Analysis of cycling video by NowThis

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NowThis did a video explaining how the U.S. can become more bike-friendly.

Recently I wrote an article on the large number of cycle trips that took place in the UK this year. To get an idea of how this story might have been told as a video, I analysed a similar story, published by NowThis as a video on YouTube.

This video by NowThis, on how the United States can become more bike-friendly, is an example of a story being told through video. It stands on its own, rather than illustrating or adding to a story that is told through another medium.

As a social media-focused news organisation, NowThis speaks to a constructed audience that is relatively young. This is reflected in the lighthearted tone of the video. Upbeat music and an energetic presenter are meant to keep the attention of an audience that expects to be entertained.

The video starts with two separate shots of cyclists on the road, creating the setting. On top of that, there is some narration in the form of an interesting quote from a cycling advocate.

Movement is introduced by cutting to one of the interviewees. He explains how biking in the United States is having one of the biggest moments it's had in a 100 years.

The shots of the cyclists together with the quote, act as the abstract for the story.

The abstract is followed by a shot of the presenter, who is standing in front of bike sharing station. She provides the context for the story, before leading the viewer to the main topic of the story: “How do we make the U.S. more bike-friendly?”

This question is emphasised by actually placing it on screen, in a large, bold font.

Throughout the video, a combination of explaining and showing is used, as it cuts between interviews and shots of cyclists. In some shots, captions are displayed on top of the video to highlight important facts.

Movement is not only created by switching between shots of people and shots of traffic, but also by playing with how the presenter is cropped in the frame. As she is talking, the image switches between a regular shot and a more tightly cropped version of the same shot.

At one point in the video, an illustration is used to clarify and add a mimetic element to what an interviewee says. As he explains what it would take for his daughter to be able to safely cycle around the city, an animated map is drawn on screen, to visualise the point that he is making.

Towards the end of the video, an experiential element is introduced by having the presenter team up with a coworker, to go for a bike ride around the city. This section is followed by the credits.

While the video is engaging and fun to watch, it largely fails to answer the question posed at the start. There is a structure to the story, and there are plenty of facts, but it doesn’t form a coherent narrative.

Having said this, the video has been viewed almost 35,000 times at the time of writing. Perhaps it does what it was designed to do — go viral.

If I end up shooting video for my own work, I will refer back to this clip as an example of how to create fun and engaging content for social media. The fast-paced editing and upbeat presentation style work very well in this context.

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