CNN has launched its own BuzzFeed competitor -- and you can't tell which videos are sponsored

On Tuesday, CNN launched Great Big Story, its new millennial-focused competitor to BuzzFeed and Vice.

With Great Big Story, CNN wants to create video content that is shareable on social networks, conducive to native advertising, and appeals to “urban-located, globally curious 25- to 35-year-olds,” according to Fast Company.

One of the primary motivators for this launch seems to be a concern by CNN that its ad dollars might dry up in the coming years, if viewing patterns in younger audiences continue to shift away from cable news. CNN no doubt wants an outlet to expand native advertising, as it’s not a natural fit for the “hard news” its audience is accustomed to.

CNN has a “branded content studio,” called Courageous, but sponsored content on CNN proper is always clearly marked, and sometimes even appears on a completely separate part of the website, Fast Company reports.

This won’t be the case with Great Big Story.

In fact, in a brash move, native content on Great Big Story “won’t be labelled any differently than strictly editorial content,”
Fast Company reports. That means you will never be able to tell if what you are watching is paid for by a brand or not. This is fundamentally different from the way outlets like BuzzFeed handle native content.

As to audience, CNN thinks there is open space in the market somewhere in between Vice and BuzzFeed, which it defines respectively as “shouty” and “cotton candy,” according to Fast Company.

Fast Company points to CNN’s apparent mandate to its Great Big Story team, in the form of an internal sales video:

“What if there were more to your social feed than empty clickbait and cat videos? What if there were real stories, great big ones? About new frontiers, the human condition, and our planet, and its tastes and flavours? Stories so curious and compelling, so jaw-droppingly awesome, that at the end of the day you feel completely full?”

Content on Great Big Story’s site on its first day includes, “We Found Lisa Frank!,” “What It’s Like to Fly into a Hurricane on Purpose,” and “The Untold Story of the Kool-Aid Man.”

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