Millennials don’t watch TV newsas much as their older counterparts, but no video news platform has rushed in and claimed the throne.
Facebook has come the closest, and has built itself into a huge source of both video and news content — but these two facets are often separate, with video shying away from “breaking” events.
One startup, however, thinks it has cracked the code for getting young people hooked on video news.
Watchup founder Adriano Farano tells Business Insider that the key is the rise of streaming devices like Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV, as well as the proliferation of smart TVs.
Watchup began in 2012 as a mobile-first startup that was going to become the video news hub on your phone. The startup aimed to be the “Pandora for news,” letting you create personalised newscasts that pulled video clips from various partners, with user input helping refine the stations based on taste. Watchup built up partnerships with 160 outlets like CNN, CBS, Fox News, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Fusion, and Vox.
The app put together an impressive array of content — especially considering it was (and still is) totally free.
Farano says influential investors like Tribune Media, Turner Broadcasting, and Microsoft helped them land these content deals, some of which were secured by letting partners sell ads before newscasts.
But the big challenge proved to be pulling people away from Facebook, which was working to turn itself into the go-to media hub, especially for news.
But in 2014, Watchup saw a big change that opened up a new way for them to reach millennials: streaming devices. On streaming boxes like Apple TV, Watchup was no longer competing with Facebook and its bite-sized video content, or YouTube aggregator apps, which don’t function. They just needed to get the Netflix generation back into video news.
“It’s not true that young people aren’t interested in news,” Farano says. “They don’t like how clunky and fluffy the traditional TV news model is. They want content catered to them.” Facebook did that on mobile, but Farano wants Watchup to be the one to do it for streaming TV, for the cord-cutters who don’t want to watch cable.
“A year ago, less than 10% was OTT [over-the-top streaming like Fire TV], but now more than 50% is. And that’s not even including Apple TV,” he continues, which launched last month. The company’s next project is making a Watchup app for Google’s Chromecast.
Here is a chart that shows Watchup’s growth in OTT as a percentage of total usage:
Farano says he remembers the first time he fell in love with video news. “It was when I was nine years old and watched the Berlin Wall fall,” he says. The next day he went to his strict Italian Catholic school and started a newspaper, paying his writers in pizza. He says the paper did pretty well until a teacher caught him and threatened to expel him.
But that didn’t exactly deter him, and he started multiple publications in Europe before going to Stanford as a Knight Journalism Fellow in 2010. That’s when Silicon Valley got ahold of him.
He’s spent the last five years trying to make video news as relevant for today’s young people as it was for him.
Late last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was asked if his company would ever consider a live evening newscast. “You don’t want to invest in things that are dying,” he replied.
With the rise of streaming boxes, Farano thinks he can bridge the gap between Netflix lovers and the lean-back evening newscast.
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