Video publishers seek to extend Facebook content beyond Facebook

“America Versus,” a Facebook video series from news and issues site Attn, is one of the most popular shows on the social media platform. Between January and October, the show, which compares various U.S. policies to those in other nations, averaged four-and-a-half times as many views as the median Facebook video, according to Tubular Labs.

But while tens of millions of views per video is nothing to sneeze at, there are still some limitations to Facebook video. Shorter videos — “America Versus” episodes are typically between 60 and 90 seconds — reign supreme. And outside of sponsored content, it’s still hard for publishers to make a ton of money on Facebook.

It’s a big reason why Attn, along with other top Facebook publishers like BuzzFeed’s Tasty and CNN’s Great Big Story, are looking beyond Facebook to extend the life of some of their most popular content.

In 2017, Attn plans to make a longer version of “America Versus,” which will live on the company’s own websites. This won’t be existing “America Versus” Facebook videos stitched together into a longer format, but the same idea at a longer length and higher production quality. This includes having a host and setting producers to remote locations to capture all of the footage. The company hasn’t settled on a set length for the videos; whether it’s 10 minutes, 20 minutes or longer, the videos will be as long as they need to be, said Attn co-founder Matthew Segal. And unlike the Facebook videos, which mixed content shot by Attn with footage licensed from other parties, the longer version of “America Versus” will be created entirely in-house.

“We are definitely aware of the limitations of Facebook — the attention span for 7- to 10-minute videos, or longer, on Facebook just isn’t there yet,” said Attn co-founder Matthew Segal. “As a result, we’re going to host the videos on a landing page on our site.”

Attn’s website, which comScore said reached 9.2 million visitors in the U.S. in October, might not be the only place for new “America Versus” videos, either. The company has also had conversations with Netflix, Amazon, HBO and a range of other streaming platforms about distributing the show, Segal said. (Attn recently partnered with HBO do a custom animated video with Bill Maher for HBO Now. It’s also sold an original series to Spotify.)

“What we’re trying to do is show that this can be a consistent line of programming that started out on a platform like Facebook, but can easily scale to other platforms like linear TV and Netflix,” said Segal.

Other top Facebook video publishers are also beginning to take their content or media brands to other platforms. BuzzFeed’s food publisher, Tasty, now has its own segment on NBC’s “Today Show” and recently released its own cookbook. Earlier this week, CNN’s Great Big Story premiered “That’s Amazing,” an eight-part hour-long TV series, on the Weather Channel. The show pulls together shorter segments produced by Great Big Story about the outdoors and weather.

“We’ve produced a number of original stories for ‘That’s Amazing,’” said Courtney Coupe, executive producer for Great Big Story. “But we’ve also repackaged a handful of strong-performing shorts from our library to share with this new TV viewing audience as well.”

Finding extra lives for its content — and therefore new monetization opportunities — is an important part of Great Big Story’s business model. In addition to producing content for TV networks and streaming platforms, the company is also looking to distribute its original shows and documentaries in markets. It also plans to open up a Scandinavian office and digital channel next year.

It’s an important move for video publishers in an era when Facebook provides a lot of eyeballs, but comparatively little in consistent advertising-related revenue. Publishers need to think long term.

“It’s absolutely necessary,” said Segal. “Because — let’s be honest — not only is good money still on TV and other environments like streaming services, but from a brand perspective there’s a lot of prestige that comes with being there.”

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