Facebook’s News Feed Changes are a Reminder That Owning Your Distribution is Key
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When Facebook announced their plan to change its News Feed algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family over public content it sent content providers and brands scrambling. Why the alarm?

Since its inception, Facebook has always tweaked its platform and algorithms, impacting many to its aspirations and company goals. For example, when game developer Zynga shared every rake through different feeds to increase awareness, Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prevent this.

Yet news publishers, content providers and brands have continued to utilize the platform as their leading source of traffic to garner impressions. However, as the Zynga example shows, they were always at the whim of Facebook’s algorithm. Now the day has come and the faucet of Facebook’s News Feed has been shut off.

But let’s step back, why did publishers not try to pursue their own avenues of distribution and monetization? Acquire Retain Monetize (ARM) is one of the most difficult things to master profitably and at scale, which is why most “homeless content” companies relied on Facebook. It’s not necessarily that they didn’t want to control monetization and distribution but because they either didn’t know how to or were not successful in doing so. Before we knew it, Facebook was feeling more like a media company as it provided publishers with the ultimate platform to reach consumers.

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The same way ARM is extremely difficult to master, creating quality, engaging content is an art and becomes exponentially more difficult when you have to adapt to new screens and formats. Having gradually veered from its roots as a social company, it was time for Facebook to reevaluate its mission, as Mark Zuckerberg announced, “to encourage meaningful social interactions with family and friends over passive consumption.” A pivot back to its foundation was underway.

On the other hand, we can look at media companies like Hulu and Netflix, who have mastered ARM and offer quality content. What’s missing here is one critical element to retaining views and impressions: format innovation and adaptation to mobile behaviors. Seemingly for these companies, mobile is just an extension of their core, but as “big screen first” generations are getting older they will hit growth issues in their quest to capture the entertainment time of younger audiences. It’s no secret that consumer behavior is changing rapidly and dramatically — people seek out mobile content and want to be micro-entertained throughout their day.

At Mammoth Media, mobile is at the heart of everything we develop and we built our company so as not to rely on other distribution avenues such as Facebook. Our company fully controls distribution, monetization and content. To control and own all three of these pillars is essential for long term success. We are defining this new generation of mobile media beyond the traditional avenues of books, TV, films and gaming.

Our apps focus specifically on micro-entertainment in daily life and from the outset, data was a critical component to achieve this. Our collection and utilization of data empowers us to understand viewer behavior, as we’re continually testing different production formats and content to understand what resonates with users. As a result, we’re able to quickly create and launch unique content that keeps viewers entertained. Importantly, we are able to deliver revenue, brand value and data-driven insights to content owners and advertisers.

Our properties including Yarn, the innovative micro-storytelling platform, and the tap-to-vote social networking app Wishbone, are proof that our model is working. Yarn has become a dominant destination for short-form storytelling with a total of 59 million stories read, 19 million episodes read per week and 8 billion messages read to date. On Wishbone, a total of 80 million cards have been created. The app has an average of 352 million votes per month and a total of 18 billion votes cast to date.

While traditional entertainment avenues like television, films and books have cornered the market for centuries, content creators cannot ignore mobile’s massive reach and its depth in consumer interaction. Those who do will have limited growth as they will miss innovative opportunities for entertaining and forgo connecting with key audiences.

We’re defining the next mobile media landscape and we’re just getting started.

Fei XIao
My Mission to Redefine Mobile Entertainment

By Benoit Vatere, CEO of Mammoth Media

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I started Mammoth Media with one, clear vision: build a media company that redefines mobile entertainment.

The mobile entertainment landscape that we experience today is saturated with social and game content, and the quality is often subpar. I had two back-to-back experiences that led me to this realization, ultimately leading to where I am today with Mammoth Media.

The first was observing one of the top publishing companies in the world make the transition of taking their highly successful content from desktop to mobile. From the outset, it was obvious that they were struggling to adapt the content to a new format while maintaining the same level of engagement that they had previously enjoyed in its native format. I learned a critical lesson: you can have great content, but that alone will not guarantee that it will be successful on mobile.

During my time as CEO at PlayHaven (a large mobile gaming app network) I saw the complete opposite in terms of user acquisition and engagement. Their ability to reach and engage users was astounding- with the ability to go from 0 to millions of users in a matter of weeks.

These two contrasting experiences led me to ask myself, how can I bring these two worlds together? How can I have user acquisition as strong as a game, but instead provide entertainment via premium content? As mentioned, up until now, the mobile market has been social and game-centric and I wanted to develop a way to entertain audiences with content.

First and foremost, when building a media company you need to own your monetization and your distribution. The Acquire, Retain, Monetize (ARM) formula is necessary for success, thus we built that into the foundation of Mammoth Media. A lot of companies have had great success on mobile, delivering well-formatted, premium content but when it comes to fulfilling ARM, they oftentimes rely on the major networks (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, etc.) to meet one or more of these criteria. This can put you in a dangerous position as we’ve seen with Facebook’s latest announcement. Suddenly the publishers who depend on Facebook’s platform to share their content no longer have the same reach to their consumers.

The Facebook example is great validation for what we are doing- we must own our fate when it comes to monetization and distribution. To do this, I first started to build an in-depth data engine with user acquisition and strong monetization on all sides — ad, subscription, and IAP. Wishbone was our first property that proved that our data engine was working exceptionally well. With the analogy of TV, Wishbone is our version of user-generated shows — think America’s Funniest Home videos or Ridiculousness. Wishbone operates on user-driven content, with users creating polls and side-by-side comparisons which we curate for users to consume.

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With this first success, we began to develop our next property. Again looking at TV, some of the most captivating and successful shows have been the dramas and sitcoms — the linear narratives that you tune in for once a week. Through focus groups and hours of testing we were able to determine the best way to deliver this kind of content to users; we were going to bring fiction into the most native reading format, text messages. With this, the serialized chat-fiction app, Yarn was born. Yarn has been a major success, drawing in users for those moments of micro-boredom in daily life. And as a result, Yarn users read 4 times a day for 2 minutes at a time on average.

So what’s next for us? Much like how Viacom started alongside the big networks (ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS) by creating specialized programming and not disrupting the existing ecosystem, we’re taking a similar approach. The apps are like our channels and we’ll continue to build quality entertainment experiences alongside the existing major mobile destinations and solidify our leadership as a mobile media company.

Fei XIao