DistributedBytes: Hearst is Sweet on Snapchat; Medium is a Safety Net for Publishers; About.com Verticals Launch

Welcome to DistributedBytes! This is a weekly newsletter published every Sunday morning which covers how publishers are adapting to the evolving distributed media landscape. To receive it directly to your inbox on Sundays, please sign up at www.distributedbytes.com.

Issue #47 — September 11, 2016

This week in DistributedBytes …

  • Success Taste Sweet for Hearst
  • Medium Saves the Day
  • New Verticals for About

🍬 Hearst’s Sweet Success: Launched in November of last year, Hearst is seeing some sweet success with their distributed media experiment, Sweet. The “first-ever straight-to-Discover publication” lives exclusively on Snapchat, and is now attracting 15 million monthly viewers, as well as premium advertisers such as GE, Apple, and L’Oréal. The channel, which features a wide-range of lifestyle topics including travel, beauty, and even “sneaker culture,” is described as a “unisex” brand, however its audience of 18–34 year-olds does skew toward women. The secret to Sweet’s success? VP and General Manager Ross Clark points to three pillars that make up the focus of Sweet’s business: editorial, growth, and revenue. “On the editorial side we have to be carefully and ambitiously working together to evolve on the platform. That means we take time to explore things that have never been done before, specifically in terms of special issues, building out new content franchises,” Clark explains. To monitor growth, metrics are constantly tracked to ensure that Sweet’s audience is increasingt at a similar rate to the platform’s overall growth. To drive revenue, Sweet collaborates with Snapchat to develop monetizable products and partnerships. “There is a tremendous amount of interest and appetite in Snapchat as a vehicle for branded ads. It gets directly to the eyes of an audience that can be very hard to reach, and in a very intimate way — on their phones,” said Clark. Interestingly enough, while Sweet lives on Snapchat, it does have a website which serves as an archive of the content which would otherwise disappear from the ephemeral network. But the main emphasis is Snapchat — creating compelling content specifically for the platform in order to keep growing its audience there. According to Clark, Sweet is “the new brand for the next generation of international tastemakers.”

Read It: Hearst: Sweet: Inside the World of the Diverse New Brand Created Specifically for Social Media

💫 Medium: Media’s Superhero: Medium has literally saved the day for some publishers who have been floundering under the weight of dwindling ad revenues and mounting costs for the content and technology needed to run a website these days. Film School Rejects, Latterly, and The Bold Italic are just a few titles which have found a new home, and a safety net, on the blogging platform. Medium is helping small media companies by providing a variety of tools and services which enable media titles to focus on producing great content, without the worry of sales and technology issues hanging overhead. Some of the benefits include:

Monetization: Medium offers support for driving revenue through advertising, sponsorship and membership. Medium not only offers a native advertising program that publishers can opt in to, publishers can also sell sponsorships directly. And by offering support for memberships, publishers can create premium content and perks to appeal to their audience, which could drive much-sought-after recurring monthly revenue.

Reliable Revenue Streams: According to Neil Miller, founder of Film School Rejects, “we have a good handle on where our budget should be going forward, which is often very tough because it would come and go, previously, in significant swings.”

Tech Support and Hosting: Medium is absorbing all of the costs associated with hosting as well as maintenance and development issues. Miller says he “no longer spends time on the phone working out IT problems or wastes money buying additional server capacity when traffic suddenly spikes,” which allows him to focus on developing content and premium membership products.

Traffic: Being a part of the Medium network allows a publisher to be surfaced to readers through site navigation, in the front page feed, or in the daily newsletter containing the editor’s top picks. Ben Wolford of Latterly explains, ”You give your stories more of an opportunity to hit, basically. If you’ve got a really good story and Medium’s curation team likes it, they’ll recommend it. And a Medium staff recommendation puts it in front of thousands of people.”

While there have been some complaints by publishers regarding lack of flexibility in creating certain content types, such as Film School Reject’s movie database, overall it seems like the move is working out well for publishers and Medium alike. The platform has breathed new life into some media brands which had been struggling, proving itself as an important part of the media ecosystem, enabling bloggers, journalists and publishers of all types to share their message.

Read It: Poynter: Facing shutdowns and stagnating readership, independent publications are finding new life on Medium

📌 QuickByte: Did you know that Axel Springer owns one digital native media outlet, but has investments in three others? Or that Comcast announced investments in two new media startups this week, bringing the number of digital native companies that it’s invested in to six? Check out this VERY informative chart!

Read It: Bloomberg: Sulky New Media Still Clings to Old Media

👍 New Direction for About: Many of you know that I’m a contributing expert to About.com on the topic of messaging applications. About.com, having been launched in 1997, is a legacy digital publisher that has struggled to maintain thet “cool” factor, yet does boast a very impressive collection of valuable how-to content. The company is in the midst of a shift — it’s spinning off its numerous verticals into independent sites with unique brands. First on tap was VeryWell, About.com’s new health vertical that launched in April — which so far is driving 25% more traffic than the old health section did — and then just this week the company launched The Balance, a personal finance site for millennials. As to why the company has chosen to launch independent verticals, CEO Neil Vogel explains, “Nobody wants to get personal finance advice from the same site where they learned to bake a pie.” Its hard to argue with that! Stay tuned for more news on this front!

Read It: TechCrunch: About.com launches The Balance, a personal finance website for everyone

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