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Launch platform-first sub-brands

An increasing number of forward-thinking publishers have delved deep into the world of distributed content by launching sub-brands with content tailored specifically to the platform they live on.

BuzzFeed launched its first distributed-only team in 2014 with BuzzFeed BFF, an experimental group within BuzzFeed and that created native content on Vine, Tumblr, Instagram and more. Two years later, BuzzFeed’s largest distributed brand, Tasty (which shares short cooking videos optimized for Facebook), has become the largest media brand on Facebook and 50 percent of Americans watch a Tasty video every month.

In 2014, Hearst launched Sweet, a lifestyle-driven publication that lives exclusively on Snapchat. In 2015, Business Insider launched, INSIDER, a video-first brand that publishes content natively on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.

In mid-2016, Time Inc. launched INSTANT, “the People magazine for the Snapchat generation,” a fully distributed media brand that video content natively on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

USA Today’s popular sports vertical, FTW, was initially launched as a social-focused sub-brand where it published native content on Facebook and Tumblr, as well as linking back to the larger USA Today site. Refinery29 saw short beauty videos performing well on its site and social channels and launched a social-only sub brand called Short Cuts, which focuses on beauty.

Sub-brands allow publishers to reposition themselves in the market and establish a new identity without alienating established consumers.

Sub-brands allow publishers to reposition themselves in the market and establish a new identity without alienating established consumers.

Many have compared this model to launching “shows” on a television network. Launching smaller sub-brands that are tailored to the needs of different platforms can allow publishers to target different, and even sometimes conflicting, audiences.

But how to approach this type of project?

Many publishers have found success from allowing staff to build their passion project with in-house resources and support, provided that project is in line with larger goals. When you have people who are truly passionate about a specific topic or content theme, others are likely to gravitate toward it.

If a passion project gains enough traction, assemble a team around it and set KPIs. This is how BuzzFeed’s largest sub brand, Tasty, was founded.

Keep in mind that it may take time for sub brands to grow. It’s important to set different metrics and goals. Determine the purpose of the sub-brand. If the goal is to launch sub-brands in order to experiment and find new audiences, set goals around that.

If the goal is ultimately to drive direct revenue, you might approach things differently. It takes time for a sub-brand to grow. Partnering with an advertiser to launch a new sub-brand can be a good way to mitigate the financial cost of launching something new.

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