Asking what makes Cheddar different from a traditional news media company such as CNBC or Bloomberg is like asking what makes Seinfeld different from The Facts of Life.
So said Cheddar Founder and CEO Jon Steinberg—also the former president and COO of BuzzFeed—at the 2018 PromaxBDA Conference as he delved into what the future holds for his two-year-old video news company targeting millennials.
At the intersection of business and culture, Cheddar exists on “virtually every OTT platform in the U.S. right now,” Steinberg said, pointing to Roku, Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV, Amazon, Twitter and more.
Where it’s not, is on cable and satellite operator set top boxes.
“And we’ll probably never be there,” he said.
Instead, Cheddar’s bread and butter lies on mobile and social platforms.
“We’re good at it because we have no choice,” Steinberg said. “We weren’t put on a box. Facebook Live was our first platform because we had nothing else.”
When it launching the company, Steinberg said he realized he couldn’t do something someone else was doing, and chose to do something different.
“The time to build a giant website was done,” he said. He also doesn’t see value in Cheddar as an app destination, and instead is focused on building it up as a channels that establish digital real estate.
Since Steinberg launched the company in 2016, it’s been steadily growing through ad sales, branded content with companies such as Fidelity, E-Trade and Dunkin’ Donuts, and strategic business deals such as Cheddar’s recent acquisition of MTV’s on Campus distribution platform to target college students with the launch of new channel CheddarU.
Steinberg’s end game?
“I want to take the whole local news market, over time,” he said. “If none of the big guys will do it with me, I’ll do it on my own.”
With competitors such as NBCU and Fox, he sees them as James and the Giant Peach, and himself as the pea under the princesses’ bed.
“If the knock on me is going to be ‘we’re small now,’ so be it,” he said. He’ll either “make it bigger over time, or do a deal to make it bigger over time.”
Social media has also been an important strategy for Cheddar’s growth.
Twitter is the company’s highest ranking platform for serious news to help build the brand into a respected outlet. Snap is where the company turns to grow its young audience. And Instagram and Facebook, the later of which garners around 300 million views a month, is the main social platform for marketing. Steinberg leans into the type of content that does well there—such as videos of a motorcycle turning into a jet ski.
“They have all these algorithms … but if a cat does a backflip into a baby pool and lands on a racoon, that outstrips everything substantive,” he said.
With that balance in mind, Cheddar is growing in the local news marketing because, as Steinberg puts it, at the end of the day, “I think everybody wants to hear about a moose on the loose in their neighborhood.”
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