Earlier this year, NowThis did what few other news organization would dare to do: it shut down its desktop website. While the publisher still maintains a mobile website and an app, it depends mainly on platforms to distribute 50-60 pieces of daily content, which can be found on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Kik, among others.
“We don’t create one video and then cut that video down to 15 seconds so that it can run on Instagram and cut it down to six seconds so it can run on Vine,” said Athan Stephanopoulos, svp strategy and partnerships. “We will actually tell the story in a different way that is visually conducive to the platform.”
The strategy is working. Last summer NowThis had an average of 1 million viewers a month across platforms. This July, that number grew to over 420 million viewers. Stephanopoulos will be on hand at the Digiday Publishing Summit later this month. He helped us break down what a successful cross-platform story like #LoveWins looks across NowThis accounts.
With 1.4 million fans, Facebook is NowThis’s biggest and most engaged platform. In July, video analytics firm Tubular Labs ranked NowThis the third most watched video publisher on Facebook after BuzzFeed Video and BuzzFeed Food — the highest in the news genre. Its #LoveWins coverage was tailored to work with the platform’s autoplay, muted video format. “It’s highly visual, highly graphical, with a lot of copy,” said Stephanopoulos. “You can consume a whole piece of content that we produced without ever having to go full screen or hear what is being said.” Videos for Facebook are normally between 30 and 45 seconds in length, this one is 31 seconds, and attempt to create an emotional connection that encourages sharing.
Stephanopoulos said its Twitter account, with 370,000 followers, reaches the publisher’s oldest audience members and works best for breaking news and events coverage. Its real-time feed format also makes it best for posting often, around 30 times a day. The #LoveWins coverage that went up on Twitter included one of the publisher’s longer videos at a minute and a half. It showed revelers speaking directly to the camera about their reactions to the ruling. This footage was filmed by the NowThis team and also streamed on Periscope, a platform that the publisher is testing.
We talked to people celebrating outside Stonewall yesterday: https://t.co/vEKCNZNtZs
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 28, 2015
The six second loop format and muted autoplay make telling a story quickly a must on Vine. “If you are creative you can tell a story within that timeframe,” said Stephanopoulos. And it’s true that the publisher’s account draws heavily on creativity and humor. A strategy that has attracted 343,000 followers. After the Supreme Court the decision, the publisher posted a colorful Vine showing different celebrations.
“Instagram is a tricky platform because inherently it was built for photo,” said Stephanopoulos. The #LoveWins post was just that, though the publisher also uses short videos — Instagram loops at 15 seconds — on the platform. It is important to remember that the only method of engagement is clicking the big red heart, said Stephanopoulos, which means it may not be the best platform to post content around sensitive news events like Boko Haram. NowThis posts the fewest pieces of content daily to this account because it is easy to “flood the feed” and potentially annoy its 158,000 followers. Stephanopoulos said the topics that do best on Instagram revolve around science, tech and innovation.
In a 5-4 ruling, gay marriage is now legal in all states in the United States of America #pride A photo posted by NowThis (@nowthisnews) on
After Facebook, Stephanopoulos said Snapchat is where he is seeing growth happening, though NowThis does not not disclose their follower count. “We’re seeing a real opportunity to tailor content for that audience, but it’s very different in form with vertical video and drawing around a video,” he said. A recent story that explained the Iran deal in twelve images drew the most feedback so far. “What we drive home is the concept of producing platform appropriate content and that means that it’s custom and built for that platform specifically,” said Stephanopoulos.