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BBC News launches Instafax

Digital, Music Video / Film

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 17 January 2014, 19:05    Permalink    Comments (0)

BBC News' Instagram account is a relatively untested platform, but its last five posts have revealed a new way that the broadcaster is creating short-form news packages. The Beeb is calling the service, Instafax...

It's early days for the BBC's Instagram at bbcnews – 5,833 followers is a long way from the 2.3m it has on its UK Twitter account – but the organisation is trialling a form of news bulletin with this smaller audience, having begun to load clips to the site alongside still images in September last year (there are 203 posts to date).

Uploading clips of BBC News content here is an interesting idea. A small teaser of footage is often all that's required to generate interest in the wider story, and it also provides an opportunity to isolate decent TV interview quotes as soundbites – such as this 10-second clip of Bradley Wiggins reacting to his recent knighthood.

Instafax clips are different, however, in that the footage also contains written copy. Over ten or so seconds, video plays while a brief snippet of text accompanies each edit. Of course, it doesn't pack very much into the films but the aim is to get across the main points of a story, the complexities of which can be read on the main BBC News website.

But while a single message on Twitter can easily connect a reader to a wider story – out to the BBC News site, for example – Instagram feeds are stuck in relative isolation. And so one of Instafax's biggest problems is that the format doesn't allow for live links in the visual part of the posts, let alone in the accompanying text box on the right.

And the constraints of the format also work their way into the copy now and then. While the Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda's story is certainly "unique", is that really the best word to use when first introducing his story, as below? (Far from telling readers the story, it becomes a teaser for the story itself which appear on the next part of the film.)

But does that mean the Instafax idea won't work? Not necessarily. As much as Twitter is an excellent way to scan news headlines and choose which stories to explore further, the Instafax service offers Instagram users a quick news fix without leaving the platform; the first line of the bulletin acting as its headline.

In reply to some of those leaving comments on its first Instafax, the BBC offered some indication of its aims with the nascent service. "We are trying to create content within the social spaces people are inhabiting," it said. "That's the main goal. The way we see it, Instagram and our website are – in many ways – two separate audiences.

"At the end of the day, it's just an experiment. And we're very happy you are having these conversations here. They are helpful for us when trying to decide how to move forward."

Instafaxes are posted at


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