How NowThis got 15 million views off a Bernie Sanders interview

NowThis is feeling the “bern.”

The digital startup, which recently ditched its homepage in favor of distributing bite-sized pieces of news through its app and platforms, didn’t go the traditional route when it scored an interview with Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders in early September.

Instead, NowThis applied its cross-platform approach to the interview with the Vermont senator to massive results. NowThis shot its interview with the Vermont senator and tailored the short op-ed style clips depending on the platform they were intended for, making it the first-ever cross platform interview of a presidential candidate.

NowThis crowdsourced its questions from social media and focused on topics that are important to its millennial audience, like his affordable college plan and gun control.

The interview was disseminated across five social networks (Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine and Instagram), garnering more than 15 million total views in 10 days. Using a “platform appropriate approach,” NowThis’ svp strategy and partnerships Athan Stephanopoulos told Digiday they edited the videos to pop depending on the platform.

For example, NowThis published six videos on Facebook averaging about a minute and a half in length. The most popular was Sanders discussing his college plan video racked up 8 million views with a whopping 204,000 shares. Aside from that outlier, the videos on Facebook raked in between 400,000 and 2.4 million views.

Stephanopoulos said that a “policy-driven question” works on Facebook, adding that it was a “strong signal that our audience wants to know about these key issues and will actually engage with it.”

On NowThis’ Instagram, which has 164,000 followers, a 15-second clips discussing his college plan collected 1,300 likes. Here’s what it looks like:

For Vine, video of Sanders speaking was eschewed for a graphic heavy presentation with a pull quote and a soundbite that fits nicely into the app’s six second limit. It netted 75,000 loops. NowThis also shot a specific vertical video Snapchat complete with graphics and, to change it up for Tumblr, it created six GIFs captioned with his quotes.

In all, tailoring the videos to each platform instead of copy and pasting the same thing across all of them proved to be “unparalleled,” Stephanopoulos said.

“We know that this [platform-appropriate approach] highlights us as a media company that we are doing something right,” he said. “We need to bring content to our audience, in places where they live, be authentic and talk with them.”

SimpleReach CEO Edward Kim told Digiday that NowThis’ formula helped propelled them to a degree of virality.

“NowThis made a concerted effort to not only produce content native to these channels, but made the content teasers to drive viewers to Facebook,” he said. “That being said, it certainly doesn’t guarantee success, but giving content with viral potential the necessary support and distribution is everything.”

NowThis hopes to apply the format to another presidential candidate soon. Judging by the popularity of the videos, Stephanopoulos said there has been “no decision” on whether to add ads before the videos.

The Sanders interview comes off the heels of NowThis having its biggest month ever in video, garnering 500 million views across all of its platforms in September. Stephanopoulos said that means it’s achieving “great scale” as it continues to push into video with the interview being one part formula.

“This reinforces to us that this was important, that what we’re doing and the role we’re playing in the presidential campaign,” said Stephanopoulos. “We’re really reaching the millennial audience where they live today.”

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