You just captured some amazing footage on your drone and you think it would be perfect for the five o'clock news. It’s relevant to a major news piece and would add value in telling the story. The problem is, you have no idea which channels to go through to get your drone video in the hands of a news agency. Where should you start?
To sell your drone footage to news agencies, you must:
- Polish your footage (but don’t over-edit)
- Find a news agency willing to accept your footage
- Sign up for agency services and upload your video there
- Pitch your story
- Send a small sampling of your footage
- Determine payment and terms
In this article, we will explore in detail the steps you should follow to see some cash from your awesome, newsworthy drone footage. You could even turn this kind of gig into a career or part-time side hustle.
Selling Drone Footage to News Agencies: Steps to Follow
Get your FAA 107 Certificate
Remember that the FAA mandates that you get your commercial drone license, also known as the part 107 certificate if you intend to make money with your drone.
Luckily for you, we make the ultimate in-depth guide to getting your 107 certificate.
Clean up Your Footage
Okay, first thing’s first. Make sure that your footage is as clean as possible. The only exception would be video of a hurricane or other major storm system. In that case, the grittiness of the video adds to the overall feel of the clip.
Using your video editing software of choice, polish your footage so that it shines. Consider:
- cutting extraneous parts that don't add to the story.
- boosting audio.
- enhancing the quality.
Don't go crazy with your video editing software. Now is not the time to add fun transitions, zany sound effects, or a big watermark. If a respectable news agency buys your footage, they will give you the proper credit. There is no need to detract from the footage with a watermark.
There’s nothing wrong with cleaning things up, but keep editing to a minimum. Editing your video so it has a certain slant is problematic. Remember that your first audience is the news agency. Even though we live in an age of “fake news,” these agencies want to maintain a level of integrity. And so do you.
Above all else, the footage must be accurate and truthful. Spinning the video so it meets a predetermined objective may get your footage turned down. Even if an agency accepts your footage, if they later find out that it is fraudulent, your days of working with news stations would be over.
Research News Agencies
So you did some sparse editing on your video, and now it looks better. You’re ready to send it off, but first, you have to find agencies in which to do so.
Yes, that’s right, agencies. You have to consider that you’ll get ignored or turned down more often than you’ll get accepted, so putting all your eggs in one basket won’t work. It’s not necessarily that your footage is bad, it's just that there are many citizen journalists, like yourself, sending in footage. News agencies don’t have the time to parse through them all.
Start by sending your footage to smaller agencies. You may have a higher chance of getting your footage accepted because these smaller agencies are often in need of footage. If a little local agency has a chance to break a story, and your work is a part of it, you and they will be in a place of influence.
If you can get picked up by a smaller agency first, then your story could end up getting bought by the AP or Reuters, if it gains enough traction. There’s no guarantee, of course, but it’s a possibility. After exhausting smaller and more local options though, move onto bigger, high-caliber agencies like Reuters, the Associated Press, United Press International, and the like. Be ready for more rejections, or flat our being ignored. But still, do it.
Use a Web-Based Service for Submitting Footage
There are a slew of web-based services that you can sell your news footage to. Apps also exist for this purpose. this route could lead to seeing your footage on the nightly news.
Here are a few examples and overviews of such services and apps:
There's no question what Sell News' is about. SellNews welcomes both video and photo content. While not aimed specifically at drones, SellNews does let you make money from your footage, and relatively quick, too.
In fact, SellNews says that you can have access to your money within 48 hours. That is, of course, assuming your clip gets accepted. SellNews uses social integrations so buyers can see the footage that is available. They put a watermark on videos so copyright remains in your possession. For every sale the footage earns, you get 100 market share.
To increase your earnings potential, you can take advantage of SellNews’ referral program. With this, you get a referral code, pass it along to people you know, and then develop a network of referrals. For each referral, you earn a commission of five percent when your referrals make money.
Working with such outlets as the Daily Mail, ITN, NBC News, and the AP, another service to keep on your radar is Newsflare. They do accept drone footage.
Before you submit your clip to Newsflare, make sure it’s not already licensed. You can even upload a video through YouTube if you put it there first. Again, just make sure Jukin or another company didn’t get the licensing rights and you’re in the clear. Otherwise, you can upload the raw footage to Newsflare’s servers.
They also have a Video Briefs section, where, when you capture footage of an event that people want, you can earn money. Like with SellNews, you still retain the rights and ownership of your drone video when you work with Newsflare. They take your footage and send it to global media corporations that you might otherwise be prohibited from reaching.
They even have an app for uploading footage on-the-go. After all, news is all about timeliness, so you never have to miss a prime opportunity to share your videos. Newsflare reports that you get all the earnings from your video.
Another option you might try is Stringr. It features more than 75,000 videographers just like you, whose footage has appeared on the AP, Hearst, NBC, and more. The Stringr app makes it convenient and easy to upload drone videos when you have them available.
Once your footage goes live, media outlets can find it on the Stringr app or website. Your video gets tagged by description, date, location, and other useful makers. When an outlet decides to use your video, you receive the payment quickly, typically within a business day, after the download.
You may also sign up for an account at Reporter. This website/app is available for download on the Google Play and Apple App Store. Reporter accepts both videos and photos. To begin using Reporter, take the highest quality footage you can, include a caption, tag the footage, choose your own price, and upload. You set the price on Reporter!
You’ll receive a notification if your clip sells. Be sure to price your video fairly in order to encourage others to purchase.
