How NowThis Navigates The Maze Of Distributed Media

NowThisIt’s hard to scroll through Facebook without encountering some short-form video from NowThis (like Donald Trump “awkwardly sort of apologizing” to Fox News host Megyn Kelly) in your news feed, and the socially distributed media company wants it that way.

Founded four years ago by BuzzFeed and HuffPo execs Ken Lerer and Eric Hippeau, NowThis scrapped its home page in February 2015 to syndicate content straight to social platforms like Facebook, Snapchat Discover and Instagram.

As a result, NowThis gets north of 1.6 billion video views per month and roughly 8 billion impressions across those platforms, compared to the 10 million-20 million views it banked when it had a web page.

“We produce content pretty much exclusively for mobile devices, since 90% of our audience is consuming it on a smartphone,” said Athan Stephanopoulos, president of NowThis.

NowThis’ team of 40 editors and producers focuses on Facebook, followed by Snapchat and emerging social media platforms like Instagram and Vine. The remaining 10% is content distributed to partner sites like AOL, Yahoo and MSN.

“These platforms are where people go for quick moments throughout their day,” Stephanopoulos said. “Because you are working against an algorithm and how content gets served to someone in a feed, we’re influenced – but not totally driven – by data.”

On Facebook, where it has more than 5 million followers for its anchor page, NowThis News, it tailors content for six other verticals: Election, Booze, Weed, Entertainment, Future and its newest vertical, Women.

In a not-so-distant past, it wasn’t uncommon to find a flurry of YouTube links embedded in Facebook posts, but social publishers like NowThis are taking advantage of Facebook’s native video perks. 

They see its massive audience reach, inherent sharability factor and tools like the Video Rights Manager to crack down on freebooting as mere side bonuses.

“Because we’re able to deliver a guaranteed audience against the content we create specifically for each channel on Facebook, our largest growth in pure revenue is coming out of our studios and our sales efforts around branded content,” Stephanopoulos said.

IMG_9473But because NowThis doesn’t own the sites that its video content lives on, it does not have total control over revenue-driving opportunities. This reality is where NowThis’ commitment to constant testing comes in handy.

“You’re beholden to the environment and how they’re introducing monetization experiences, but Facebook is continually incentivizing publishers to try and bring quality content to the platform,” Stephanopoulos said.

He expects Facebook’s new or upcoming video experiences like Live, 360-degree video and virtual reality to continue to drive audiences to the platform.
“Whenever there’s an opportunity around video, we’ll kick the tires and iterate,” Stephanopoulos said. “That’s our mantra: Test, fail fast and iterate.”

While NowThis’ core strategy revolves around creating engaging clips (i.e., usually under one minute and subtitled for muted environments) for Facebook and Snapchat audiences, it is also looking to branch out.

It is beta testing an email newsletter and is exploring new ways to integrate video into one-to-one experiences, whether through messaging apps or chatbots.

NowThis will also create a six-party video series focused on education in America with a star of HBO’s “Girls,” Allison Williams, as well as an episodic music series called Jam Sesh, both of which will live cross-platform, according to Christian Tom, NowThis VP of sales.

Despite its dive into series-based programming, NowThis will stick to the short-form script.

“We will probably never break two minutes even if we did long-form,” Stephanopoulos added. “We want to be the source of short-form, quick, digestible pieces of content you get throughout the day.”


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