Editorial Resources, Video Monetization

5 Steps for Covering Viral Stories with Video

By Kyle Basedow | Jun 20, 2017


The best part about working with the news is that there is never a dull moment. Something is always breaking, trending or going viral. Sometimes, it can be all three. However, it’s important to make the distinction between the three because while they can all be related or even about the same thing, they are not interchangeable.

  • Breaking news often deals with stories that are happening right now, and that the public needs to know because they carry some sort of importance one way or another.
  • Trending news often builds up over time and picks up traction at a slower pace before reaching a peak and falling off in rapid succession.
  • Viral news is nearly identical to trending news except it spreads faster, and often has a longer lifespan than a piece of news that is “trending.”

Of the three, viral news can be the toughest to cover – especially with video – as the details available are usually sparse. If a video or tweet or heartwarming story suddenly goes viral, you want to try and get out ahead of the pack… but it’s important that your speed doesn’t impact the accuracy of your story. When covering a viral story, here are some steps you should make sure you’re checking off:




1. Make sure you aren’t using #FakeNews

When you notice something is going viral, the first thing you need to do is fact check. If it’s a quote, double check who reported it and who said it. Does it still strike you as a little odd? Trust your gut. The worst thing you can do is make a video about a viral story only to find out you have the wrong information. If it’s a piece of media, make sure you’re going to the original owner of the content and not a third party. You definitely don’t want to get in any legal trouble because you didn’t take the time to do more research. Here’s an example of viral video regarding professional golfer Tiger Woods and a recent DUI arrest. There was a lot of speculation around the arrest so it was important to find the correct information and not listen to the rumors.

2. Pick the right media

This piggybacks a little bit off the first point I made but media is a very important part of viral videos, especially since most of the things that tend to go viral are pieces of media. For example, this video went viral a few weeks ago. In order to cover this story with a video, you need access to the interview itself because that is what actually went viral. A video that doesn’t include the interview is useless because no one wants to hear a description of what went viral, they want to see it. If you’re in a situation where the story that is going viral is a quote or a tweet, the media is still a vital piece of the video. It has to be accurate and engaging so the viewer doesn’t get bored. If that happens, you won’t be able to capitalize off the traffic from the viral content. Here’s a video I created around these viral Instagram photos from a woman engineer’s male-only bridal party:

3. Give it your best hot take

When covering a story that went viral, it’s critical that you not only cover the basic facts but put your own spin on it – give your viewer a reason to watch your video, even if they’ve already seen the original. More often than not, when something goes viral, it tends to be light and entertaining, something that makes you laugh, so the attitude of your video needs to be in the same vein – like in this video around the latest Trumpism, “covfefe”:

4. Keep it up to date

One thing that is always a given when it comes to viral news: it will never sit still. New details are constantly emerging and people are responding to it. In order to get the most shelf life from your video, you need to be sure to update regularly, or at least check if there are new details or wrinkles that you can add. Whenever new details came out about this viral story on the ‘Pill Cosby’ outrage, I made sure to update this video accordingly:

5. Be proud of your title

I can’t stress the importance of a good title enough, especially for a viral video. Often times you aren’t going to be able to make the thing going viral your cover image or even use it as the first piece of media in your video so you need to make sure the title makes them really want to watch the video. When the New York Mascot was fired after showing some fans the middle finger, I created this video with the title “Mr. Met has been fired for flipping the bird.” Because alliteration is always an audience pleaser!

Learn something new? Try it out in the Control Room!

Kyle Basedow