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Why Firework thinks long-term growth for the news industry lies in short-form videos

K Giriprakash Bengaluru | Updated on April 07, 2020 Published on April 07, 2020

Start-up says traditional text-and-images may not appeal to millennial readers who skim through content

California-based short-form video format start-up, Firework has rolled out several products for the traditional media/news publishing industry to help it to monetise content as advertising is drying up amid falling circulation and the pandemic. In an interview with BusinessLine, Firework India CEO Sunil Nair shared the company’s gameplan for the publishing industry to monetise content on its platform. Excerpts:

We have seen many traditional media houses share their news on digital platforms. How are you relevant for such firms?

Millennials are watching more than nine hours of content a week across various platforms and these nine hours are further broken into shorter bursts of consumption. Users are watching videos in between their classes, while in transit or even standing in ATM queues. These micro-moments are most suited for short-format video consumption and marketers today realise that the best form of engagement can be derived from these micro-moments through their handheld devices.

While print is easily the most trusted form of news, they (devices) have also been of immense service in distributing it digitally through social media. Firework always felt that there is an opportunity to monetise that mechanism and has therefore opened up its platform to any publisher that wants to engage with the audience, but also monetise the same.

The traditional news format which uses text and images needs better appeal to target a large portion of the young audience. Recent trends have shown that readers do not spend more than a few seconds on a web page — merely skimming through the content. Furthermore, advertising is declining due to the pandemic — it just adds to the woes from the various ad blockers that do not allow traditional banner ads to be visible. Firework allows traditional media to adopt the short format very easily. We help publications to not just convert their existing long-format video content and text and images into short 30 second videos, but also use Firework's content from its creators and content partners and enhance the offering. We have various product offerings that can help a traditional publisher move to short format content.

How do you intend to monetise traditional media news publishing and how does the monetisation format work?

Firework works on a revenue share model with traditional media publishers. Our monetisation is not just via video ad based on the relevance of content but also through branded content which tells a story. This is one part of the story. If the publisher wants to bring in its own ads on the video content it can keep 100 per cent of the revenue and use Firework as a technology provider. We look at publishers as partners and believe that if they grow then we, too, will benefit.

What do you think could be the revenue split between traditional advertising in news publishing and revenue through Firework in the next five years?

We do not think we will replace traditional digital advertising at any point in time. The current green shoots that we see in the form of interest from advertisers...we believe that Firework will contribute significantly to the revenue of the digital publishers.

How many users do you have and what is the reach potential for content that is placed in your platform?

We have over 100 million monthly active users in India. Depending on the genre of content and if the content adheres to the format prescribed by Firework we can safely assume that the content will be visible across the 60+ apps and websites that we have on the network. In addition, we partner with publishers globally and use the reach, which results in getting additional audiences that were not possible before.

With coronavirus, we are witnessing a shift in the way businesses operate. How does it change your strategy in India?

Firework was one of the first start-ups to move to work from home, in early March. Being a nimble start-up helped in moving processes and people to take advantage of technology. We have worked with our creators and partners to ensure that the flow of relevant content continues. We have continued to add publishers to our network feeds and are seeing more and more businesses take an interest in what we are offering.

How will it impact your revenues in the next two quarters that is proving to be challenging for several business operators?

We are focussing on brands that are addressing the needs of the situation. We have identified businesses that will need huge support when things get back to normal and are building content capacities to help — for example, the travel and hotel industry. Having said that the economic downturn and the spiralling pandemic is a sobering reality. We are lucky to have a strong global management team, founders and investors who are willing to invest and continue to grow this market.

Have you seen a surge in the number of creators during these times and what has been the trend before and during coronavirus?

Creators that worked outdoors have been impacted. Most production houses are no longer able to create content. The big trend has been in people using their energies to create content from their homes to help the community tide over the crisis. There have been creators who have conducted online workshops for others. Before the pandemic a lot of content was around people and their passions; now it is about care, harmony and wellness.

Businesses have always considered Facebook and Instagram to be the go-to platforms to position their brands. How far behind are you from being considered as a must for any brands success in this country?

Considering we are six months old in India, we have seen rapid growth. A majority of our growth has been strategically driven through partnerships. That makes us a platform that users are discovering — not only on our native platform but also on platforms like Xiaomi, Mid-Day and many other publishers. While one cannot compare us to the likes of Facebook and Instagram, the short video platform has come of age and has emerged as one of the leading formats consumed by users. In that context, yes, we have established ourselves as a strong media asset for brands and it will only grow in the next 8-12 months.

Published on April 07, 2020

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