Reaching Out to Content Creators: Which Platform is Most Effective?

By Shane Raymond at Storyful

Storyful journalists reach out on a huge number of videos daily, asking for information, contact details, and clearance for our clients to use content for news coverage. It is generally believed amongst journalists that some platforms are better for outreach than others, e.g. that sending an email may be enough to guarantee that a message will be seen, while leaving a YouTube comment is not.

We have taken 300 instances of outreach through Twitter, Facebook and email (100 each) from the months of April to August 2016 to verify whether there is a significant difference in response rates between platforms. We have also analysed 100 instances of outreach on the Chinese social media platform Weibo for response rates. As we don’t reach out on Weibo very often, this outreach dates from as far back as September 2015 to make up the data set. There was no significant difference between our early and later outreach on Weibo.

Across all platforms we have tried to focus on news or trends outreach that does not initially try to license content. Other teams at Storyful have their own systems for tracking correspondence, and asking for licensing inevitably involves long exchanges across multiple platforms.

Any instance of outreach that did not receive a response on the same platform was counted as a “no reply”, even if the uploader replied through a different platform.

Any instance of outreach that resulted in clearance being granted through the same platform was counted as a “clearance received”.

Any instance of outreach that resulted in a response, but not clearance, is counted as an “other response”. These include people denying clearance, telling us that they aren’t the rights holders, clarifying facts, or moving the conversation onto a different platform. These responses can often be as valuable to a journalist as outright clearance.

Graphic by Cara Murtagh of Storyful

I imagine it would surprise most journalists to see that email did not have a significantly better rate of response than other platforms, performing only slightly better than Facebook. This is in spite of an advantage that our methodology granted email; people often respond to outreach on other platforms by sending us an email (which counts as “no reply”), but they have never responded to emails by sending us a tweet or Facebook message. Conversely, journalists are more likely to ask for footage from official sources such as police departments or governing bodies through email, and these organisations are often not forthcoming, slightly reducing email’s rates of response and clearance.

The results of the Weibo outreach are consistent with our journalists’ experience in dealing with Chinese netizens — they will readily reply, insisting that you use the content on their page for news, while also telling you that they did not create it and often don’t know who did.

In line with our predictions, Twitter had, by a clear margin, the highest clearance rate. This, combined with the minimal effort that Twitter outreach requires, should encourage journalists to use it as first port of call when looking for content.There is a caveat: Twitter is the most public of these platforms. It looks bad when a person who has just lost their house receives a tweet saying: “Wow! Great video! Can we use this for news?” It looks worse when they are the victims of an attack.

The obvious takeaway from this survey is the need to reach out on multiple platforms when looking for valuable content; across all platforms, the chances of any individual message being responded to was less than half.

Shane Raymond is a Storyful intern based in Dublin. See more from Shane on Linkedin and Twitter. For more information on Storyful, visit storyful.com or follow us on Twitter.