First Media was one of the top 50 global media companies in 2018, and for good reason. Its properties pull in billions of views a year, and include BabyFirst, So Yummy, and Blossom (which repeatedly finds itself in the top 10 most-watched Facebook publishers leaderboard every month).
Originally founded as a TV network in 2004, First Media launched a digital-first strategy in 2016 when it realized that Facebook was growing and women were demanding more content related to their lifestyles. Since then, the media giant has grown from less than 100K followers to more than 110M followers and 1.5B monthly views across its social accounts.
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Of course, we needed to know the “secret sauce” behind First Media’s success. In this interview with the company’s CEO Guy Oranim and CPO Yuval Rechter, we uncovered not only actionable tips and strategy, but sound advice on the value of metrics like average 30-day views (V30).
Here’s what they had to say:
Tubular Insights: How do you identify as a brand and a player in the media landscape? What makes First Media so recognizable?
Guy Oranim: We’ve focused heavily on the key verticals we believed we can deliver the most value to our audiences with: DIY, lifestyle, food, and beauty. We also have a partnership with Zumba for in-person classes, along with our TV distribution.
Through all of these, we have a very diversified relationship with the women that we serve. The common thread is that we’re trying to inspire them to lead better, more effective and efficient lives.
TI: How do you gain a competitive advantage in such a crowded space? Do you have creative, data-driven approaches to how you’re operating?
GO: Since our inception on social media, our grand strategy is always quality over quantity. Instead of filling the space with a lot of videos we create very fast and very casually, we create a low number of videos and invest heavily into the resources to make those the best they can be.
Yuval Rechter: We post the least amount of videos relative to other publishers, and that’s intentional. We have several people from different teams working on each video; we have the data team working very closely with creative teams to inform them of actionable insights and learning for the next video, and the next video, and so on.
We also invest time into every single video so that when it goes live, we get the maximum amount of reach for us and for our advertising partners. This is why we have the highest V30 in the past 16 months, and are #1 in the world for views per post for Blossom content.
Additionally, we created a proprietary tool called Commentary Analysis Tool (CAT). This helps us find every comment and pull insights from our audiences, which informs our creative and the brands that work with us. For example, brands want to know if there’s positive sentiment about their product, or if someone is wondering if they can shop for it in the nearest store — we’re able to get those insights.
TI: How do you use data to inform your video strategy? What are your favorite metrics, and do you implement A/B testing?
YR: Data is a core of what we do, starting from the learnings from Tubular and passing that on to creative. We have an internal algorithm for each format and genre that shows us what’s important to make them successful.
What works for Blossom, for example, is very different from what works for Blusher, which focuses on beauty. This allows us to get super viral, one video after another.
GO: We rely heavily on V30, because of our conversations with brands. They tell us it’s not enough to have views; they want quality experiences correlated with quality content. They also want maximum ROI on their investments.
We think V30 best represents those two asks. This metric provides an objective way to prove quality. If you’re able to make people watch your content consistently over 30 days, that’s the best evidence of your quality.
Also, if brands can see relevant, long-term views on content, they’re happy with their investment. First Media has done this consistently; if you look at the top 20 or so branded videos from last year, about seven of them were made by us.
YR: We want to get maximum views per video, because that’s how we deliver results. V30 is a unique index that we believe should be the #1 indicator if a publisher is good or not.
GO: It’s so important to us, we won’t take projects we think will hurt our V30 numbers!
TI: How do you optimize for V30? How is V30 informing your creative development or programming strategy?
YR: The first thing we do is make amazing videos. We work on a data-driven approach that then informs the creative team; data and creative should always work together and speak the same language.
Also, our branded and editorial teams are one and the same. We all work together, and all insights and all learning are done across one team which trickles down to have a high-quality video that is high-performing over and over again.
It’s critical for us to work well on every video because there’s a reputation to our brand. There’s expectations from our fans, and we call them “fans” because they are people, not “users.” We want to make sure every video is positive, helpful, innovative, and inspiring.
GO: One thing that sets us apart from other publishers is being very good at optimization. It’s key to our success; we came late to the game in 2016 but were able to break through because of it.
We also invest a lot into training. Sometimes it can take months for a new producer to recreate the success of our videos, even if they’re very talented.
TI: How is V30 used in a sales pitch — what resonates with your buyers?
GO: The starting point is comparing our V30 to competitive sets in each vertical that we have and showing this to brands we’re pitching. For example, as of May 2019, So Yummy has a V30 of 13.5M views vs. Tastemade with 180K; with Blossom, we’re talking 18.4M V30 per video vs. Nifty which is 257K.
We also look at Tubular when it comes to the performance of our branded videos. Last year, three of the videos we did with Walmart were in the top 20 best-performing sponsored clips, but none of the videos they did with other publishers were.
With this data, we don’t have to compliment ourselves; we can just show the data. We can prove that our videos are performing the best relative to our direct competition.
TI: Is there a particular video series or campaign you’re particularly proud of?
GO: 2017 and 2018 gave a lot of videos to be proud of, particularly in the branded realm. In addition to the huge challenge to create virality, we had to combine the commercial messages of the brand with the need to stay authentic and give value to the viewers to get people to share.
We are experts in creating branded videos people will share. People watch and share our content even though they know it’s branded; you have to be completely transparent and give [your audience] a lot of content to create a value perception and get them to watch all the way to the end.
The campaign we really liked from this year was for Dunkin’ Donuts. We took a cup of coffee and showed different DIY hacks you can use it on things that have nothing to do with coffee. This got the attention of viewers and was the most successful branded video for the DIY category in the month of March.
This Dunkin’ Donuts-branded video delivered a CPM 76% lower than initially proposed. This was 7X guaranteed video views-further aligning our audiences. And it had strong positive sentiment — 99% of reactions were positive.
TI: What elements of storytelling do you rely on in all your branded videos?
GO: We always ask how to get extra value to viewers. Today, you have so many different food publishers and videos, that just having another cool-looking video doesn’t cut it. We know a great video is a starting point, but what would give extra value here?
You can get that extra value from multiple places. You can create an amazing design or the way you place the food, you can make it healthy even though it doesn’t look like it should be, or you can show the ease of use and time saved.
If you take any of those elements, and add them on top of a great-looking video, you can make it viral whether it’s editorial or branded.
TI: What are your biggest learnings from 2019 so far? Any unique challenges that didn’t exist a few years ago?
YR: Facebook announced they’re changing their algorithm again, and we welcome this. They’re focusing on original content and they’re focusing on loyalty (recurring viewers). You’re going to see big changes over the next few months on pages that repurpose, reupload, or take content that isn’t theirs or licensed.
This move is Facebook — and Instagram — rewarding its original creators, and this will get us more reach, more views, and more revenue since our content is 100% original.
Loyalty will also be key. When our fans see content from one of our properties, they trust us to always deliver them amazing content. They’re coming back again and again, and we have the stats to prove that.