How Newsy hopes to build a cable-like news network for millennials

Short-form news video company Newsy has, over just a few weeks, launched apps for Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV, as well as struck a deal to have a channel on Comcast’s Watchable app. The goal — lofty as it sounds — is to become the go-to resource for millennials interested in catching up on the news in the way previous generations used to on TV: With longer video on connected devices.

“We were a mobile-focused news company, we’re definitely focused on over-the-top now,” said Blake Sabatinelli, gm of Newsy. “Cable is going to be around for a long time and we know that’s the direction television is going.”

With a staff of 60 employees, Newsy produces roughly 1,000 videos per month across categories like U.S. and world news, policy, entertainment, culture and science and technology. Most of these videos run for three minutes or less, and come in the form of typical news reports (they’re either anchored by an in-studio host, produced in the field with a reporter or feature a voiceover with relevant news clips).

The business is entirely ad-supported with most inventory being sold programmatically by a sales team based in New York.

There is data to support the notion that Newsy viewers — a “strong majority” of whom are millennials — are willing to spend more time with its content. According to Sabatinelli, Newsy users average 27 minutes per session on the company’s owned-and-operated platforms, which include a website, mobile app and the aforementioned TV apps. Overall, Newsy averaged 62 million views per month during the third quarter, an increase of 342 percent from the same time period last year. Over-the-top drove that viewership, spiking 638 percent year over year.

At the center of Newsy’s effort in long-form and over-the-top is Newsy Live, a 24-hour streaming channel available online and across its apps. The feed packages all of Newsy’s short-form videos into 30-minute broadcasts. The company updates the feed every hour with the latest videos, breaking news updates and other high-performing videos.

“We know millennials are either not hooking up to the cord or shaving the cord, but there’s still a huge number out there who don’t want to peck for their content, they kind of just want to watch,” said Sabatinelli. “If you want to get a fix of 30 minutes of news that you need to know that day, you’re going to find it here.”

This week, Newsy plans to launch Newsy Live on Pluto TV, an online video service that functions similarly to TV — in that it offers hundreds of always-on channels and a programming guide to tell users what’s airing at that particular time as well as what’s coming up.

Pluto TV is the first of many, as Newsy plans to roll Newsy Live out to additional platforms and distribution partners in the coming weeks and months, said Sabatinelli.

“Every cable operator in America is launching some type of OTT product,” he said, pointing to Dish Network’s Sling TV as an example. “We have the ability to spin-up a linear channel for them.”

While apps and over-the-top distribution are major areas of focus for Newsy, the company isn’t completely ignoring social platforms either. On Facebook, it’s publishing short, text-heavy videos, with an eye toward driving traffic to On YouTube, the company has eight channels focused on different verticals. And it just arrive on Instagram and is looking at joining Snapchat as well.

“You have to win at social, it’s the greatest megaphone on the planet right now,” said Sabatinelli. But he also pointed to issues social platforms are having with defining views and whether people are actually spending time watching video content on their platforms. “Catching someone’s eye is different from capturing someone’s attention,” he said.

Image via Shutterstock / eldar nurkovic

More in Media

daily newsstand

Media Briefing: Why some publishers are resurrecting their print magazines

Nylon and Complex are bringing back print, but see more opportunity than just pure ad revenue.

Publisher strategies: Condé Nast, Forbes, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The Independent on key revenue trends

Digiday recently spoke with executives at Condé Nast, Forbes, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The Independent about their current revenue strategies for our two-part series on how publishers are optimizing revenue streams. In this second installment, we highlight their thoughts on affiliate commerce, diversification of revenue streams and global business expansion.

How sending fewer emails and content previews improved The New Yorker’s newsletter engagement

The New Yorker is sending newsletters less frequently and giving paid subscribers early access to content in their inboxes in an effort to retain its cohort of 1.2 million paid subscribers and grow its audience beyond that.