Quick question: What’s the longest-running original series on the web right now? If you don’t know, it’s apparently Shine America’s daily trivia show “Who Knew?” which has aired exclusively on Yahoo for almost five seasons, totaling over 840 episodes. (We are resisting every urge to make a “Who knew it was ‘Who Knew?’” joke right now.) No matter how you slice it, that’s some impressive longevity.
With that in mind, we decided to sit down with Derik Parrent, the executive producer of the show, about what has made the show successful enough for Yahoo to give it five seasons (and hopefully, a sixth).
Walk us through the production process for each episode — how do you come up with which topic to cover, what’s the writing, animating, production process like, what’s the turnaround time to get the episode ready to air?
We start with a weekly topics meeting where our production team gets together and pitches ideas. We share our best 12–15 ideas with Yahoo for them to choose their top five to produce. Once the topics are chosen, the show writer and executive producer write the script and a blueprint concept for each episode. Then the magic happens and we hand off the script and blueprint to our team of animators, photo researchers, and editors to bring it to life. From concept to development, each episode takes an average of three days to produce.
“Who Knew?” is now in its fifth season and just aired its 850th episode, that’s an incredible number for any show, regardless of format or screen. What would you credit for its longevity?
There are 1000’s of different ways people can find out the news, but “Who Knew?” takes a different approach. In each episode we always try to take a current event or news story and then find that special “Who Knew?” moment to share with the audience, something that they can’t find in a typical news story.
The format allows us to keep the topics fresh and timely. We publish to Yahoo News every weekday and are in production year round. We consult with the Yahoo News editors about what users are searching and do loads of direct topic research to make sure we are delivering episodes about what people are talking about at that moment. The entire point of each piece is to give fans an entertaining look at a single topic, loaded with interesting or little known facts that cause them to think “Who Knew?”
The light-hearted approach to the topics and the fun animation and sound effects also keep people coming back every day.
What’s the distribution like on Yahoo?
“Who Knew?” is available on Yahoo News, Yahoo Screen, the Yahoo Screen app, and through Yahoo social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter). We work with the Yahoo editors to make sure “Who Knew?” is unique and provides the audience with new and unique information. The show has benefited by working closely with the Yahoo editors who are able to highlight the show and bring it front and center through the Yahoo platform.
What are some best practices for creating successful online content that you employ in the creation and distribution of this show?
We focus on providing what people want right now. That means looking at what is happening today that’s top of mind and thinking about tomorrow — what will people want to know about over the holidays, in the new year, and even into next summer?
We are constantly critiquing our own storytelling so that we are presenting the clearest visuals and script to cover the topic and deliver a show that brings fun and meaningful information to the viewers.
How did the Toyota sponsorship deal come together? What goes into that sponsorship?
A few years ago Shine America (formerly Reveille Productions) and Yahoo pitched the concept to Toyota and they picked up the series. At the end of every season, Toyota has the option to renew the series.
In addition to “Who Knew?” being a sponsored series by Toyota, we also produce one segment each week called the “Let’s Go Places” fact of the week. These segments speak to Toyota’s audience and give tips and tricks on everything from buying a new car to what to bring on a camping trip. We also work to incorporate Toyota commercial video or stills within the segment. We work closely with Toyota to ensure its brand messaging is consistent and on target to meet the company’s goals.