Pitch Your Own Story
Let’s say you’re using one of the apps or services above, like Reporter or Newsflare. You don’t mind waiting for your footage to sell, but you think you have something extra special and you think it should be seen by a major news station soon.
When reaching out to news agencies, you will need to send an email with what’s called a media pitch. A media pitch is a short inquiry to a journalist or news agency. In the pitch, you’re imploring them to watch your video and consider using it. (And paying you for the footage, too.)
Remember what we said earlier about having multiple news outlets to reach out to? A media pitch is necessary when doing so. You’ll want to pitch to as many agencies as you can until one bites. If more than one agency is interested, then you have to choose one: work with the first news agency that accepted you or work with the one with the more lucrative deal. You get to decide, but you cannot work with multiple agencies.
Edit and finesse your media pitch before you throw it out to a lot of agencies. You can pitch to a dozen companies, but you want to tweak your wording each time so it appeals to different agencies uniquely. In anticipation of reaching out to a news agency, study them. What’s the filming style like with the footage others submit? Does yours mimic it well? How is the production quality of the segments? Keep all this in mind when deciding if your drone footage is a good fit for each news agency. If not, find one that does fit with what you have.
Keep your pitch short and sweet. This is not where you share your life story or the history of how you got into droning. Sure, that story is very interesting, but it’s not the time or place for that kind of thing. A few short paragraphs is best.
Begin by addressing someone at the news agency, typically a representative or other point of contact you can find on the agency’s website. Introduce yourself. Explain where you live, and talk a bit about the event that you saw and that you have footage of it.
Being a drone photographer and/or videographer is still somewhat unique. You might have an aerial shot that no one else was able to take from their smartphone. Use that uniqueness to your advantage when pitching.
Mention the length of your video, what it contains, and then ask if the network would be interested in buying it from you. You don’t have to discuss dollars and cents yet. The time for negotiating will come a bit later.
Leave your contact information so the news agency has multiple means of getting back to you. Your phone number and even some social handles might work.
Pass Along a Preview of Your Footage
Don’t forget the most important part of your media pitch: your video footage! You don’t want to give the news agency the whole clip until they pay for it. Otherwise, they get what they want and you get nothing. Instead, send a tantalizing preview that’s only a few seconds long.
You don’t necessarily want to show the whole crux of the footage, but just the exciting seconds leading up to it. Send something that will make them want to see more.
After you attach your few seconds of must-see video, send the email and wait. There’s no timetable we can give you of how long it may take to hear back. It could be within a few hours, days, or even months (although hopefully not!). You also might never get a response. Remember, that doesn’t necessarily mean your footage is bad. It’s just that most news agencies get inundated with photos and videos.
Have patience. If you really want to sell your footage, send a single follow-up if it’s been a week or two. Don’t reach out beyond that, though. Instead, focus on other channels where you can make money. That may mean using an app to sell your drone footage or even moving out of news and using your drone photography and videography skills elsewhere. Find what works for you and do it.
Negotiate the Terms and Payment
The goal is that you sell your drone video to a news agency, so let’s keep going down that path. You get a response and an agency responded to your media pitch. It took a few days, but there it is. The news agency wants to see the rest of your video. They also mention that they’re willing to pay you for your footage.
This is great news, as it's been the goal all along. Now it’s time to talk both money and terms. Okay, so how much money will you make from your drone footage if you sell it to a news agency? Unfortunately, there is no real clear answer. Your earning potential depends on the size of the agency, their budget, the quality of your clip, and how newsworthy it is.
A bigger, better-known news agency will have a larger budget than a smaller one that works with a TV station few people watch. You can expect to make more money with the former than the latter.
Longer clips don’t always net more money, but high-quality footage can. Let’s say both you and another person captured footage of a hurricane. You shot aerial footage on your drone while the other person got straight-ahead video on their smartphone. Both videos are useful, but yours shows things the other person’s doesn’t. You also shot yours in higher quality resolution because you own a top-notch DJI drone. You have a good chance of getting your footage accepted, then.
Above all else, the newsworthiness of a clip matters. How newsworthy something is depends on how recently it was shot, as well as the topic itself. For instance, natural disasters like hurricanes are always pretty newsworthy. The same goes for celebrity footage. A video of a neighborhood tee-ball game? Not so much.
Even if you do have a clip that’s newsworthy now, you don’t want to sit on it long. Newsworthiness changes with time. A hot story becomes lukewarm in a few hours and downright cold in a day or two. You could have made a lot of money if you jumped when the story broke, but by waiting, you could make less or nothing, all depending on if the news agency still wants your footage.
As for the terms, those are up to you. Be fair. Choose what’s most important to you when setting terms. For instance, if you care that you get to retain footage rights, then put that in your terms. If you only want the footage used in certain capacities or for a predetermined period, express that as well.
The more complicated you make your terms and pay rate, the harder it will be to reach a deal. The news agency can always back out if they haven’t signed a contract, so keep your terms simple and agreeable. Don’t renege on what’s important to you, but don’t be unrealistic. Especially at first, when you're starting out, you are a beginner, and have room to grow your reputation in this field.
Once the news agency agrees to your terms and price, or they give you a price and you accept it, it’s a done deal. You get your money and you'll see your footage on the news.
If you have drone footage that you think a news agency would benefit from, then you can try to sell it to them. We recommend that you start by finding smaller agencies first and reach out to them before approaching the big fish like the AP or Reuters. Crafting a media pitch that’s succinct and effective is important, as is including a juicy preview of your footage to send.
With the advice, resources, and pointers in this article, you’re well on your way to selling your drone footage to news agencies. Good luck!