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How Ukrainian media use TikTok: 5 national and regional newsrooms talk about interesting formats, monetization, and creativity

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“TikTok is a platform for children” is a popular thesis that does not actually correspond to modern realities. The app is quite recognizable in Ukraine. Pros. According to data from GlobalLogic, in 2022, TikTok was the fourth most popular social media platform in Ukraine, with more than 10.55 million Ukrainian adults using it.

Ukrainian media outlets say they use the platform not only to popularize their brand and attract audiences, but also for future monetization. Every TikTok publication tries to be unique in its own way. What is the emphasis, what content is “flying in”, what are the features of the network in terms of journalism and whether there are opportunities for additional income – in Media Maker asked the representatives of Radio Liberty, Channel 24, Ukrayinska Pravda, Competitor TV (Lutsk), and 20 Minutes (Ternopil).

National media

“Radio Liberty

  • Nickname: @radiosvoboda.org
  • Number of subscribers as of 17.07.2023: 56 200
  • Number of likes as of 07/17/2023: 2 million

The first time Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian editorial office tried TikTok was during the 2019 presidential campaign, says Taras Ilkiv, head of digital at Radio Liberty Ukraine.

“It was a test launch to take a closer look at the platform and evaluate it. At that time, TikTok was just gaining popularity, it was called a ‘children’s’ network. It didn’t start well – the content didn’t work, the algorithms were unclear. Attempts to work on trends also failed, although we had several popular videos,” says Ilkiv.

The media returned to the development of the TikTok page in 2022, when it became clear that the platform had “matured” and was competing with YouTube and Instagram in terms of youth reach.

“One of the reasons we started developing our page was the dominance of Russian narratives on the platform,” says Taras Ilkiv, “Now we have relaunched our account, having invested a lot of effort in preparation. Regularity, according to our observations, is one of the key factors for the platform. We also had to relaunch the account of our project Donbas.Realities.”

To develop the page qualitatively, the editorial team decided to create content specifically for the platform. This has paid off, Ilkiv emphasizes. As of July, Radio Liberty had more than 56,000 trackers, and its videos were getting tens of thousands of views. They are created by an SMM team that has experience in running a page on TikTok. It is important that employees themselves are users of the platform.

“It works like this: someone from the editorial team suggests an interesting topic, and colleagues with TikTok experience can rethink it or come up with a completely different presentation.”

Taras Ilkiv

According to him, the editorial staff saw a significant impact of the platform on large audiences of all ages. The Donbas.Realii Twitter account has taken off and has become one of the largest accounts among Ukrainian media fighting against hostile disinformation. Ilkiv believes that the presence of Ukrainian content makers on the platform is crucial in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

“For example, in addition to topics about the war, we also had Russian propaganda about the alleged reconstruction of Mariupol. But then the account was blocked, most likely because of the content about the war,” Ilkiv says.

@radiosvoboda.org How the FSB monitors smartphone users through messengers #ukraine #radiosvoboda #news #ukraine #russia #special services #cybersecurity #fsb ♬ Documentary, serious, anxiety, reality, contemporary – Nico

One of Radio Liberty’s specialties on TikTok is explanatory videos, where journalists tell complex stories in simple words.

“We are planning to do more explanatory journalism with a focus on the narrator who succinctly conveys the essence of an event or story,” concludes Taras Ilkiv.

“Ukrainska Pravda”

  • Nickname: @pravda_com_ua
  • Number of subscribers as of 17.07.2023: 82,500
  • Number of likes as of 07.17.2023: 1 million.

A whole team is working on creating videos for TikTok at Ukrayinska Pravda. According to Dmytro Moskvych, the manager of UP’s YouTube and TikTok channels, these are producers, directors, cameramen, and presenters. The number of people in the team varies, but usually up to 10 people work on video production. They make them not only for TikTok, but also for YouTube.

“At first, we thought it would take a lot of time to develop a TikTok page. However, the platform’s algorithms provide equal opportunities and promote interesting videos. We didn’t invest in advertising and at first didn’t even tell other social networks about our page. We just started gathering an audience, and our videos were trending. This motivated us to work and experiment. As a result, we now have over 80,000 followers,” says Moskvich.

