Highlights from the EJC's first YouTube News Creator Accelerator Programme
The way Europeans get their news is changing. More than a third (34%) of 15-24-year-olds in the EU follow news primarily on YouTube or other video platforms, compared to only 8% of people aged 55+, according to the Eurobarometer Media & News Survey 2022. With young people rapidly migrating from traditional print, broadcast and digital (yes, we can now speak of “traditional digital”) to social and streaming platforms, journalists need to keep up if they want to speak to audiences where they actually are.
Partnering for the first time with YouTube, the European Journalism Centre (EJC) aims to support this transition, helping newsrooms and freelance journalists reach newer, younger audiences. The goal of the partnership was to bolster the presence of quality, fact-based news content on YouTube. This collaboration formed part of the EJC’s larger vision to foster a resilient digital news ecosystem in Europe, in which trustworthy content stands out and is trusted over disinformation.
To this end, the EJC launched an online YouTube News Accelerator Programme earlier this year. Concluding on 23 March 2023, our intensive 10-week accelerator programme equipped a selected group of 25 news creators from Germany and the UK with the tools to grow their YouTube channels.
The participants represented a diverse group covering a broad range of topics and issues; we had established newsrooms such as The New Statesman and The Big Issue alongside independent creators such as Climate Adam, an Oxford-educated climate scientist who makes climate change digestible through engaging content, and Migration Matters, a platform for nuanced discussions and education around global migration.
Some of the main challenges that participants brought to the programme included integrating their YouTube channel into their core business model and monetising it. Led by veteran YouTube news creators and mentors Marvin Neumann and Jack Kelly (founder of TLDR News), the programme provided participants with a mix of group training sessions and personalised 1:1 coaching, as well as a financial grant they could spend to develop their channel. A practical highlight of the programme was developing a channel trailer or a YouTube Short, which was presented during the closing session of the programme.
Participants also had the chance to learn from seasoned YouTube news creators like Jo Crawford, a UK YouTube creator who now works for Times Radio, and Mirko Drotschmann, a German broadcast journalist who runs a YouTube channel with over 2 million subscribers.
Participants in the YouTube News Accelerator reported high satisfaction during the programme evaluation, which involved both surveys and individual interviews. They highlighted changes to their channels such as increased posting frequency, creating their first YouTube shorts, and focusing on experimentation over perfectionism. Participants also set ambitious goals, such as doubling subscriber count and reaching broader audiences, inspired by the programme. One participant told us:
“I developed a whole new YouTube strategy based on what I learned at the program. It includes ideas for video series and also metrics to achieve. The session on branding also helped me think about the visual treatment of the series”.
Through a vibrant virtual learning environment on the Basecamp platform, the EJC promoted a lively exchange of ideas. This platform fostered active communication and resource-sharing, enabling participants to learn from both their mentors and peers. Our online platform also became a space for the group to discuss collaborations and joint projects, and they even used it to organise an in-person meet-up at the Google offices in Berlin.
Participants found personalised sessions with the mentors most valuable. For instance, Nalan Sipar experienced a 160% growth in views on her YouTube channel after her coaching sessions with Marvin. Similarly, Dala Mahra gained newfound confidence following a session on the importance of centering personality for channel success: “Jack’s session helped me focus on myself. As a Hijabi-creator, I was uncomfortable before with putting my face on the video or thumbnail. But now I do," she told us.
From improved recording equipment to increased click-through rates, participants experienced a variety of tangible benefits. Etrit Asllani upgraded his production equipment, while UK-based channel Dr.Gilbz reported a 7.5% increase in video click-through rates after updating their thumbnails.