Another publisher is ramping up its original video strategy. Upworthy, the website that first gained popularity for its oft-politically charged polling topics, is releasing its first video series today, titled “Another Person’s Shoes.” The docu-style series tackles diversity by giving viewers a unique look into the life of an “underserved person of a different gender, culture, society, sexual orientation socio economic status,” according to a brief from Upworthy’s team. The first episode highlights “Wings of Hope,” a non-profit founded by Joe Demarco that makes 500 flights a year to provide patients with transportation to health facilities across the nation. In many cases, Demarco and “Wings of Hope” helps save lives.
The series appeals to the human interest, very much in the way the early polling topics characteristic of Upworthy did. But that doesn’t mean all of the series Upworthy is looking to produce will be as deeply heart wrenching, though there will be a focus on content that inspires the viewer to make a difference in the world. For Upworthy, video is additive and what the audience is asking for. It’s also a way the company can further expand its footprint on the internet among the always-coveted millenial audience, ages 18–35.
“Upworthy brings an authentic sense of making a difference,” said Croi McNamara, Upworthy’s head of video (pictured left). “We’ve been doing it for a while, our voice is strong. So we’ll definitley look to have the human angle to drive empathy.” McNamara attributes Upworthy’s remarkable analysis of data as the main informant for what types of video series the company will produce, as she leads a team of 10 content creator and data analyst hybrid execs to produce meaningful video for Upworthy.
“[Upworthy analyzes data] at a level that I think most corporate shops would be envious of. Its something I’m really excited to be a part of and to be able to use as we create content for our audiences,” she added in a phone interview with VideoInk. To start, Upworthy created partnerships and licensing deals as a testing ground for what content would work for Upworthy’s socially conscious and aspirational audience, “riffing on the Netflix model” she says. According to their research and observation, videos that fall within 2–5 minutes are the sweet spot. But that won’t prevent McNamara and her team from testing various storytelling genres, lengths and formats as Upworthy follows the data to the best serve their audience.
“Based on [the data] we knew 2016 was going to be the year for the franchise formats for us,” said McNamara, noting that, like most other companies in the space, this is really a time of learning for them.
As far as distribution goes, Upworthy, which has scaled it’s audience from 5 million monthly video views in January of 2015 to over 247 million in March of this year, is not going to distribute content natively to its own platform. Rather, the strategy is to go a bit “old school” with its distribution strategy, first releasing the series on its YouTube channel, where McNamara notes the company has a small, but very engaged audience. Arguably, Upworthy could have a better shot on Facebook where it’s audience is almost at 9 million. But for monetization, YouTube is still where the game is played, McNamara says of their approach.
And the moment for Upworthy is now. Now, at a time when dollars headed towards creators and digital production companies is white hot, when the gold rush to video is being dominated by the major media publishers, and when the opportunity cost is quite high. “We see the opportunity from a business perspective, from a growth perspecitve and we see the opportunity for the audience.”