Channel 4 has launched a brilliant new website presenting daily headlines from around the world as GIFs, which aims to repackage online news in a format more appealing to teens and young adults…
Hosted on Tumblr, the NewsWall is aimed at 16-34-year-olds and features a rolling feed of news stories repurposed as GIFs. Users can click on GIFs to read a more detailed summary of each story, and access a link to the original source.
The concept was devised by 4Creative’s Jack Croft and Stacey Bird, who worked with illustrator Chris Rice to create the GIFs featured on the site so far. The trio have been based at ITN’s headquarters since the site’s launch, working with the news production team to curate a new selection of stories each day.
“We are managing to do about 9 a day – with copywriting and research, GIF creation and sign off this is the most we can physically do,” Croft, Rice and Bird told CR. The group won’t be based at ITN permanently, and will soon be handing responsibility for GIFs over to the Channel 4 News team, but say they will still make the occasional GIF from their offices at 4Creative.
As Croft and Bird explain, creating GIFs based own serious news stories that will appeal to younger audiences is a tricky task, but the site perfectly captures Channel 4’s irreverent tone of voice, providing humorous and silly imagery (such as the GIF created for an article about Milifandom, below) alongside more hard-hitting content on recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa and the news that ISIS was allegedly masterminded by a former spy for Sadam Hussein. While many GIFs link to Channel 4 news content, the site also contains articles from around the web, explain Croft and Bird.
“To appeal to a wider audience we aren’t just covering Channel 4 News stories, so we have a range of headlines that have been curated between us and Jon Laurence – the digital editor of Channel 4 News. Plus, we sometimes need to take a judgement call and some stories just aren’t right to see in GIF,” they add.
Images are sourced from a mix of Getty and Reuters images, Channel 4 News footage and footage shot by the group on their phones. “The limitations of imagery are what has made us become more creative with the executions,” explain Croft and Bird, who describe it as “the most on-the-fly way we have ever had to work.”
While GIFs and memes are a staple of the internet (thousands are posted on Twitter and Facebook in response to news stories and viral videos every day), Channel 4 claims the platform is the first GIF news service of its kind. In its humour and tone of voice, it’s also reminiscent of the work Richard Turley has been doing with MTV, repurposing animations, news media and user-generated content from around the web to create GIFs and bumpers for the channel and its social media and web pages.
It’s an interesting example of how traditional broadcasters can repackage news content in a way that appeals to younger audiences online, in a style more in keeping with the visual language of social media – in a press release announcing NewsWall, Olivia Browne, group business director at 4Creative says the site was set up to provide “an innovative way of reaching a younger demographic with the news – that spoke their language, and went to where they were. News in GIFs had never been done before, and we liked the purity of an animated headline that distilled the news down to the heart of the story and could also be engaging, entertaining, and at times irreverent.”
As Eliza Williams wrote about in our March issue, Vice has also enjoyed great success creating news which appeals to teen and young adult audiences through its Vice News channel on YouTube. The channel was founded with the intention of serving a different style of video news to that offered by mainstream broadcasters, offering films which are often longer, more graphic or presented in a looser style than those made by TV channels, and now has over 190 million views on YouTube and 1.2 million subscribers.
As Kevin Sutcliffe, head of news programming EU at Vice News, told Williams in our feature, the format of television news in particular has remained largely unchanged for decades – and if broadcasters really want to engage with young adults, they have to try and create something that feels fresh and different. “The reason [traditional news reporting] doesn’t speak to a young audience is obvious – it’s middle-aged journalists in suits and ties talking to middle-aged journalists in suits and ties in studios. Or out on live links in front of something going-on – it feels formal, it feels mediated, it feels talked-down-to.”
With a mix of irreverent video content and serious investigative journalism (such as its 43-minute film on IS), Vice has also shown that offering a more youth-oriented alternative to traditional news coverage doesn’t have to mean “dumbing down” – and can applied to serious stories as well as light-hearted ones. While not every story can be condensed to a brief GIF, C4’s NewsWall offers a carefully selected mix of serious and silly news in a much more visually compelling format than a traditional homepage (though as Bird and Croft point out, not every story can, or should be, reduced to a GIF).
Channel 4 has also been using various tactics to encourage under 25’s to take part in this year’s General Election – it recently launched a campaign titled ‘X’, which invited users to sign up for free personalised text messages reminding them to vote on May 7, is streaming a Youth Leaders Debate on April 28 and on May 7, will be switching off E4 from 7am until polling stations close to encourage viewers to go out and vote (an idea also thought up by Croft and Bird).
As a film launching on air tonight explains, viewers who tune in on election day will simply be met with animated footage of ‘Darren’ – “the guy in charge of making sure E4 is on” – manning an empty control room, instead of the usual programmes and ads: