Last year, ProPublica investigated the cross-country rape spree of retired NFL star Darren Sharper. Our story examined law enforcement's handling of the Sharper case — and how he was able to evade arrest for three years, despite numerous complaints filed against him in four states. What took the police so long? And what was the impact of their failures? Our goal was to maximize reach for this important story by raising these questions with our social audience. We set out to adapt a traditional longform narrative into a social video that illustrated the police failures at the heart of our investigation. We wanted the video to tell a story on its own, but also to spark a conversation and encourage people to learn more by visiting our website.
Our original story included a detailed timeline of events that really underscore the missteps made by police in the Sharper case. We brainstormed how we could adapt this simple timeline as a shareable, social video, and decided to focus on the "red flags" that might have led to Sharper's arrest sooner. The final video is optimized for Facebook and features an urgent soundtrack, a "casefile" of key events, and a whiteboard to tally just how long Sharper went free as the "red flags" piled up for police. Facebook viewers can consume the story with or without the sound turned on, which is optimal for autoplay videos. The video concludes with a call-to-action for users to read the full story at propublica.org.
The video succeeded in both telling a compelling story and winning an audience on Facebook. As viewer commented, "This is great. Read your story yesterday. Never thought about how to make a video for it. Or that one even could. But you did. Super work, both on the story and the video. Way to go ProPublica." As of January 2016, the video has reached nearly 1.2 million people on Facebook and earned nearly 375,000 video views. When evaluated along with total page views to the story on our site, the Facebook video helped expand our audience for the story by 156%. It also helped bring thousands of social visitors to our site: before the video launched, social accounted for 9% of story traffic; after the video launched, it reached 16%. We expanded the audience even more by partnering with Upworthy to co-publish the video to their fans, and earned an additional 1.2 million video views. This video's success is a testament to our willingness to adapt traditional investigative journalism for a mobile, social audience.