When an alligator started rummaging through a garage near the small town of Havelock, North Carolina, Havelock News reporter Drew C. Wilson hustled to the scene with his trusty smartphone.

What he produced was viewed more than 49,000 times.

Not bad for a small weekly paper with one reporter and an editor that’s splitting time between Havelock and multiple locations.

Editor Ken Buday, who oversees other publications, offered this insight into the gator video.

“We are at just about the northern edge of alligator habitat, so they are rare around here. In that video, he interviewed a little girl who lives at the house as well as the wildlife agents who had to capture the gator and relocate it,” Buday wrote in an email. “He mixed in video of the capture of the alligator, including the sounds of that capture with the alligator flipping and rolling on the ground. That video got more than 49,000 views on Facebook, which for a paper our size with a circulation of about 900, is really something.”

And it’s not the first time the small newsroom has produced a small clip that’s been a huge draw.

In fact, a number of the small paper’s videos have produced big returns in terms of analytics. Wilson has become adept at producing the pieces, which Buday said takes a little planning.

“(Wilson) uses his cell phone, which of course is a pretty high-quality cell phone. He will sometimes shoot the one-minute video, but for other events, he will actually shoot various clips and return to the office to process the video using Moviemaker and then upload. When he produces one of these higher-quality videos, he focuses on making sure he gets audio, an interview of some type, so that he can then use B-roll from the event,” Buday said.

“As for the high-quality videos, it depends on how long they are and how complicated the cuts are. Drew has gotten pretty quick at doing them, so I would say maybe an hour or so, and then probably another 15 minutes to upload them and get them out there on the website. I’m not sure how long the gator video took.”

Buday insisted the long-form videos have had an impact in the community.

“We’re a weekly and we have been used to telling stories and features with our reporting, so to translate that type of story-telling to video just seemed natural for us. The bottom line is the videos resonate with our viewers online,” Buday said.

“We’re a weekly with about 900 subscribers and around 20,000 to 25,000 unique visitors to the website every month. However, these videos can help get the Havelock News name out there because they can get shared and passed around online.

“A recent video on the Havelock principal of the year got more than 5,300 views in just a couple of days on Facebook, so in a way, these videos are our own marketing effort. Not only can we tell a story, but also we can get the Havelock News name out there and build readership, which we hope pays dividends down the line.”

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