Five Takeaways from WCSFP

March 19, 2024

Emily Wathen

In November, I traveled to Seattle to participate in the 2023 World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, a gathering of science and media producers from more than 20 countries, to absorb some new ideas, gain inspiration, and to connect with people working behind-the-scenes of some of the best science content being made today.

It was a great experience overall, and there were a few common themes that stood out to me over the course of the week’s events. Here are five, big-picture takeaways that I brought home with me to DC and that I plan on helping our clients to adopt.

Make content that can be broken down and used in more than one way. One thing that came up a few times during the event was a reminder to not forget about repurposing and repackaging content. Despite shrinking attention spans, audiences do want both long and short content, and as storytellers, we should think about creating media that can be broken up into snackable bites or shown as a six-course meal. Repackaging content is also a great way to get more value out of videos and to reach more people where they are.

Audiences want a solutions-oriented message over doom-and-gloom. This concept came up several times when discussing climate change related media. Audiences do want to engage with this content, but the takeaway was to lead with solutions, and to steer away from grim pessimism. There is a strong appetite for important science and climate messaging, but it is best to infuse it with optimism and hope. 

AI is helping (and scaring) factual media creators. There was a lot of buzz, a little anxiety, and plenty of excitement around new and emerging AI tools. Panels I attended presented demos and use cases for tools such as Runway ML, Stable Diffusion, ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Adobe Firefly. This technology is advancing at an impressive rate, and will make certain aspects of video production a lot more affordable and efficient. We’re looking forward to incorporating more AI tools into our own productions and editing process as the available products continue to improve. 

Audiences for science and factual media have been shifting to digital. While this is a big and challenging shift for the industry (and one that has been going on for a while) it is good news for digital-first content and for our clients. Eyeballs are continuing to shift away from traditional media in favor of platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, and more viewers are watching and engaging with videos right where most nonprofits and organizations already have a presence. But, it’s also worth noting that it’s getting increasingly difficult to stand out in the ever-crowded digital landscape. Organizations need to do more with their videos to earn viewers and audience attention. 

Science and factual content can and should be fun. Science content is so critical to get right and to share with the world, but it doesn’t always have to be delivered as a lecture. (Though, certainly there is a time and place for those too!) Science content can be funny, gross, playful and silly. It can wow with spectacle, make viewers sit on the edge of their seats, and ignite imaginations. There is an eager audience for science. People want to watch the process of discovery unfold on the screen, but they also need to be entertained. This is something that we try to wholeheartedly embrace at 4Science. At the end of the day our goal is to share science stories with more people. Thinking about the audience first can help us to craft videos that will resonate, inform and keep people engaged.