Attn:, The Millennial News Brand, Turns Its Attention To TV

When Attn: launched four years ago, it aimed to be a mobile-first news platform for millennials.

The publisher relied heavily on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to distribute short-form video on important societal topics in a digestible, entertaining format.

Since then, Attn: has diversified its distribution strategy.

It’s also exploring new types of IP, like TV, to bulletproof its business against algorithmic uncertainties in social.

The publisher is piloting 60 Minutes-like programming with Showtime, has co-produced segments with ABC News and secured a deal with Paramount to translate its original video web series “America Versus” to TV.

“Attn: is a brand that will be on TV,” reiterated Jarrett Moreno, co-founder of Attn:. “We’re a media publisher that will continue to make engaging and sharable content for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, but we’ll also be on television. We’ll hopefully continue to do all of those things well.”

Moreno spoke with AdExchanger about how the publisher is tackling the platform challenge by using data and audience insights to create a competitive edge.

AdExchanger: How has Attn:’s distribution strategy changed, in light of Facebook’s algorithm change? 

JARRETT MORENO: I’ll be blunt: We’ve had a great relationship with Facebook, but we’ve always been a publisher that understood we’d make content and work with platforms that capture eyeballs all day to get our content in front of people. It didn’t matter if those platforms were streaming services, television channels or social platforms where there are algorithm changes.

Snapchat Discover has an algorithm, Twitter is algorithmic, and so are Facebook and Instagram. They’re all making changes all the time. It’s up and down in terms of how it impacts content performance, but undoubtedly this will be our best month ever for video views, at least on Facebook, and on Instagram too.

There’s been this ongoing narrative that Facebook’s algorithm changes are hurting publishers, and it’s obviously true in many cases, but that hasn’t been the case for Attn:.

What have you done differently?

No matter what the narrative is, Facebook is still where people get most of their news and information in the particular audience and demographic we’re looking to reach. But we’re not solely tying ourselves to any single platform. It’s why we’re thinking about extending our content and brand beyond social platforms.

When Facebook Watch launched last year, we launched three series. One, called “We Need To Talk,” just got renewed, and our 10-episode second season is launching soon.

We also are developing a pilot for Showtime as part of our foray into television, as well as a show with Paramount called “America Versus,” which is a successful digital series we’ve been creating for several years – about 60 episodes in total with a combined 1 billion views on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What’s more interesting to you? Short- or long-form video?

I want to dispel the notion that short-form video means cheap, and that’s something we’ve talked a lot about. We put as much time and energy into a three-minute video as someone might put into a segment for television or even a whole show at times.

There is a lot of time and energy and intensity that goes into producing a really strong or impactful piece of short-form content, and we are definitely investing a lot more into producing mid-form content for Facebook Watch, as well as longer-form content for television.

How big is your original content team?

About 50 people or so work on original content, but there’s also some shared resources and services across the company for things like animation, design, post-production and sound services that might not necessarily be rolled into that number.

The audience growth team that handles publishing for platforms works very closely with the content teams that actually create the content for social platforms, so there’s this holistic approach across the whole company.

How do you determine what content to produce organically and what makes sense to monetize?

Early on, we built a data warehouse with the goal of pulling back data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and every platform where we’re publishing to not only understand views across content, but how views change over time. A lot of our content is evergreen, so that metric matters to us. We’re looking at shares, comments, likes, reactions and retweets to ensure our audience is not just actively viewing, but is proactively engaging with our content.

Which tools are you using?

We’ve been using Tubular Labs’ V30 metric, which gauges [engagement with video for] 30 days. It’s a metric we care a lot about because we’re not in the “at bat” business of attention. We’re in the “home run” business. We put out fewer pieces of content than a lot of different publishers, but we want each piece of content to have a lot of impact, and we need access to third-party platforms to be able to make that case from a marketing standpoint.

Since we launched an “America Versus” Facebook page about four weeks ago, we’ve grown to almost 1 million fans organically on that brand-new page dedicated to the series, which is pretty compelling.

Now we’re leveraging that to go beyond the social platforms to extend that to longer-form, streaming services and television. People may consume one- to three-minute videos on their phone during the day, but when they go home, hopefully they’ll watch a 10-, 15- or 30-minute piece of long-form.

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