Social publisher The Hook pushes further into original content

In light of Facebook’s news-feed changes to show less content from publishers, it’s only natural that social-first publishers are making original video a priority in order to maintain their view counts. Facebook-first publisher The Hook, which touts that 70 percent of its content is original, has a head start.

Co-founded by Andy Fidler and Gordon Bennell in 2014, The Hook creates three-minute videos about pop culture, comedy and movies for Facebook, often featuring celebrity interviews, mashups or sketches. Recent successes have been a video on understanding the Scottish accent and one on a mock funeral for the year 2017. Both have over 20,000 shares, thousands of comments and millions of views.

In January, The Hook had around 200 million organic video views a month, according to Tubular Labs, so it’s a long way off from social publisher juggernauts like Unilad or Ladbible that top the Tubular leaderboard. For videos in December, the average engagement rate per video (defined by Facebook as likes, comments and shares) for The Hook was 27,000, according to the company, citing Tubular Labs data. Because audiences are waiting for the payoff at the end of the video, the completion rate is high, an attractive proposition for brands used to Facebook-first publishers that front-load their videos to capture attention quickly.

The Hook is swearing off licensed content for good and is ending the three contracts it has with licensing agencies, according to Fidler. In contrast, around 40 percent of the content Unilad publishes is original, while the rest is aggregated and licensed.

“Building up teams around licensed content has never been our goal,” Fidler said. “It’s worked in the past as an additional content stream, but we don’t need it anymore.”

Since The Hook launched, it has created 15 video series, including “Group Chat,” which depicts WhatsApp chats between characters from series like “Star Wars” or “Game of Thrones.” It’s planning to create more video series that last around six minutes to pitch for Facebook Watch. “Publishers born on digital, rather than social, have tried to fight against how users are interacting, but there’s no point,” said Fidler.

Although The Hook is growing its profile, agencies agree the focus on original content is enticing, particularly while spend to amplify branded content on Facebook is increasing.

Last year, it launched The Hook Labs, its branded-content operation, where it offers creative and production, influencer marketing and distribution. It has worked with 100 brands since launching, including Sony Pictures, Apple Music, Lionsgate, Sega, Groupon and mobile network Giffgaff. While its origins are in gaming and entertainment, it’s expanding beyond those sectors.

According to the publisher, pricing for branded content starts at £20,000 ($28,000), and The Hook Labs guarantees 1 million Facebook views for branded-content clients. Ninety-five percent of its branded-content campaigns have included distribution on The Hook.

The Hook is expanding further in food and drink content, including mashup videos of new products like Parma Violets-flavored gin and Cadbury’s Caramilk chocolate, to encourage comments from engaged audiences.

“Recent Facebook changes will make the playing field around quality rather than gaming the system,” said Fidler. “We’re playing for the long term. Facebook wants publishers with quality content, not just filling up the news feed with junk.”

Image courtesy of The Hook

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