dependent on various factors, of which one is newsiness of the video», she said. «Anything which is in sync with the news cycle performs very well on the site and on YouTube».
According to Goel, videos can be a useful tool in the fight against disinformation: «What is beneficial when it comes to WebQoof videos (Video 4) is that you can show the audience how you fact-checked a certain story. This just doesn’t help in debunking a claim, but I think it also empowers the reader as you’re telling them how they could do it themselves the next time. With the vast amount of mis/disinformation in today’s time, when verification is more important than ever, it will only be an additional advantage to educate and empower the reader about the fact-checking process».
The second perk is videos’ ease of consumption and shareability: «Videos can be shared much more easily, which again makes it easier to ensure that fact-checked content reaches those personal groups/private chats on WhatsApp where the falsehood originated from».
Goel concludes that «videos give us an opportunity to fact-check, make an effort to reach the ‘super spreader’ channels of mis/disinformation and educate the audience».