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Sep 19, 2018

Digital publishers behaving like studios / Bleacher Report

One thing that has really gained momentum during the past year is digital publishers inventing formats, very often in "seasons and episodes", as if they were studios. Besides Buzzfeed (Follow This) and Vox.com (Explained) having shows on Netflix, there are a number of smaller examples where distribution (still) happens on the digital publishers' channels, for example "This is my next" on The Verge (which could have been just a subcategory to product tests, but has been made into a video format on YouTube), or a number of daily or weekly talking head shows that double as podcasts.

I see one major reason for this development: Creating fans (and, in extension, intention). It's way easier to become a fan of a show, or even a host, to wait eagerly for the next episode, than to become a fan of a category in an app or website (look at all the influencers and YouTube stars). So creating fans means that you will probably increase direct traffic to your destination - that you do not have to "earn" every time on ultra-competitive search and social. It's about creating fans that will intentionally look for that specific content. And if your destinations are less important, and you distribute your own format on social, fans translate into engagement, which subsequently leads to more views and reach.

The hard thing to learn is that, very much like on Netflix for example, it is better to have 1000 hardcore fans who love the show instead of having 5000 people who think it's "ok". Only fans will lead to the desired intentional and engaged usage. And maybe some publishers are really planning to create a studio business out of this - leave monetization to the few that managed to create a functioning model and concentrate on creating great content (which, of course, will become a casino business if that's your only source of revenue).

The reason I am writing all this now and today is Bleacher Report's new series "The Champions". That's what you do when you serve a GenZ & Millenials audience on Instagram - without having the rights to show a moving ball and neither the means nor the access to produce something with players or coaches: An animated series accompanying the UEFA Champions League in 13 episodes. They have successfully done this with the NBA in 5 seasons with "Game of Zones" before, and, just like from a production studio, Bleacher's parent company Turner used it for pre-game shows before NBA live matches on TV.

Don't judge the content, just appreciate the strategy:

The Champions: https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2796237-the-champions-episode-1

Game of Zones: https://gameofzones.bleacherreport.com/#/season-5-episode-8