Inside JOE Media’s Facebook Live playbook

Publishers in the U.K. are still in the experimental phase of Facebook Live, but that’s not stopping them from starting to put some firepower behind the format.

JOE Media, for instance, currently has five people dedicated to video. This year, it plans to add 30 employees to its U.K. operation companywide. It currently has a staff of just 25. With a tagline of “for men, not lads,” the 5-year-old lad-lite digital publisher has its roots in Ireland and entered the U.K. last summer. The publisher kicked off the year convinced the male-interest sector is still underserved in the U.K., and it has drafted a strong roadmap to serve that need. Increasingly, that involves video.

Indeed, the number of employees working on video is slated to eclipse those on written editorial, and will include producers, presenters and editors. “All the people you would expect to see on a TV set,” said editor Richard Beech, who joined the company from BuzzFeed in April this year. It’s also investing in better camera equipment and building a studio.

JOE Media’s focus on Facebook Live comes from its plans to create more regular and repeatable formats, eventually streaming something live daily. Having this regularity will build the habit for viewers to return to its Facebook page, which has 3.6 million followers. Regular shows also make for a more simple commercial prospect for brands that would want to sponsor a particular feature. There is no way to monetize Facebook Live yet. JOE Media is not one of the publishers, like the New York Times and BuzzFeed, that is getting remunerations from Facebook for live video.

In the last month, JOE Media has done roughly 10 Facebook Live videos. Most of these have been around sports, either talking to football fans after a game or capturing the atmosphere before an event. “Covering sport is a great way to get into the male conversation,” said Beech. “Now we’re in the rest of our content, we’re breaking away from sport to also cover politics, entertainment, film, everything men care and talk about.”  This goes for Facebook Live too, this week it tried a more gimmicky live stream, asking viewers to try to make its reporters laugh while they had a mouthful of water, a format Beech can imagine becoming a regular.

The numbers have been good, getting around 100,000 views while live and rising to 290,000 24 hours after the event. BuzzFeed UK’s most popular videos have had a few hundred thousand views when streamed live. The Sun, however, is getting more like 30,000 views for live videos.

Data from analytics firm SocialBakers finds that the top 100 U.K. media companies posted 310 live videos in May, compared to just 19 in January. As the space gets more crowded, being clear about the purpose of Facebook Live will become more important.

“The perfect Facebook Live video is where the viewer watches for 15 minutes or so building up that tension before the event happens,” said Beech. “A group of people talking about politics is not the future.” One idea Beech is excited to try is a treasure hunt for reporters around London with the help of the audience. “We want the viewers to be part of the show, so the audience are either helping the people on screen or they want them to fail. There’s the element of risk in that too.”

Facebook notifies people when someone they follow is streaming live, which can get irritating, and is part of the reason JOE Media has been treading carefully. “We know that publishers can lose followers because of running live streams that aren’t relevant or interesting.”

After posting videos, Live or regular, Beech notices all links posted do substantially better too. Facebook has again tweaked its algorithm to favor friends’ posts over publishers, but Beech doesn’t show much concern. “This means I will be more likely to see a JOE Media post that has been shared by my friend than one that hasn’t,” he said. “It just puts more focus on everyone to create high-value content.”

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