WSJ grows video audience with journalism-focused film series

By Paul Plumeri Jr.

The Wall Street Journal

New York, New York, United States


In 2016, American news media had taken a massive hit to its credibility. With growing divisive effects of partisan reporting and the sudden explosion of deliberate fake news, the world was reeling from a spree of global disruption.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wanted to reaffirm its stance as America’s most-trusted news media company by highlighting the actual journalists and stories that form the backbone of our high standard of reporting. To do that, we created a 10-part film series called “The Face of Real News” to celebrate our newsroom’s steadfast investment in rigorous reporting and objectivity.

Our goal was to provide an inside look at the one thing that neither fake nor partisan news sources can offer readers — a dedication to the foundational tenets of journalism.

In response to the public outcry against fake news, The Wall Street Journal created the video series to rebuild trust and give readers a glimpse at what its journalists really do.
In response to the public outcry against fake news, The Wall Street Journal created the video series to rebuild trust and give readers a glimpse at what its journalists really do.

While easy headlines that pander to audiences capture attention, we wanted to remind the public that only real journalism, based on shoe-leather reporting and integrity, deserves their trust.

The intent of our series was to offer a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes into breaking a huge story or building an acclaimed career. Our goal was to build a deeper connection between our readers and the journalists they trust.

To demonstrate the breadth of our reporting, we handpicked reporters and editors across a diverse array of backgrounds and beats. We produced the series with a staggered production timeline that culminated in our first release in late February of 2017.

We offered an exclusive early preview for WSJ members via a special digital newsletter, then published a print ad in the weekend edition that coincided with the public release of the video series in a variety of digital channels. Our final episode, the 10th of the series, was released on March 27, 2018, and was the best performing.

The campaign was meant to both bolster engagement with our current members as well as warm up prospective audiences in our marketing acquisition funnel. We measured success based on video plays and completions as well as engagement on social media in the form of likes, comments, etc.

Across the campaign, we’ve driven over 4,739,761 video views as of this writing. On social, the videos have resulted in 268,417 engagements (likes/comments/shares), resulting in one of our highest performing campaigns of the year.

We also were able to drive consideration among new audiences, delivering a competitive cost per order. Overall, we drove 2,065,259 retargetable video views, increasing our audience size by 42%.

From the overwhelmingly positive sentiments and feedback on the campaign, it is evident that these videos helped our readers see the journalists in a new, more humane, and relatable light.

A special event was held for WSJ members, featuring the journalists on a panel interviewed by Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker. Members jumped at the chance to hear the journalists speak and to converse with them at a cocktail reception following the event. Our members raved about the chance to interact directly with the featured “Face of Real News” stars.

As an ongoing series, the videos have fostered a tremendous amount of support from both readers and journalists alike. The campaign’s principled stance against the failing trustworthiness of news media was a welcome message for those hoping to stay informed without fear of manipulation or lazy reporting — cementing the reason WSJ is a premium news brand worth paying for.

As an institution designed to provide transparency in the highest levels of business and politics, our application of those same principles to our own marketing work had reaffirmed for millions of members that the faith placed in our reporting was well deserved and squarely established our brand of unbiased journalism as the “Face of Real News.”

About Paul Plumeri Jr.

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