By Sahil Patel
Creating compelling video for the internet, especially what one considers to be “news,” starts with collecting the right stories. Over at Zazoom Media Group, such stories serve as the root for their digital programming. The company’s flagship channel and news series, “Buzz60,” aims to find stories that will live forever on the internet, maintaining popularity as long as viewers find the content interesting. Unlike in television news, as Tim Minton, the company’s CEO, explains in the following interview, evergreen content goes a lot farther on the web.
Zazoom also includes the channel “Parenticity,” which focuses on online video content for soon-to-be and brand new parents. It recently brought on “Debunk’d,” a new brand that explores internet myths, and is already creating content in a variety of languages with “Buzz60.” Zazoom’s content partners include Blinkx and Yahoo, while the company distributes its work through DailyMotion, AOL, Blip, and YouTube, along with a variety of other digital platforms.
To get a deeper look into the operations of a media group with such a far reach on the internet, VideoInk caught up with CEO Tim Minton to discuss what journalism looks like on web videos, the future of “Debunk’d,” and genre expansion for Zazoom.
You and your fellow co-founders have a prolific background in traditional journalism. How has that come in handy as you’ve grown “Buzz60”?
Rooting the business in journalism means we are focused on storytelling at a complex level. Getting the facts and tone right are part of our value proposition. Buzz60 videos are rich in detail, creative imagery, and graphic support. We look at a fire hose of potential topics every day, literally hundreds of story ideas, and understand instinctively which ones deliver the most compelling opportunities for each target audience. Then we add data and science to drive story selection, which often validates our journalistic instincts. Zazoom uses the same standards and practices that guide newsgathering in traditional network newsrooms to ensure our reporting is smart, appropriate, and advertiser safe for our distribution partners.
What are some things you’ve learned, or are still learning, about how news video is consumed on the web versus traditional platforms?
The vast majority of viewers on the web watch because video has been shared or recommended by a trusted source or because they’ve searched for a topic and a compelling headline and thumbnail popped up. Brand awareness is certainly important, but not essential, as on traditional platforms [see: TV] where brand connection is critical due to the length of commitment required in a single session. If you want to watch a particular story on traditional platforms, you’ll likely also have to watch 3–5x of video with little or no connection to your interests. Television viewers are drawn by personality and brand, e.g. the anchors on “Eyewitness News.”
Online, I’m watching on-demand, for as long as I choose, in targeted verticals selected from hundreds of content creators. From a business model perspective, evergreen content on the web has disproportionately greater value due to viewer’s ability to find and consume it over a long period of time. A huge hit for us is a video about two people who decided to modify their bodies to actually look like Ken and Barbie dolls. It keeps getting shared and blogged, it’s being viewed 250,000 times a month — more than a full year after its release. Compare that to a perishable story on the 11pm news, which has a shelf life that expires at about 11:15.
News video is quite a big category on the web. How would you compare yourselves to companies like NowThis News and Newsy? How do you separate Zazoom/”Buzz60″ from the pack?
We prefer to leave comparisons to others. Zazoom’s partners include the most successful media companies in the business. They sign and renew deals with us because we reliably deliver high quality content, with topic selections driven both by science and experience. Our storytelling is a key differentiator, fueled by a philosophy of entertaining targeted audiences while informing them. We’ve topped a half-billion lifetime video views because Zazoom’s content provides more than headlines, and is purpose-created for the primary devices people watch today whether on the web, mobile or connected TV platforms. We don’t believe it’s necessary to sacrifice quality to practice aggressively scaled journalism on digital platforms.
Zazoom and Buzz60 recently launched a new show called “Debunk’d,” which looks to take down various internet-created myths. How does that fit into the overall content strategy for the Buzz60 channel?
For openers, we see “Debunk’d” as a stand-alone brand and it is already finding an audience. It joins “Parenticity” and “Disgusting or Delicious?” in complementing the “Buzz60” flagship family of brands (“Buzz60,” “Buzz60 on Yahoo!,” “Buzz60 en Español,” “Buzz60 en Français,” among others). At a time when “too wild to be true” stories gain currency simple by virtue of being retold, we see an opportunity in examining where reality stops and entertaining fiction begins. We expect “Debunk’d” topics will largely be a crowd-sourced, as the audience shares stories that have been shared by others, and we validate or debunk. Some sites occasionally take down myths; “Debunk’d” will be the go-to place for seeing what’s real. This series fits into our strategy of adding 1–2 content brands per quarter that touch on the Zeitgeist of the moment, or what will be trending soon.
You’ve been looking to expand the short-form news video format to branded content. Could you explain a little more about what you’re aiming to do here?
We have three key unique value propositions that are attractive to brands and agencies: speed, quality, and journalism. That means when a brand enters the social conversation anywhere in the world, in any language, Zazoom can rapidly turn that experience into a ready-for-viral video. Agencies are setting up newsroom-like settings in an effort to duplicate this experience with mixed results at best. When it comes to producing compelling short-form topical video, our experience rooted in network news-level journalism is a competitive advantage.
How can brands be folded into the news? What kind of brands make sense for such a category?
We often see organic opportunities. One example: while we have no partnership with LG, we were intrigued by a prank the company engineered to demonstrate that the picture quality on LG TV is like looking through a window. The hilarious result was a great “Buzz60 story,” but it also would have worked as branded content. Any brand with stories to tell makes sense for Zazoom. Our journalists are experts in recognizing, shaping and telling stories that are as immersed in pop culture as they are compelling video.
News is obviously huge when it comes to the Zazoom content portfolio. Are there other genres/categories you’re eyeing?
We’ve built a foundation with more than 7,500 videos that are mostly short form and topical. It’s been a successful niche with a competitive edge that’s led to increasing demand from partners like Yahoo, AOL, Dailymotion, NDN, and others. We see news as an important part of the broader news/information space that could logically include other informative yet entertaining types of content. Our growth strategy also includes longer-form video, web series, entertainment and branded content. Zazoom Media Group’s content slate contains exciting concepts at varying stages of development. As we expand laterally, we will also grow vertically with foreign language originals and adaptations. Languages other than English are proving to be a white space that Zazoom is leveraging successfully across brands and partnerships.