Up next in digital media: Videos of young people (cue: Millennials) explaining the news to each other.
Digital aggregator Upworthy is teaming up with cable news network MSNBC to create a new video series that will launch June 25. The series is angled toward younger viewers (i.e., those between the ages of 18 and 34,) and will air online as well as on television.
Co-founder and CEO Eli Pariser, whose site first staked a reputation for re-packaging liberal stories, says the move to partner with a traditional network (and MSNBC in particular) is one that makes sense for both companies: "We had a meeting with NBCU and realized that we were thinking about a bunch of the same things, and that it would be fun to collaborate on a project," he says, by "bringing together what we learned from curating a lot of video for purpose-driven millennials, and what they know about visual video storytelling," he tells Inc. exclusively.
As one might expect, MSNBC.com's Executive Editor Richard Wolffe says that the project will reflect the two companies' shared "progressive set of values."
The two-part video series, called 'In Case You Missed It' (ICYMI,) and 'From Where I Stand' (FWIS), will offer context to explain the news for Gen Y, as well as give fresh "millennial" perspectives from those affected by current events. One example of the former might be cluing them into Caitlin Jenner's original rise to fame as an Olympic athlete, which came decades before her association with the Kardashians, or her highly-publicized gender transition this year. Upworthy and MSNBC will collaborate on ideas and scripts, though the network will do the actual production. Upworthy's editor-at-large, Franchesca Ramsey, will provide voiceovers.
Pariser insists that the series will still highlight Upworthy's founding ethos: To feature news items that may not be "easy to fall in love with," (such as the September 11th attacks,) but which are still vital for younger readers to consume and understand.
"People have often misunderstood what makes Upworthy work," Pariser adds. "We tell stories that really move people and that they want to share with everyone they know." In keeping with a Capital New York story in June that reported Upworthy would start producing original content, though, Pariser concedes that "there's a limit to the stories that you can tell if all that you're doing is curating." To that end, as recently as January, Upworthy brought on a former New York Times deputy editor, Amy O'Leary, to serve as Editorial Director. And on June 25, it announced three new senior leaders, including Head of Content Collaborations Nicole Carrico, formerly of Martha Stewart Living, and Chief Revenue Officer Ben Zagorski.
Upworthy's traffic, it's worth noting, has seen better days, which may in part fuel its new direction and this partnership. Compared against its record 50 million global unique visitors last August, the site now clocks around 17 million, according to the most recent data from Quantcast. Wolffe, for his part, hopes that the series could similarly extend MSNBC's digital reach, while also upping its (admittedly grim) ratings. "How digital activity drives [TV] tune-in is a $64,000 question that, I think, all broadcast TV video publishers are trying to figure out. We believe in growing our audience through digital. We think this kind of partnership is right in the sweet spot for us," he says.
In fact, Wolffe says that MSNBC pitched itself to Upworthy, not the other way around. "We have long been fascinated by what they've done, how they've built themselves, how they've created this really distinctive voice, in a very similar way to MSNBC, but of course on different platforms," he says. "We always felt there was a natural partnership there."