3 Ways Bloomberg's TicToc Is Redefining News and Delivering 76M Monthly Views

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Your audience is attending an event or busy in their workday. How do you connect with them? One way, Jean Ellen Cowgill, global head of digital strategy and business development for Bloomberg Media and general manager of TicToc by Bloomberg, told an AM&P 360 Annual Conference crowd in Washington, D.C. this morning, is to present “key frames” and “side frames” that humanize their news and play on their Fear of Missing Out. (Association Media & Publishing is Connectiv's sister association.)

“At TicToc [which began in 2017], we’ve refined our strategy,” Cowgill said in a keynote titled A New Approach for the New Guard: Reaching the Newest Generation of Leaders. “Our audience has that FOMO and we want them to feel what it’s like to be somewhere. The key frames are those 30-second clips that feel like you’re present.”

That’s Wave One, she said. Wave Two is taking a local story that has appeal to a particular community and making it go global—pointing to a story they did in Australia. “A reader came away knowing more about the world,” she said, that thirst being a defining characteristic of millennials. A key, she said, is to “humanize the biggest trends we’re covering.” She showed the audience a story about the first female drone racing champion.

Cowgill focused on millennials, but the “new model of narrative news” that she espoused goes beyond that audience. “People hate talking heads,” she said, or table setters. They want to just get to the table.

“The new narrative-driven style takes from the documentary and podcast space and applies it to news,” she said, adding that “signposting”—giving your audience a little help along the way—is also important to the storytelling and the eventual takeaways. “We have to work harder than ever now to apply these puzzle pieces in a very thoughtful manner. The bar has gotten higher.”

Tactically, here’s what TicToc’s vision looks like:

1. Be a signal in the noise from the very first frame. “The first second [of a video] matters more than you think it does,” she said. “In so many videos you see the powerful visuals in second 3 or 4.” That’s too late. “The first frame is a little package that makes you want to stay with it.”

2. Hold up a mirror in the major moments. Who are the people behind this trend or achievement, she asked. She showed a story they did about a 29 year-old woman who took an amazing black hole photo. The look on her face astounds. “Find a way to hold up a mirror to your audience” so they can see themselves in the news and connect with the emotions.

3. Make me care through text and visuals.

On a basic level, Cowgill asked if your newsletter brings readers joy? “If not, get rid of it.” She quoted author/marketer Ann Handley to think more about the second part of the word “newsletter” than the first. “Imagine you’re writing a letter to your audience. Do you think it would look the same way [if you were approaching it as news]? If not, change it.”

TicToc has connected with Bloomberg’s audience to the tune of 76 million views a month across their social presences. Called the Spotify for news video by Axios—“which we appreciated," Cowgill said—it  was originally designed for Twitter but now percolates all over social media. “You start with something seamless that fits into people’s day,” Cowgill said. “Focusing on our core audience has paid off.”

“The new guard is here,” she said. “And they seek fulfillment. The leading brands”—she pointed to Peloton and Blue Apron as examples—“expand their world and find where they fit in… New brands are defining new spaces for daily self-fulfillment, and finding their tribe in the process. They’re showcasing what they have to offer and connecting with family and friends.”

One slide said it very succinctly: “Winning brands are finding their own blend of fun, prestige, thoughtfulness and innovation to underpin their message.”

“People are consuming in a different way with different expectations,” Cowgill said. “A defining quality is that they want fulfillment and growth across all aspects of their life—88% care more about living well than their net worth.”

She added that 42% cite learning and development as the most important factor of where they work. Today’s publishers need to feed those desires. Then Cowgill put up one more statistic and laughed. “And 26% [of millennials] said they haven’t found a partner with everything they’re looking for. They want it all!” she said.

And Bloomberg is succeeding at delivering it.

Keep up with the conference at @ASSNMEDIAPUB and #AMPANNUAL19.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…