A special feature of Ukrayinska Pravda on TikTok is the News in a Minute section, where the host tells the most important events in Ukraine over the day. They get tens and hundreds of thousands of views.

@pravda_com_ua News on July 6 in 1 minute #UkrainianPravda #news #zaes #zelensky ♬ original sound – Ukrainska Pravda

“‘News in a Minute’ is a format that we created separately for TikTok. The videos began to steadily gain a large number of views. We realized that this could become our main format. Now we publish such videos every day,” says the manager of the UP channel on TikTok.

The page also publishes news clippings and interviews. The videos that get the most views are those that are actively commented on by users, says Dmitry Moskvich. For example, the topic of the UOC (MP) is actively discussed. What users care about is included in the recommendations. However, TikTok cannot currently claim to be a full-fledged media platform, Moskvich said.

“TikTok is not a platform where you can get news quickly. On Telegram, people go to specific channels to find out the latest information. On TikTok, people mostly scroll through the feed offered by the platform and do not choose content. Event videos can appear in recommendations in a few days, so it’s not about speed. But “chewing” news is a promising format. Viewers like short videos that explain complex information in simple words,” explains Dmitry Moskvich.

“Channel 24

  • Nickname: @24tv.ua
  • Number of subscribers as of 07/17/2023: 210,900
  • The number of likes as of 17.07.2023: 9.1 million.

The Channel 24 team decided to seriously develop TikTok in December 2012, when they realized that there was a public demand and the platform had attracted a large young audience, says Yaromir Vdovych, Head of Social Media at Channel 24. The page was one of the first among Ukrainian media to be verified and given a “flag”. She currently has 209,800 followers.

Ideas for videos often arise spontaneously or based on TikTok trends. The editorial team shoots videos to introduce young people to the anchors and the media in general and to show that ordinary people work here. The content in the profile also includes important and resonant events and memes, sometimes they try to make evergreen videos.

@24tv.ua What tattoo did Solar get? @Ryabchick ♬ original sound – 24tv.ua

TikTok content is sometimes used in parallel for Reels or Shorts, taking into account the peculiarities of each social network. For example, Vdovic noticed that TikTok has serious limitations. Sometimes it’s absurd words like kringe, war, blood, explosions, etc., so the platform is not very friendly to news from the front or even Russian shelling of civilian Ukrainians. When the channel tried to cover this, it received several warnings.

Videos about hosts, television and its backstage are the most viewed on Channel 24’s page. Video comparisons are also doing well. One of the last ones that went over well was about the difference between the costumes of Ukrainian and Russian candidates for Miss Universe.

According to Yaromyr Vdovych, TikTok Channel is an ongoing experiment. They are always trying to develop, try new formats and newsworthy events, change the timing, tools, etc. If the app’s rules become less strict, a separate profile will be created for the channel’s news.

Now, according to the team, it is a great development platform for business, education, bloggers, musicians, stand-ups, and Ukrainian media. TikTok has both direct channel viewers and a potential audience, so it’s important for the media to stay with them.

“I believe that if a public figure, including TV presenters and editorial staff, is not on TikTok, then interest in them and the media is lower, and they lose a lot of opportunities. It’s a kind of must-have for most fields, including TV presenters. No one can predict how long it will last,” concludes Yaromir Vdovych.

Regional media

“20 Minutes (Ternopil)

  • Nickname: @20.hvylyn
  • Number of subscribers as of 07/17/2023: 24,000
  • Number of likes as of 07/17/2023: 575,000

The Ternopil edition of the 20 Minutes website has started its journey on TikTok in 2021. The page began to develop actively after the start of the full-scale invasion, says Natalia Burlaku, the editor-in-chief of the publication.

“We understand that this platform used to be mostly used by young people, but now the audience has become older, so of course we are trying to attract them to our target audience,” says the editor-in-chief.

The 20 Minutes website is an independent online publication with one of the largest audiences on TikTok among regional media: the channel managed to gather 24,000 subscribers in the first year of operation.

