In a turbulent time for media companies, Italian social publisher Freeda Media is one of the rare good-news cases: The publisher is expanding its staff and growing branded-content revenue through longer partnerships and repeat clients.

Born on Facebook in September 2017, the female-focused Italian startup has grown to over 130 people with offices in Milan and Madrid. Revenue, which is generated from content created with brands, has seen triple-digit growth in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the previous year. The average price for a campaign has grown 150 percent in the same time frame. The publisher declined to share specific revenue numbers.

“Quality pays off; we have been very focused on our community,” said Andrea Scotti Calderini, co-founder of Freeda. “A lot of people are saying that media is in crisis. That might be true if you are very focused on programmatic or print revenues. It’s about the approach. If you’re consumer-driven and focused on qualitative content, you can leverage Google and Facebook to make a sustainable business model.”

Freeda publishes in Italian and, since last May, Spanish too. Now it’s eyeing up further expansion in South America, where 18 percent of its audience is from, and across Europe and Asia in order to keep growing.

Each day, Freeda creates around five Facebook videos and between eight and 10 posts for Instagram. Across Facebook, Instagram and more recently YouTube and LinkedIn, it has an audience of 4 million, 94 percent women. The content covers authentic stories about women, either through their achievements and individual style. Videos include interviews with Italy’s first female airplane pilot and an Italian Paralympian with a rare skin condition. Freeda doesn’t shy away from topics like domestic abuse or female genital mutilation but often covers it in hopeful, more positive ways. With its expansion, it will replicate its model of having global guidelines with local stories in the local language. For the most part, the content in Italian and Spanish is local; there are some instances where a video is from outside these regions, like interviews with people in the U.K., is translated into both languages.

According to Tubular Labs, it had 49 million views on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube in February, a 68 percent increase from the previous year. Freeda’s launch of its Spanish channel Freeda ES last year, saw them grow views across their channels by almost 10 percent, per Tubular. While the overall views and follower numbers aren’t the biggest, Freeda has a weekly interaction rate with its content on Facebook of 0.36 percent, higher than larger female-focused competitors, according to CrowdTangle. Being hyper-focused on this region means it can corner a market global players haven’t moved into.

Freeda has worked with around 150 brands on content campaigns, including Netflix, Nike and Gucci, ranging from short two-week campaigns to one-year campaigns. The retention rate for repeat bookings was 70 percent in the first year, said Calderini. Around 15 percent of its content is currently created with brands, but since July 2018, the organic reach for its branded content on Facebook has been equal to its editorial content. Creating branded content on social has its limits, but increasingly clients are asking for it to make videos or products that live on their own platforms, the goal is to grow the services it can offer to become more of a consultancy.

A small number of clients want to know how their campaigns have driven business objectives like brand uplift and purchase intent. Freeda uses a combination of surveying its community, using the clients’ own data and working with third-party pre- and post-campaign measurement firms to gather this. In some recent campaigns, the uplift and purchase intent grew around 15 percentage points, although the publisher was unable to share the name of the clients.

In total, the company has raised $15 million dollars (£11.4 million). Last year, the Italian division of the company became profitable, and the publisher is reinvesting into the company.

“We believe in social platforms. That is where our audience spends most of its time. We need to be there to be the most relevant to them,” he said. “Engagement is the only thing you can’t buy from Facebook.”

Image: courtesy of Freeda Media, via Facebook.

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