Newsy, a digital media company that has its roots at one of America's foremost journalism schools, thinks it has the found the formula to produce and distribute news for millennials.
The 8-year-old news service, acquired by E.W. Scripps in 2013, has mostly worked behind the scenes providing syndicated news clips to digital media companies. But at its first NewFronts presentation tonight, which was made possible when another company dropped out four weeks ago, Newsy continues a consumer-facing turn.
"We understand there are people who don't know Newsy," said general manager Blake Sabatinelli. "Up until a year ago, we were a small newsroom in Columbia, Missouri."
Now, 55 Newsy staffers in four cities produce up to 35 60- and 90-second videos every day. "We have an incredibly smart, engaged and large audience that is seeking something different than what's on cable news and broadcast news," said Sabatinelli, who adds Newsy drew 300 million viewers in the first quarter of this year, with an average viewing time of 30 minutes per session.
"There's a misconception that people my age don't give a damn about the world around them," said the 34-year-old Sabatinelli. "We're proving that wrong."
As it banks on attracting a cord-cutting audience, Newsy is also launching the Newsy Brand Studio to provide opportunities for advertisers, beyond the pre- and mid-roll ads traditionally attached to short videos.
"We're trying to create editorial series that have strong brand sponsorship. These are compelling stories that are contextually relevant," he says. That includes some topics Sabatinelli calls "taboo" like polyamory and how to deal with an ex. "We're not a breaking news company so we're not going to win that battle. But we can provide deeper context in our stories." Other new series announced tonight:
- Americanize Me: How generations of immigrants in the U.S. have added their native foods to the American menu.
- The Blind Spot: The news stories that millennials have lived through, but may not have been taught in school.
While it's part of one of the most iconic brands in journalism—E.W. Scripps began as a single newspaper in 1878 and is now one of the largest TV station ownership groups in the U.S.—Newsy sees a digital-only future as an OTT service and in the MVPD space. "It's tough to say that broadcast is part of the future, but we always keep our eyes open," Sabatinelli says.