Why Group Nine’s Content Strategy Doesn’t Involve Driving Viewers Back to Its Websites

TheGrill 2018: “let’s acknowledge the fact that people live on a handful of digital platforms,” Says Group Nine CEO Ben Lerer

Last Updated: October 2, 2018 @ 12:29 PM

It was just nine months ago when Facebook decided to change its algorithm to favor content shared and created by friends instead of publishers. The decision led to the downfall of a handful of content creators such as Little Things, which experienced a 75% drop in its organic traffic, essentially killing profit margins and forcing it to close its doors.

Since that time, content creators have been careful not to rely too heavily on social media platforms for their traffic. Many, including Refinery29 and Condé Nast, have developed apps as a means to drive consumers back into their owned and operated properties rather than having to rely on Facebook for revenue and traffic.

However, despite this trend, Group Nine, a company that consists of four digital brands — NowThis, Seeker, The Dodo, and Thrillist — has been able to build one of the most successful digital media brands despite not relying on driving consumers to its owned and operated (O&O) website.

CEO and founder of Group Nine Ben Lerer says that the company’s strategy is centered on being “100% consumer-centric in everything” they do.

“What that means for us is –unapologetically build content for where people live,” explained Lerer, speaking at TheWrap’s annual media and technology conference, TheGrill, held at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“So instead of trying to create content with the goal of getting someone to come back to a website or an app… let’s acknowledge the fact that people live on a handful of digital platforms that — if we can lean really hard into and make the absolute best content for — we can build the next generation of great brands.”

With this strategy in mind, the company has focused on producing brand-safe content with mass appeal, such as news-focused programming through its NowThis Vertical, and animal-centric stories via its DoDo brand. This content tends to have high engagement, shares and views. NowThis, for example, has been able to generate an average of more than 2.5 billion monthly views.

With its family friendly content and massive audiences across its brands, the company has been successful at attracting enough ad-dollars to make money, says Lerer.

“Even without selling premium advertising against it, we can create content profitably… off of just what we call distributed revenue, which is just revenue generated off of these platforms,” said Lerer.

Now the next step for Group Nine, according to the CEO, is it work on getting sales rights, which it is currently in the process of doing.

“What that means is moving into a world where we can not only rely on platform revenue  [but] we can sale a huge amount of totally brand safe, totally premium, scaled, transactional video inventory.”