Great Big Story, a startup video network, was launched in October 2015 by CNN. Step by step, it started to gain popularity among its targets. This independent, socially distributed network focuses on millennials and tries to produce substantive stories for smart and curious and, of course, young viewers.


Numbers and metrics rule the ball

Several months ago, its co-founder Chris Berend said it was obvious that Great Big Story would be compared with BuzzFeed and Vice, whose success with ad content on digital platforms the network would want to mimic, but there is still some big audience out of BuzzFeed and Vice reach.

According to its insiders, Great Big Story generated more than 350M video-starts across platforms, including its website, mobile apps, Facebook and YouTube channels as of July 2016. The site and mobile apps were visited by more than 9 million users since its launch. The average app session lasts more than 5 minutes per person, and the users keep returning to engage in more sessions. On Facebook, it has more than 2 million fans and over 240,000 subscribers on YouTube. GBS average age of audience points 25,  and this is a half of CNN’s on TV.

Let’s now figure out how they gain their success and why it’s important to use metrics.

CNN. Great Big Story.

Firstly, Great Big Story does not produce hard news, it’s rather aimed on the mini-profiles of interesting and weird people and places. Mostly it consists of engaging videos highlighting off beat topics like World Scrubble Champion or 14-years old rock climber, or dubbed amputee who climbs rope sitting in the wheel-chair.

Next, each story on GBS is categorized by topics like «human condition» or «frontiers» and papers in a short-video format to encourage watchers. According to Khalil Jetha, Director of Audience Intelligence, GBS wants to make something different from Facebook news feeds for those intelligent and curious young people who appear to be their target audience.


Look from the inside

CNN. Great Big Story.


However, it only looks easy when we talk about it and surf the site, but in fact behind the scene GBS team does a great work to make sure their videos reach the right viewers, to measure the impact, and to make each video piece perfectly peached, using their analytic approach.

They use native ad for business model and Khalil says that its content is something “between the grittiness of Vice and the optimism of BuzzFeed». Moreover, the team has no wish to make their viewers bored with long-length videos that’s why as we’ve already mentioned all of clips are quite short and beautiful. As they say, from the inside the main reason of itS success is that «content appeals to millennials because of its broad range. It’s an eclectic taste set».

The most important thing here is that they are trying to deliver their content on their terms. And this is being done in advanced social media age, when the mindset of audience and distribution is platform-friendly.

Talking about metrics, scale and figuring out what’s good for GBS and what’s wrong, what’s working with this platform and what’s not, there is a vast of analytics for the team to review and take all of these measurements with special attention and care.

«What we’re looking at is the right combination of metrics in scale. If we have 10 million views but a very limited number of shares, we won’t consider that to be quite as successful as a video that has 500,000 views, but a significant higher rate of shares per view,» – admits Khalil.

There is nothing less important for the team: they measure each likes, shares, comments and clickthroughs, and it makes sense while striving for their goal. Moreover, such regular metrics are familiar to all well-known and up growing publishers. GBS turned to a new distribution strategy for each news story and they make a separate marketing plan for each new piece of content, which makes their reach grow even more.

An Ever-present Facebook

In fact, the main measure growth platform for Great Big Story became Facebook, and Khalil feels positive about its offers in terms of reach. Only this June GBS posted 125 pieces of content on the platform, 115 of which were native.

«I think the great thing about Facebook is that it’s a level playing field. If we were to create evergreen content 10 years ago, it would be impossible to scale. You’d be looking for something to inform yourself, and typically that’s news,» – says Khalil.

The thing is that it’s important to remember that some things work on several platforms and some just don’t, as there are differences and nuances which must be considered. For example, video with young sneaker dealer earned in 10 times more interactions on YouTube than on Facebook. Meanwhile, video which explains how to cook puffer fish got more than 10 millions views on Facebook and only 680,000 on YouTube.

In other words, three most important points in creation are: firstly, find out who your potential viewers are; secondly, reveal why they interact with you – and this is even more important than brand strategy created for each piece of content. And finally, always control the time of all your video production. And only after these the question of quality goes.


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