We have a new series of articles here on our website called ‘From our data’, in which we attempt to assess the impact of editorial effort. We explored whether the inclusion of videos in articles can lead to better engagement. It turns out that this isn’t as straightforward as it seems…

A few years back, the future of journalism seemed centred on a strategy that prioritised a ‘pivot to video’. It wasn’t long before this proved to be little more than a punchline to pretty much every joke going - and certainly not the magic bullet it was promised to be. But the assumption prevailed: people like video, therefore news publications should include it.

We’re going to conclude 3 things in this case study:

  1. There is a difference in engagement score between articles with videos and those without - but it’s small.
  2. The difference could be explained by a slightly different distribution strategy, namely push or no push.
  3. The kinds of formats used in articles matter: stories told through the form of video, rather than articles where video is a component, tend to have much higher audience engagement.

The case study

To gain a clear understanding of the actual impact of videos in articles now, we analysed over 4,000 articles from a two-month period (June and July 2023) across five clients of smartocto. The approach was simple: compare the Content Performance Indicator (CPI*) for reach and engagement between articles with videos and those without.


*We explain what CPI entails in this blog, but for the purposes of the following overview, it's essential to understand that a score of 500 represents the median. If the score is higher, the article performs better than all other articles you've created, and below 500 means it performs worse. The score ranges from 0 to 1000.


1. There is a difference in engagement score between articles with videos and those without - but it’s small

video engagement

Overall, our findings show that the difference between the reach of articles with video and without is minimal, if not negligible. Some brands use an icon to indicate when an article contains a video, but this doesn't necessarily do much to attract more attention.

2. The difference could be explained by a slightly different distribution strategy, namely push or no push

Push notifications, on the other hand, certainly do make a difference. Therefore, we must strongly consider that the difference in CPI between articles with and without videos may be due to the fact that articles with videos are pushed more frequently.

This could potentially have an effect on engagement because we know that people who have push notifications enabled on their phones tend to be more loyal visitors, engaging more attentively with the content compared to casual users. This is why they’ve agreed to get push notifications in the first place. The higher interest translates into slightly higher engagement.


If you'd like to know how smartocto analyses these kind of things, please get in touch via the button below.

pushnotifications case study

However, a more significant difference emerges when we consider engagement. The assumption here is that people tend to linger longer in an article when it contains a video. Perhaps a video encourages them to react or read further, leading to an uplift of metrics such as Read Depth and Click-Through Rate. These metrics, of course, impact CPI for engagement.

Yet, when we engage in conversations with some clients, we are not entirely convinced.

video engagement

Regional broadcaster Omroep Brabant advises caution before drawing definitive conclusions. Editor Janneke Bosch remarks: "We have largely stopped creating videos to enrich articles. We used to do that, but they were hardly viewed despite the considerable effort put into them. Now, we only share videos of significant incidents where moving images are an essential factor."

However, it's important to note that Omroep Brabant has not completely abandoned videos on their website. Prominently featured on the homepage is a carousel of short, vertical videos suitable for social media. "These videos are much better received."

video vertical social
This vertical video carousel contains short video formats tailored for social media and online. They don't have pre-roll advertisement.

3. Use video as a deliberate storytelling tool, not just for the sake of it

Like Omroep Brabant, RTV Utrecht is one of the websites we analysed in this case study. With a CPI score of 803 for engagement, RTV Utrecht's articles with videos perform exceptionally well. What sets them apart from other brands?

"I find it an interesting question because, to be honest, I was quite surprised to hear that the videos scored well," says editor Maarten Fussel from RTV Utrecht. "Now I understand that the score is about the articles, and that I do get. Generally, our videos don't receive much viewership, and we have plans to do something similar to what Omroep Brabant does, which is to create vertical videos that aren't necessarily highlighted within articles."

So, how can it be that their articles have so much more engagement? Fussel suggests that it might have to do with the growing attention they pay to the user needs approach.

“The articles containing videos are crafted by our own reporters and often don't feature breaking news. There's more focus on providing an original angle that aligns with our audience's desires. This could explain why articles with videos tend to have higher engagement than those without."

Omroep Brabant only adds videos in simple ‘Update me’ stories, and you know what? The engagement on their articles with videos are worse than the articles without. That emphasises that adding video is not your ticket to a great engagement score.


The bottom line cannot be that a video accompanying an article inherently lacks value. However, we can conclude that having a video in an article doesn't automatically lead to increased engagement.

It's still possible to conduct qualitative research. Which articles, scoring close to 1000 on engagement, have an indispensable video that likely contributes significantly to engagement? For example, at Omroep Brabant, it's a video of hailstones destroying cars, while at RTV Utrecht, it's a 21-minute post-season discussion about the local football club, FC Utrecht.

"Videos that perform well are created with an online audience in mind," says Rutger Verhoeven, co-founder and CMO of smartocto. "There are different rules for online video than for traditional television news. It's about the format, design, length, and how the video is put together. Also, don't underestimate the influence of pre-roll advertisements. If readers can't discern what value a video adds before they begin watching, they may not be prepared to sit through one or two ads before getting to the news item."

Rutger also believes that positioning the video better on the page, rather than burying it at the end of a lengthy text, can lead to better discovery and viewership.

He shares his best tips to consider when adding a video to an article:

  • Create videos that enhance the news story
  • Tailor videos to the online platform
  • Ensure an engaging format and appealing visuals (establish a unique style)
  • Place the video in the correct position on the page (not the end)
  • Analyse which videos perform well and which don't, and draw conclusions accordingly