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Storytelling for Vertical Platforms

Storytelling for Vertical Platforms

Learn how to tell convincing stories on Instagram and TikTok.
Corinne Podger

In this section we explore what you need to know to share good journalism on vertical video platforms like TikTok and Instagram.


TikTok launched in 2017, and since then it has become enormously popular with younger audiences. It has over a billion monthly active users.

The app is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, and concerns about user privacy have led to the app being banned in several countries, with others considering similar measures. 

Nonetheless, a growing number of media organisations and individual journalists have launched accounts, to share news content and life as a journalist, with youth audiences.

Content that works well on the platform includes first-person storytelling, tutorials and tips, and behind the scenes insights, and videos that perform best are between 15-60 seconds long. Here are some examples:

An explainer on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation: 

A piece on record floods in Australia in July 2022: 


Hundreds of people have been rescued as serious floods hit the Sydney region for the fourth time in less than 18 months. Evacuation orders and warnings have affected about 50,000 people.

♬ original sound – Max Oddo

An explainer on the US Supreme Court limiting the powers of the Environmental Protection Authority: 

To get started with TikTok you can read this in-depth guide from Hootsuite, and this Interhactives guide to journalists and media outlets doing innovative work on the platform. We also recommend this step-by-step guide from Buffer, and this tutorial by prominent TikTok user Rachel Pedersen:

Instagram Reels

Videos on Instagram Reels are very similar to those on Tiktok, and that’s no surprise, as the platform launched in 2020 to take on its Chinese rival. 

Many content creators and journalists post the same videos to both platforms, and the production tools in the Instagram app are similar to those in TikTok. 

Get started with Instagram Reels with this Later.Com guide and this Creative Bloq guide, or this tutorial from Shutterstock: 

Instagram Stories

You can use Instagram Stories to share a single photo, or a series of photos that display like a slideshow, in a vertical format. You can add text, art and stickers to each photo. Once shared, they are visible for 24 hours. This detailed guide from Buffer will get you started.

You can download a Story to your camera gallery before it expires. This makes the app a useful took for creating vertical video clips which can be edited together later in an app like VN or LumaFusion.

You can also make a Story into a ‘Highlight’ that sits at the top of your profile until you remove it, or select ‘Share as Post’ to add it to your Instagram profile. 

Tamara Baluja, a social media journalist at CBC Canada, created this detailed webinar on how journalists can use Instagram Stories, including guidance on how to use the app, and the types of stories you can tell with it as a reporter: 

Instagram also has lots of features used by businesses, so if your job involves promoting your media outlet to paying subscribers, check out this Instagram Stories For Business guide from Later.

About author
Corinne Podger

Corinne Podger is an Australian journalism educator, author, and training consultant who has worked in the media sector for more than 30 years. Her specialisms include mobile journalism, digital-first newsgathering, online verification, social multimedia production, podcasting and audio storytelling, and strategic audience engagement to drive brand awareness and media revenue. She has helped newsrooms, NGOs and social impact organisations in more than 60 countries to introduce digital innovations to grow audiences and support business priorities. 

Corinne is an accredited trainer with BBC Media Action, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and the Solutions Journalism Network. She also works with science and public health organisations to tackle misinformation and disinformation. Organisations she has worked with include Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, UNESCO, Google News Initiative, the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, WAN-IFRA, the World Federation of Science Journalists, Internews, Forbes, the World Health Organisation, BBC Academy, Oxfam, and the Global Forum for Media Development.

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