“Of course, we cannot compare TikTok to Facebook or Telegram. However, we pay attention to this network because we see prospects not only in attracting an audience and popularizing the brand, but also in further monetizing content. Together with the advertising department, we have developed a strategy for monetizing videos on various social networks, including TikTok. We have a clearly defined action plan and will try to implement it,” says Natalia Burlaku.

The content that resonates with the audience is touching stories about defenders, volunteers, topics about the history of the city, and video fables on topics of public concern.

“For example, a video about a 90-year-old volunteer from Ternopil who donated his car to the Armed Forces of Ukraine received almost 1.5 million views and almost 2,000 comments. This is a pretty good result for a regional channel,” says the editor.

Vasyl Lazarchuk was 90 years old. Unfortunately, his heart stopped beating on June 24… #ternopil #grandfather #help #charity ♬ Experience (Slowed) – noel.smt

Short videos on funny topics also get good reach. For example, during widespread power outages, the editorial staff made humorous videos about how Ternopil residents survive without electricity, how the local power company works, etc. “We noticed that our audience likes it. We try to be interesting primarily for the residents of Ternopil and the region, so we focus on local topics and stories,” Burlaku adds.

“20 Minutes Ternopil” believes that TikTok may well become a powerful platform where people will get information about current events. Currently, the editorial account is managed by one person, but the whole team contributes ideas.

Among the challenges faced by media on the platform are copyright infringement and video theft.

“Unfortunately, copyright and intellectual property are not about TikTok, at least not yet. A lot of our videos are stolen and published either on other TikTok pages or on other social networks. It is very difficult to fight this. Perhaps in the future, this problem will be solved, as well as the problem with fakes. After all, there is a lot of disinformation on the platform that the enemy “throws in” about our country, unverified facts and lies for the sake of hype,” says Natalia Burlaku.

Read more: How to select images correctly (including copyright considerations)

“Competitor TV” (Lutsk)

  • Nickname: @konkurent_tv
  • Number of subscribers: 26 800
  • Number of likes: 602 700

The idea to create an own TikTok account for the Lutsk-based TV channel “Competitor TV” has been long overdue, said Anastasia Chuyko, the channel’s SMM specialist. The media outlet registered the page after the full-scale invasion began to inform and wage war on Russian propaganda.

Currently, the channel’s TikTok page has over 26,000 subscribers. Most videos get tens of thousands of views. The most popular are the clippings from the Lutsk Auto Market and Luchany Pro projects, which feature Volyn residents.

@konkurent_tv #lutsktiktok #lutsk #lutsk_city #lutskrecommendations #lutsktiktok #lutsk_is_lutsk #competitortv #lutskautorynok #lutskvrek #lutsk citizens #autorynoklutsk #limousine ♬ original sound – KonkurentTV

“In the beginning, when the page was first created, we uploaded content that was simultaneously broadcast on the TV channel. There was a lot of news about the war and the fight against the occupiers. But since TikTok is very sensitive to this kind of content, we decided to add more social videos that our subscribers like,” says Anastasia Chuyko.

The whole team works on the content of the page. These are mostly clippings from stories, programs, interviews, etc. They appear on the page according to the channel’s broadcasting grid. That is, if an issue of Luchana Pro comes out on Monday, the clipping will be published on TikTok on that day. Sometimes, on their account, the editors share backstage with viewers that are not published on the web or other social networks.

For Competitor TV, TikTok has already become a full-fledged platform through which to convey information to people. This is the main task of the team, says the publication’s SMM specialist. According to her observations, the app’s algorithms can bring videos to recommendations very quickly, which means that an account can reach an audience of millions without having many subscribers. That is why the channel aims to inform first and foremost, and then to gain such advantages as recognition and audience growth.

KONKURENT TV believes that the future of media lies in TikTok, so they plan to develop their page on the platform further.

“Now it is a space where many people of all ages gather. This is a new method of short and fast news that people like. This platform is not only about trendy dances and funny memes, but also about the important goal of all news channels and publications – informing people,” says Anastasia Chuyko.

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