It’s easy to overlook good news, especially on large media platforms. USA TODAY realized this and set out to change the way it curates positive stories by creating a social video brand focused on stories about special relationships, acts of kindness and out of the ordinary triumphs.
ivoh recently interviewed Cathy Kononetz, the Senior Director of Gannett’s Video Production Center, about USA TODAY’S decision to begin a positive news brand.
“We found that within the USA TODAY network of sites we had a lot of beautiful, well told stories, but they were often getting lost amongst the bad news and sensational headlines,’” Kononetz said. “So we created Inspiration Nation as a daily series on USA TODAY to bring more attention to these great stories our journalists around the country are telling.”
As the series progressed, Kononetz and her team felt that the series needed its own brand, voice and identity. A team of four people from the Gannett Video Production Center, including Kononetz, went through the Gannett Innovation lab to further develop their idea and create a new brand. Together, they turned Inspiration Nation into Humankind in — a standalone site with social media channels. Gannet’s Innovation Lab helped launch the project in July of 2015. While Humankind is part of the USA TODAY network of sites, it has its own page and social media channels for readers to interact with the stories and videos.
Humankind is led primarily by Kononetz and Senior Digital Video Producer Lauren Ready. Kononetz manages the overall strategy and planning for Humankind and Ready handles the curating, writing, producing and editing of the stories and videos. The small team collaborates frequently with USA TODAY journalists.
The brand prioritizes reader interaction on its social media channels and on its main site. In fact, what makes Humankind unique from other good-news networks is that some of the site’s stories are sourced from reader contributions. When asked about the decision to open submissions up to readers, Kononetz said, “we really want to tell stories about everyday people doing things that seem attainable, to show how easy it is for everyone to make a difference in the world. So what better way to do that than to have our readers contribute story ideas?”
While the team is still working to increase reader submissions, which have been low, Humankind has very engaged audiences on Facebook and YouTube. Kononetz expressed how remarkable and gratifying it is to read the comments on Humankind’s Facebook page. “People really need and want to hear these positive, uplifting kinds of stories. These are stories that people love to watch and share with their friends and family.” Humankind has also received interest from advertisers who want to be associated with the site’s positive stories.
Some messages Humankind has received from viewers on social media include:
- “Just saying thanks for creating this page and sharing so many inspirational stories…much needed everywhere.”
- “After viewing your stories. I was moved to the point of, & well into, tears, in story after story…..This is the kind of news the world needs to see & hear more about instead of the sensationalist voyeurism & sophomoric drivel that seems so prevalent & popular in today’s 15 seconds of fame/throwaway pop culture. You have inspired me to try to help more, be a better person, & quit feeling sorry for myself when things don’t go my way. Major kudos to whomever is responsible for this wonderful site!!”
- “Hey just found your page and can’t tell you enough how awesome it is! Definitely made my day knowing that there’s a media group that looks out for the goodness in the world!”
Humankind’s top Facebook video about a 93-year old grandma who has been waving to a school bus every morning for five years has 1.3M views. Another popular video that highlights a North Little Rock, Arkansas, police officer who is committed to community outreach has 231K views.
From a story of an 87-year old EMT to a feature on a community building micro-homes for Nashville’s homeless, Humankind covers a wide range of positive stories. The brand that launched last year with the mission to give good news the time it deserves is gaining momentum. As 2016 begins, the team is hoping to build up its reader participation. Readers are encouraged to become a part of the Humankind community by sharing their good news and submitting an idea for a story. From acts of kindness to local triumphs, Humankind will continue to celebrate the overlooked joys of everyday life.