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CNN Taps YouTube Influencer to Reach Millennials

Young viewers are drawn to internet and mobile for news

In a move to reach younger, mobile-oriented viewers, CNN acquired mobile video app Beme, co-founded by Casey Neistat, one of the most widely-followed videomakers on YouTube.

Media from Which US Consumers Often Get News, by Age, Feb 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

Not only does the deal add a highly popular social video personality to the CNN roster, it also signals an effort to find ways to communicate with a generation that is far more likely to consume news via digital, and in particular via mobile devices.

A Pew Research survey earlier this year found that millennials were roughly twice as likely to “often get news” from the internet as from TV. Fully half of those 18-29 cited the internet (including social media) as compared to 27% from TV. Among older generations, those 50 and above, the skew was even more pronounced—but in the opposite direction, with the vast majority tapping TV over the internet.

Not only are younger users more likely to turn to the internet for news, they are more likely consume it via mobile devices. comScore Media Metrix data from May shows a sharp bias for mobile among younger users, with nearly three-quarters of their time spent consuming news/information on mobile devices rather than desktops.

Share of Time Spent with News/Information via Desktop vs. Mobile Among US Internet Users, by Age, May 2016 (% of total)

CNN plans to shut down Beme. Its 11-person team will develop a new standalone media brand, which it plans to launch by summer of 2017.

Beme has been compared to Snapchat, but the emphasis is not on selfies. Rather, the idea is for users to capture the world around them in brief video snippets.

Neistat gives CNN a digital video personality with a significant track record in influencer marketing. His YouTube channel has nearly 6 million subscribers, primarily made up of young viewers, and includes a mix of original and sponsored content.

“Research shows that young people are heavily influenced by celebrities and digital influencers,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer. “CNN’s acquisition of Beme could help it bring in new content that could attract a younger audience. In addition, influencer marketing is extremely popular among advertisers. Influencers can create content that is fresh and original, introduce brands to their followers and help companies to do marketing that comes across as more authentic and genuine than a paid advertisement would.”

Factors that Keep Their Followers Engaged According to US* Influencers, April 2016 (% of respondents)

YouTube stars like Neistat—and influencers in general—are not new. But in recent years they’ve gained popularity among marketers, in part because they are seen as authentic and honest, and part because they allow advertisers to get around consumer ad avoidance.

An April 2016 survey from TapInfluence, an influencer marketing automation platform, and Altimeter Group, a technology research company, asked influencers what their audience loves about their work, and ultimately, what keeps them engaged. More than seven in 10 US influencers said authenticity was key, they keep their followers engaged by simply being themselves—by being honest, funny, open and willing to call it like they see it.

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