How NowThis Approaches the 24-Hour News Cycle and Distributed Social Content

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Eric Hippeau
Co-Founder
NowThis News
Social media has changed the way people pay attention to news and the formats by which it is consumed, according to Eric Hippeau, co-founder of video news provider NowThis News, which operates on social media platforms, and managing partner at Lerer Hippeau Ventures. eMarketer spoke with Hippeau about disrupting the 24-hour news cycle, in advance of his presentation at eMarketer Attention! 2016.

eMarketer: How has attention in audiences changed over the years?

Eric Hippeau: [It used to be] you basically had one or two sources of news, maybe three if you’re a news junkie. There were few sources of news and particularly very few sources of credible news. And you had your routine; maybe you caught up on the news over the newspaper in the morning and then you watched television and the evening news at night, and that kind of gave you the news for the day.

What’s happened because of digital technology is that news is now omnipresent. News breaks all the time in front of you, and in today’s world, news breaks on the platforms that you are using the most. Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or Snapchat or whatever other ways you occupy your time online, that is where the news breaks.

The concept that I’m going to go and get my news deliberately in the morning through The New York Times or television has really gone out the window. One of the consequences of that is there are way more people interested, way more people consuming news or consuming content about current events than ever before. The world is much better educated in terms of breaking news, and much more informed.

“What’s happened because of digital technology is that news is now omnipresent. … In today’s world, news breaks on the platforms that you are using the most.”

eMarketer: How did your work at The Huffington Post prepare you for this venture? Why did you think the model would work well in today’s fragmented media landscape?

Hippeau: The goal for Huffington Post, as a digital brand, was that we wanted users to be able to search for information on Google and hopefully be directed to a story created and produced by The Huffington Post. That’s a goal we largely accomplished.

After we sold The Huffington Post the world was starting to shift, slowly but surely, toward distributed content, so we thought there was an opportunity to build a brand that would be the native news brand for distributed content. It had to be video-based, since the principle device to go online is mobile, not a desktop, and the best format for content on the small screen is video. So we built a company with the goal of becoming the leader in short-form video.

eMarketer: How did NowThis set the stage for mobile video news broadcasts?

Hippeau: In mobile, the videos can’t be lengthy due to the small screen and the audience’s limited attention span. These breaking news stories or current event stories need to be shown in a relatively short period of time. The technology we built has the ability to distribute short-form videos—and many of them. Currently, we produce about 60 or more of these short-form videos a day.

eMarketer: What content is NowThis reporting on to pull in news junkies, as well as people who do not normally consume a lot of news?

Hippeau: First we had to figure out how to distribute short-form video on multiple platforms, because multiple formats, some being native formats, have different requirements from one platform to another.

Then we had to consider technology that collects real-time data. We grab the audience’s attention by telling a combination of serious stories, like war stories or murders, as well as lighter stories, such as entertainment, sports and personalities. The art of it is producing compelling content that will grab people’s attention [and be] relevant to the demographics, which tend to be somewhat younger for news audiences.

We are the leader in news on social. And the reason we’re the leader is we’ve learned how to build content, how to produce content that works in these particular environments.

“We’ve learned how to build content, how to produce content that works in these particular environments.”

eMarketer: How does NowThis remain unbiased when it comes to telling stories in a fragmented digital landscape, where audiences look to affirm their beliefs via news outlets?

Hippeau: Everybody has a point of view that comes through—some more explicitly than others. NowThis reaches a very large audience—billions of users a month. A good media company caters to a large audience, which means remaining as objective as possible. Otherwise, the scope of the audience could be narrowed down, which is not ideal.

eMarketer: What role does NowThis play in branded-content marketing campaigns?

Hippeau: We have a content studio group that produces content specifically to the sponsors. That group shares a lot of the same assets in terms of data—and certainly all the same assets in terms of technology—with the editorial group. This content group is very much in tune with what’s going on, both in terms of the platform and the content. They figure out what content they can produce that they think will be attractive to the audience but would be appropriate to be sponsored. All of that is produced in-house.

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