Elite Daily, the Bustle Digital Group-owned Facebook-centric title, has found success on Snapchat. Last month, the company’s story reached over 20 million unique users on the platform, a BDG spokesperson said. That audience figure puts Elite Daily in the same weight class as Insider, whose daily story attracted 24 million unique users in February. The content is made by Butter Works, an “outsourced video department” that handles everything from production services to video strategy for publishers and brands.
Elite Daily’s audience growth on Snapchat has “blown past” projections BDG made when Elite Daily first launched on Snapchat last fall with content such as horoscopes, said Kate Robinson, BDG’s svp of business development.
While Robinson declined to share information about how much money Elite Daily’s Snapchat content is making, she said that the arrangement is profitable; BDG’s ad sales team sells some of the show’s ad inventory directly, with the rest monetized through Snapchat.
BDG’s decision to outsource its Snapchat content is the latest example of a platform-cautious philosophy that publishers have embraced as the digital media ecosystem continues to mature. Though Elite Daily produces video content for many different platforms, including Instagram and YouTube, it believes it should verify that there’s an audience on a platform before investing in it.
“I’m not going to make video for the sake of making video,” Robinson said. “Video is very expensive, especially when it’s not done right.”
When Bustle Digital Group bought Elite Daily back in 2017, BDG’s founder, Bryan Goldberg, pointed to the success Elite Daily’s 35-person video team had built on platforms such as Facebook as a key reason.
But that success, like that of so many other publishers, was powered partly by Facebook’s preference for short clips it could fit into the platform’s news feed.
Since the acquisition, Bustle Digital Group’s video operations have grown differently from other digital-native publishers. In 2017, BDG focused on co-producing series, partnering with media companies ranging from Viacom to CNBC. Today, BDG’s centralized video team, close to 20 people, focuses mostly on branded content, Robinson said, though that team does conduct the odd editorial experiment as well.
And while the platforms’ video products have grown increasingly homogeneous, Snapchat Discover remains different enough, Robinson said, that BDG would have had to hire extra talent – an animator, for example – to start making content specifically for Snapchat.
A few years ago, many publishers launched or expanded digital video operations as platforms liberally handed out checks to create video content for them. Those subsidies have dried up, which has led to layoffs, and has forced publishers to be more cautious about how they test out platforms.
“The platforms are not paying people to create content in the same way they used to,” said Paul Greenberg, the CEO of Butter Works, which produces Elite Daily’s Snapchat content. “It’s not like anybody is saying, ‘We’ve got this new video initiative; we’ll give everybody $50,000 or $100,000 to see what you can do.’”
The flip side of farming the work out, though, is that the outside company does too good a job. “We’ve certainly considered it,” Robinson said of in-housing the Snapchat work. “But I’m so happy with this I think, ‘Can I make that transition and not see a dip in my numbers?’”