How to use explainers and heavy format videos to tell stories online

In previous posts, I’ve shared how to produce and edit videos for the web, being one of the currents most popular ways to share news nowadays.

And not every newsworthy video work successfully on this platform, but there are two that can come in many different forms but that keep structure: heavy format videos and explainers.

On a graph, shared my Demoup, we can appreciate the uncontrollable rise and popularity of video consumption on the Internet, above on in devices like mobile phones or tablets.graph

So it is obvious that mediums have to reinvent themselves and focus more their visual content to be shared through small and portable devices. And the CNN is a great example of this labour.

In two articles published in explain how the news channel have invested in 2016 £16 million for their digital operation, specifically focused on online video.

And for their production,  Vivek Kemp, executive producer for CNN Digital and CNN Digital Studios said in one of the articles that, “digital video takes many different forms and we’re not choosy about the format, but we’re very choosy about making sure it’s working on the platform in the best possible way, and that we’re telling the best possible story.

And how to produce the best content to draw the line between online and TV? Well, these two ways to tell stories are a good example of accomplishment.


This is one of the aims that CNN wanted to achieve. And a good shooting sometimes is not enough, and the CNN International Digital supervising producer Ryan Smith says that you need to add some extra value to the video to make it work.

And that what explainers do to your news content.

This kind of video tries to explain in a short amount of time a specific issue, that could be a current affair or not.

This video by BBC2 explaining the weird medical condition of a Russian girl, that could be used again for future news.

And another type of video style that CNN has been using online is combined text and picture on a heavy format.

These videos can be watched and understood on a desktop and especially on mobile devices because they usually have no sound and shows something using subtitles.

But also, as is explain in this article, when stories are too graphic or “hard to digest”, CNN has been using illustration to break down with those sensitive elements and give voice to a story.

One example of this conversion is an animation looking at the Ebola virus.



At the end, (short the article) the point of these videos is compelling information that could be explained in 90 minutes and do it in 90 seconds, answering to the necessity of speeding news caused by social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

But, of course, there are much more uses and classifications for this kind of visual content.

Some of those, suggested by  “The Oline Journalism Handbook” (2011) blogging to a camera, streaming videos and of course long documentaries ( from 10 to 30 minutes).

Also, this book remarks the idea of “newsroom investing in online video”, above all to make the different between an amateur video ( what we call user-generated content, when is ordinary people the one that shoots with their portable devices a newsworthy) and a professional one.

But “The online Journalism Handbook” remind too that you can shoot all kind of videos previously describe also with cheap devices like your smartphone, as long as you know how to shoot and what to shoot (WHERE IS THE NEW?).

If you want to read the full two article click in the following links:

How CNN invested in digital video

Online video at CNN

Also, you can buy “The Online Journalism Handbook” through this link 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s