Sky News has surpassed one million followers on Tiktok amid huge demand for its “distinct, eyewitness reporting” from Ukraine.
It means Sky News has overtaken The Sun, which tends to post less regularly and with a higher proportion of non-Ukraine news mixed in, as well as The Telegraph and GB News.
It is the second UK-based news brand to cross the million mark, after the Daily Mail which is on 3.7m.
Sky saw the highest rate of growth among the major UK news publishers on Tiktok in the past two months, followed closely only by ITV News which saw growth of 1,037%.
Next was Channel 4 News, which has seen its Tiktok following grow by 268% to 94,600 people.
Sky News director of content Cristina Nicolotti Squires said: “We’ve seen fantastic audience growth on Tiktok. We’ve gone from 80,000 followers at the start of February to hitting the million milestone this week. This quashes the idea that younger generations aren’t interested in engaging with news.
“What’s key is that we don’t dumb down the content or use a different messenger, we use our same experienced correspondents to explain what’s going on and tell the stories of those impacted by war. One of our most popular videos is Stuart Ramsay’s interview with a Ukrainian soldier which has been viewed well over 30 million times now, just on Tiktok.”
Sky News’ most-watched Tiktok from the past week with 493,000 views was a simple cut of Vladimir Putin demanding payment in roubles for Russian gas supplies, threatening that supplies would otherwise stop.
In January, Sky’s head of digital Nick Sutton told Press Gazette that it was "some of the most hard-hitting stories that seem to really resonate" on Tiktok and Snapchat. He added that videos with Sky's correspondents had worked without "feeling the need to dumb down what they were saying, but just sort of provide analysis and expertise to a different demographic".
BBC News launched its Tiktok account in March to increase access to its independent journalism amid the war in Ukraine. Previously its head of social Jeremy Skeet told Press Gazette it had chosen not to join the platform as it wanted to stay "true to our brand" and not do "light news".
ITV News deputy head of digital Chris Achilleos said: “A key driver of our huge growth on Tiktok has been the evolution of our strategy for the platform which we’ve had in place since the start of the year.
“We recognised that alongside our video explainers specifically commissioned for Tiktok, there was a opportunity to curate clips from ITV News’ television bulletins. These clips generated millions of views and a big uptick in followers prior to the war, so when the invasion happened, the audience interest and engagement exploded. We gained in excess of 100,000 followers in 24 hours.
“We now have 600,000 followers which we’re continuing to add to, making Tiktok a major platform for us. We’re now building further on our strategy, publishing content from our new Here’s The Story brand aimed at younger audiences, using Tiktok’s new Quick feature to showcase The Rundown, our daily news service for young people, and experimenting with live content too.”
Overall, Sky News said it more than doubled its total audience across all its owned and operated channels and third-party platforms in the 28 days after the invasion began on 24 February, compared to the month of January. It reached more than 216 million combined users between 24 February and 23 March.
A spokesperson said Sky News’ podcasts, which include Sky News Daily and Ukraine War Diaries, received two million listens in the same period. This was a 152% increase compared to the 28 days before the invasion.
The size of Sky News' global reach increased as well, with its non-UK and Ireland audience on video platform Youtube jumping from 50% to 70% with a similar trend on Tiktok and Facebook.
Maintaining interest is a 'juggling act'
John Ryley, head of Sky News, said: “We’ve seen a real appetite for Sky News’s independent journalism with millions of people all over the world reading, watching, and listening on a variety of platforms.
“Our teams working in Ukraine in very difficult conditions have demonstrated the power and need for distinct, eyewitness reporting to get to the truth - a key hallmark of the Sky News story for more than 30 years.”
Asked how Sky News will keep the momentum going after Google Trends indicated audience fatigue in Ukraine news beginning to show, Nicolotti Squires said: “The war has brought in a large new audience that might not have watched or engaged with Sky News previously and we have to look at how we can keep them coming back to us.
"We’ve committed to keep three crews on the ground with the objective to bring eyewitness accounts of what’s happening. Our Ukraine live coverage continues to be the most popular story on our digital platforms, and we’re still seeing audience spikes when there is a big story out of Ukraine.
“But it’s a juggling act, we have big stories like the cost of living that affects the lives of millions across the nation, and then more leftfield moments like Will Smith at the Oscars which will always spark interest from audiences.”
The Sky News newsroom had a shock when, just days into the Russian invasion, correspondent Stuart Ramsay and his team were attacked by soldiers. Ramsay was shot in the kidney area, narrowly missing his vital organs, and they returned to the UK.
Speaking on the Sky News Daily Podcast last week, Ramsay described it as the "nastiest thing that’s ever happened to me, and that includes being properly blown up" because of the way in which the team were targeted with an intent to kill.
Despite this, he said he planned to return to Ukraine and "bear witness" to the horrors going on.
"A number of journalists have died, some being attacked in their cars. Same as us," he said.
Referring to US filmmaker Brent Renaud, who was reporting for Time when he was shot in the neck while at a vehicle checkpoint, Ramsay added: "One bullet hit one reporter from the United States, and he died straight away. I had one shot, too. It just happened to hit me in my backside. So, you know, we have teams out there in great danger.
"We will play our part at whatever role that is going to be. And you have to show the truth and to combat fake news and to bear witness. And that is why it's so important that journalists from every country go and do this work. Honestly, that's the key thing.”