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SMW '19: Awesomeness Talks Reaching Gen Z Across Streaming Platforms

Read the complete transcript of this interview:

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Streaming Media West 2019 I'm Tim Siglin, Contributing Editor with streamingmedia.com. Today, I've got with me two ladies Rebecca Glashow & Shelley Zimmerman. The company is Awesomeness, which sounds like an awesome name. What exactly is Awesomeness?

Rebecca Glashow: Awesomeness is a digital studio--digital first-- doing content for generation Z. So, we do content for YouTube and all the social platforms over the last seven years, and then we have a TV and film studio reaching that demographic on the streaming platforms.

Tim: Oh, very nice, very nice, interesting. So, you said around for seven years now?

Rebecca: The company was founded by Brian Robbins over, actually, over seven years ago to really take advantage of connecting with an audience that was really underserved as the birth of the internet and a lot of time and attention on YouTube. He was a longtime producer and director, really recognized with his own children and really the general trend of this audience spending a lot of time on a new platform, so, nobody really creating entertainment content and building a brand to reach with this audience on the platform that they're on and we've had a hand in evolving that brand over the years.

Tim: Interesting. So, you all were on a panel, that I understand, just a few minutes ago. What did you talk about during that panel?

Shelley Zimmerman: We were talking about how to reach audience and Gen Z is this amazing audience because they're rabid consumers of content, but across many different platforms. So, they're on, we all know, YouTube and Instagram and TikTok, and we're serving longer-form television and film content to them. So, we were, sort of, talking about the specialness of that generation and how they uniquely grew up in the digital era. They've only known smartphones, they've only known the internet, and so there are special opportunities in making content for them.

Tim: So, to a certain extent it sounds like almost making lemonade out of lemons because those of us who've been around forever and are concerned about the fragmentation, you're saying, "They're a fragment and you can't do anything about that. You need to meet them at the platforms that they're on."

Rebecca: It's no longer a one-size-fits-all, where you get to deliver all their favorite programs to a linear experience. You know, they're going to different platforms for a different type of connection and entertainment experience and as we know they spend a lot of time on the streaming platforms and social platforms and about building a brand exactly in a fragmented environment and really, I would say, that is the challenge. The opportunity is certainly-- this is a very engaged audience. Passionate, they follow their talent. Everywhere they follow shows that they care about passionately and it's really tapping into that and serving them and that's what we do at Awesomeness.

Tim: And is part of that sentiment analysis to figure out what platforms they're currently using? Or how do you gauge-- because you listed off six platforms that we know on any given day it can shift to another one or one can sort of fall-- how do you handle understanding the platforms themselves?

Shelley: Yeah, that's a great point. We're in constant dialogue with our audience. We put out 15 videos on YouTube. We're on Instagram constantly. So, it's through that dialogue that we learn more about them but we absolutely have to always be at the front, not only on whatever new platforms that they may be driving to but new features. Whether it's IGTV or the power, right now, of Instagram Story. So, it's a constant opportunity everyday in the content we're putting out to see what they're responding to and learn more about the trends going on with them.

Tim: It's interesting to think about it, in the old days, the medium was constant, you just had to worry about what the content was. What you almost described is having to worry about gauging the content and the platforms because of the fact that there's this fragmentation.

Rebecca: Absolutely. You're creating bespoke content, so, certainly on the streaming platforms, with our TV and film studio, those are longer formats, longer development cycles. YouTube, which I would also call in many ways, a longer-format platform. We do anything from 10 to 20 minutes, so, there's a lot of narrative, sort of, I would say some format-driven platforms that, you know, more time is spent there and took a longer watch time, so that's the focus. When you get to the truly social platforms, whether that be TikTok or Instagram, the content experience is different. They're not really going there for a show, they're going there for a person, a brand, an experience, a moment and so our touchpoint on Instagram may be very different than our touchpoint on YouTube, or certainly on the streaming platforms. Inside there, it's very true that TikTok is still very wild west. There's still a lot of, just, experimentation. It's about, you know, understanding these platforms and their innate experience. Why people are coming there taking advantage of the tools and functionality and just staying on top of them and the trends are constantly changing.

Tim: And before TikTok we had Vine and Mirrorcat and a number of these other solutions. How short is too short from the standpoint of content length?

Rebecca: For storytelling, which is, I'd say, we really look to our traditional TV and film and YouTube as platforms where we can do character development, really build out a world and a universe. I would say what we focus more about-- for example, I said the narrow Instagram, to us we've used that platform to focus on pop culture. It's really friends talking about what's going on, what matters, what's trending. We would not do a lot of that narrative content because that's not what people are coming from the scrolling through.

Tim: The influencers.

Rebecca: So, it's recognizing that there's a different content experience on these different platforms but YouTube is really the longest, sort of, viewing experience that I think most--

Shelley: And engagement is different on Instagram. Our audience loves polls and loves, like, actually engaging, exactly. So that, also, is a different storytelling.

Tim: YouTube started as a shortform and has become the longform. So, speaking of that, let's jump forward a year from now. What do you expect will be different, what will be the same as generation z sort of morse into, you know, a more mature generation? Will that affect the platforms they get into? Will it affect the types of content or will we still within the next few years, sort of, see the same models?

Shelley: I think that there's always opportunity for new, whether it's platforms or functions. I think for us the great news is great stories, great talent, our relationship with all different types of talent and the social media influencers who are so important to this audience. Certainly new people will percolate up but there's plenty of opportunity for us to continue to work with all different levels of popularity amongst the talent. So, I think that's really, it's hard to guess in terms of, if a new someone will--

Rebecca: The other thing that's a big part of our business is our film and TV studio signed with third parties. I think, if anything, is this generation, you know, gets older and certainly more attention that is given to it, we'd see greater and greater opportunity in the marketplace for what our expertise is and certainly it seems like YouTube is not really going anywhere but it is hard to predict. TikTok was not something people were talking about a year ago but look at it now. So, you know, it's our job to stay on top of it certainly the smart people who work for us.

Tim: My fiancee is actually a math teacher in high school and she said that their school decided to have a TikTok dress-up da,y and she had to actually go and, like, look at who the TikTok influencers were to think about who she could possible dress up like, and she said the same thing. A year ago, nobody was talking about it, and all of a sudden it's here and it's a thing. So, alright well, thank you very much for your time.

Shelley and Rebecca: Thanks for your time.

Tim: And we'll be right back.

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