Through Instafax, the BBC began emitting short news videos to Instagram users on January 16th. The three times daily 15-second videos provide news summaries to users of mobile phones and tablets.
The name of Instafax gives a nod to Ceefax, the world’s first teletext service launched by the BBC in 1974. The service was retired after 38 years in 2012, coinciding with analog switch-off in Northern Ireland.
BBC News Online’s Steve Hermann said the decision to initiate the Instagram experiment is a response to changing audience habits. In December 2013, data showed that people accessing news through cell phones and tablets surpassed those using desktops for the first time.
Discussing Instafax, Hermann explained in The Guardian: “We want the process to be organic, and we’re keen to trial new ideas on how we can use our video content to reach new audiences. [BBC News director] James Harding has been clear in his vision to find innovative ways to bring the best of our journalism to new audiences, something our team has been looking at for some time.”
The Instafax format generally utilizes B-roll footage with explanatory titles, background music, and a brief Instagram description of the video.
The BBC isn’t the only major news organization exploring the mobile market with bite-sized news stories. NBC recently partnered with NowThisNews, a start-up specializing in short-form news, to bring news briefs to the Web. NowThisNews touted itself as the first news agency devoted exclusively to news packaged in short videos maximized for social media and mobile consumption.
NBC is targeting younger news consumers who use social media platforms like Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram. NBC executive Patricia Fili-Krushel said: “We know that news consumption among younger audiences continues to grow, but in order to reach that audience, we need to continue to create video for the platforms they use most. NowThisNews does exactly that – delivering relevant news stories for the mobile and social platforms that resonate with this audience.”
Working with Instagram, the BBC appears to be angling for this younger market, as well as online adults who access social media for instant news updates.