Twelve news organizations from the United States and Canada recently wrapped up the Video Business Accelerator, a cohort-based, virtual program with the Meta Journalism Project and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. All of the cohort participants were companies led by people of color. Local Media Association staff joined and participated in the virtual workshops.

The news organizations were invited to 10 weeks of learning on accelerating their video offerings. Teams also received grant funds and spent an additional 6 months to execute their video program strategies.

Here we share how four news outlets built new series, programming and engaging video content that their audiences loved.

1. The AFRO created a cooking video series that shared their cookbook to a digital audience

The AFRO, the 130-year-old national news site that is known as the Black Media Authority, created a keepsake cookbook of family recipes that people could purchase online. After an audience survey confirmed readers had an interest in culinary arts content, the team started to brainstorm turning the cookbook content into video content.

They created a series of short-form and long-form videos highlighting recipes from the cookbook, which were shared as Facebook Live videos and Instagram Reels.

As a result of the newly packaged video series, the first printing of the cookbook sold out. The number of engaged Instagram followers increased by 44% and the average engagement on Facebook posts increased by 71%. Pageviews on the site also grew by 43% because of new viewers coming in from social media. They also increased their passive ad revenue from Facebook by 400%.

Aria Brent, the journalist who hosted the series for The AFRO, said the team really seemed to establish themselves in the platforms they used in this project.

“People will always love a reason to celebrate something,” she said. “Themes, engagement, familiarity, and consistency help our audiences better engage with our content.”

2. Next Shark used their marketing budget to have AAPI influencers promote their newsletter

Next Shark used their marketing budget to have AAPI influencers promote their newsletter.

The team at NextShark, the digital news site that covers news for Asian-Americans, decided to develop a video project that would serve as a referral program for their “SharkBites” daily newsletter.

They partnered with an agency that works with Asian-American and Pacific Islander influencers to create three videos for influencers to share on their social accounts, each including a link to sign up to the newsletter. They also created some custom videos focused on their coverage of AAPI culture, meant to be widely shared by their audience.

While the influencer videos didn’t result in as many direct newsletter signups as their appeal to their own social audience, they found that the reach to new audiences was higher outside of their own social channels, said Waylae Gregoire, the head of business development at NextShark.

The combined efforts resulted in 1,300 additional email signups in less than 3 months. They also found that the videos with a message connecting to one’s culture was better than just the broad apparel of news.

“Culture and society is a lot higher [importance] than entertainment, music, politics or anything else like that,” Gregoire said.

3. The Sacramento Observer created a YouTube series promoting the local Black experience

During the Accelerator program, the team at the African-American newspaper The Sacramento Observer built out a fully functioning video studio for recording and live streaming video.

Setting up this infrastructure also allowed them to launch a video-podcast series called “Living in the Black 9-1-6-ish,” which was about the stories and historical figures central to the Black experience in the Sacramento region.

The new video program is meant to be sponsored by a local business or advertiser, which is an area of advertising revenue they haven’t had before.

Through launching this custom video content, they learned that some of the best video stories were videos driven by personalities in their newsroom or in the community, said Craig Deluz, the video content manager for The Sacramento Observer.

“We learned that personality-driven products drive significant engagement,” he said. “News videos were not enough.”

The Sacramento Observer created a YouTube series promoting the local Black experience

4. The Houston Defender Network created a high school sports shorts video series to reach younger audiences

The team at the Houston Defender Network, which covers the African-American community in the Houston area, wanted to develop a program that promoted the high school sports and athlete experience in the region. They expected to be able to secure a sponsor to monetize the program and their video content.

The video series was packaged with a broader high school sports editorial project to reach younger audiences. The project included a Game of the Week, Player Cards, and Athlete of the Week series that was shared across the website, video and social platforms.

While the team had done some high school sports series similar in the past, they hadn’t packaged it together or promoted it as much, said Clyde Jiles, the audience engagement manager at the Defender.

This time they made sure to tag on social media the athletes, coaches and school programs that were featured in order to grow their reach.

The new content resulted in a 158% increase in users coming to the website from the 18-24 range from 2021 to 2022.

Looking for more? See the work of local news outlets that participated in other Meta Journalism Project Accelerators.