Success stories: Truthloader
News agency ITN Productions launched its YouTube channel Truthloader to offer a fresh perspective on the static news landscape. To accomplish this, it employed five key tactics: build credibility through a strong, consistent editorial voice; experiment fearlessly with different formats; broadcast live-to-drive engagement; collaborate with other YouTube channels; and make fans part of the conversation. Its comprehensive approach paid off: in just 18 months, Truthloader attracted more than 550K subscribers and increased its brand awareness.
In November 2012, ITN Productions, the news agency behind ITV News and Channel 4 News, launched an innovative YouTube channel called Truthloader. At that time, news on YouTube generally followed a basic strategy that centered on high upload frequency and very little audience engagement.
Truthloader's goal was to introduce a fresh perspective to the landscape, delivering topical news stories and current affairs in innovative and compelling formats. The channel aimed to showcase the work of citizen journalists from around the world, integrating amateur eyewitness reporting with the experience and professionalism of ITN Productions. In just 18 months, Truthloader managed to become one of YouTube's most successful news channels, with over 550,000 subscribers and a strong, recognizable brand. Five key strategies drove its success [YouTube Analytics data].
Truthloader's goal was to introduce a fresh perspective to the landscape, delivering topical news stories and current affairs in innovative and compelling formats. Five key tactics helped them attract more than 550K subscribers and increase its brand awareness.
1. Build credibility through a strong, consistent editorial voice
Created as an alternative to mainstream media, Truthloader promised to present carefully selected stories that wouldn't make it to national television. Preeya Naul, ITN Productions' head of digital syndication, explains the approach. "We set out to deliver a news offering with a distinct point of difference: looking deeper into stories, questioning the mainstream narrative, and providing context to the news with alternative views and opinions."
With controversial, independent footage at the core of the strategy, the channel saw views increase notably whenever a timely news story was uploaded. For example, a segment on the conflict in Syria was the first video to exceed 100,000 views within 24 hours after release. A month later, a story about a train accident achieved 170,000 views. Both videos established the channel's position as the top destination for timely, unbiased news. The channel's growing reputation helped secure the huge success of its footage on chemical weapons in Syria, which gained 273,000 views and 4,120 subscribers in only 24 hours [YouTube Analytics data].
See it in action
Steer topics and issues around what your audience wantsTruthloader saw views increase notably whenever a timely news story was uploaded. Note the 3 peaks outlined in green: Syria conflict, train accident, chemical weapons.
2. Don't be afraid to experiment
Although Truthloader's initial success was built on timely content, the team understood that focusing solely on trending topics wouldn't be enough to build a sustainable channel. To discover more evergreen formats, the channel experimented with over 20 different shows, keeping the best and discontinuing the others.
Truthloader tested a "Top Five" formula with the release of The Five Worst Weapons Still in Use. In the week following its upload, it became clear that the format appealed to the channel's fans, with 30% of the channel's views coming from subscribers. Thanks to direct traffic as well as being included in the Suggested Video feature (the list to the right of the video player suggesting what to watch next), the numbers picked up again a month later as it became the most watched video on the channel, with over six million views [YouTube Analytics data].
Another evergreen format -- "Fact Hunt" -- centred on trivia-style content around various topics such as sex, drugs, and space. The new weekly show immediately resonated with Truthloader's subscribers, who contributed 40% of the views. The bite-sized formula gave viewers a reason to return to the channel regularly and also made it easily shareable [YouTube Analytics data].
3. Go live to stimulate real-time engagement
Introducing new evergreen formats brought sustainable viewership growth, but Truthloader wanted to drive community engagement, too. The channel achieved this through a series of live debates enabled by Hangout technology from Google+.
“A key focus for Truthloader has always been to exploit the technological advances of the platform so that the content appeals to a ‘digital-first’ audience. The live capability of the platform and the Google Hangout integration enables us to facilitate live interviews with people across the globe.”—Preeya Naul, head of digital syndication, ITN Production
Topics and panelists were carefully selected, with an emphasis on controversial issues and charismatic guests. For example, a live "ask me anything" session featured internet phenomenon Darien Long. Better known as "Kick Ass Mall Cop," this Atlanta security professional gained popularity on reddit, thanks to a video of him tasing an unruly woman outside the mall. The debate gained 27,000 views and set the tone for future live events [YouTube Analytics data].
See it in action
Exploit technological advances for your “digital first” audienceA series of Hangouts on Air (arrows) successfully drove fan engagement, with popular debates sparking conversation and generating thousands of comments.
4. Collaborate with carefully selected YouTube channels
To build audiences quickly, Truthloader also collaborated with other established YouTube channels to host live Hangouts featuring authors, politicians, historians, and internet personalities. The team got started by organizing four collaborative Hangouts: "Is gaming sexist?", "Is gaming addictive?", "Are video games art?", and "How many people can live on Earth?" Each of these brought a spike in subscriptions, but it was the last one in this list -- copresented with Vsauce -- that generated the most dramatic results. Vsauce is an educational channel with an engaged, loyal audience of over 2.5 million subscribers. The collaboration helped Truthloader gain 1,418 subscribers within 24 hours, exceeding the average daily subscriber growth by 711%. What's more, the debate produced 934% more comments than the average live Hangout that year [YouTube Analytics data].
See it in action
Collabs built audiences quicklySuccessful collaborations (green dotted outlines - Jesse Cox and Vsauce) brought a spike in likes, comments, and subscriptions.
5. Make your fans part of the conversation
From the start, Truthloader asked viewers to participate in discussion, either directly via the hosts or through video descriptions, that encouraged the audience to cocreate future content. To reward participating fans, Truthloader made it a policy to include them in videos through both shout-outs and credits.
Comments also help build ongoing dialogue and a sense of community. Truthloader's team takes time to moderate comments, answer questions, and take feedback, making it possible for the audience to develop friendly relationships with the relatable hosts. A live "ask me anything" Hangout with Truthloader's hosts generated 1,066 comments with only 2,228 views, which means almost half of the viewers participated in the live conversation [YouTube Analytics data].
In summary, Truthloader's experience shows that on a social platform such as YouTube, it's not enough to upload high-quality, timely news. To build a sustainable following, it is critical to follow best practices for audience development: introduce a regular schedule, experiment with formats, and invite your fans to be part of your channel.
See it in action
Ask viewers to participate in discussionHost comments stimulate connections with fans. A fan commented “You mean 46 BILLION dont you”, and Truthloader responded “I did mean million, I just got really overexcited with the O’s - there’s an annotation over it but if you’re on mobile/tablet you won’t see it!”
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