BarcroftTV offers its viewers a heady mix of videos, with subjects ranging from animal attacks — a curated video of a fight between a lion and buffalo garnered more than 30 million views — to hard-hitting foreign news to a feature about the daily life of a young transgender couple in Oklahoma.
“We have a real mix of content that does well on our channel,” said Sam Barcroft, founder of Barcroft Media. “Doing well has a number of different outcomes. So, doing well might be that a story gets a lot of advertising revenue. Doing well might also be it gets lots and lots of views. And doing well might also be that it gets a lot of engagements and comments.”
After a successful career as a photojournalist, Barcroft founded Barcroft Media in 2003. The company has grown into one of the largest producers and distributors of online video in the world, with BarcroftTV, becoming one of the largest YouTube channels.
“It’s evolved out of our business, which was always producing high-quality content for news organizations to use as its own,” Barcroft said. “So, we provide that content every day to news brands all around the world.”
BarcroftTV’s formula is simple. Barcroft and his staff post new content every day and then assess the audience’s reaction by looking at the number of views a video generates and then reading the viewer comments.
“One of the great things about being a digital, self-curated channel is you can do what,” Barcroft said. “So, essentially, the formula is that myself, my editorial team work very hard to listen to our audience to create and cover stories that we feel they’ll be very interested in and engage with.”
Content on BarcroftTV is comprised of videos Barcroft’s team produces on its own and videos produced by outside sources.
“Our business has been a combination of researching great content and getting the rights to that content and then helping the content on its own monetize and grow reach on their content and tell their stories,” Barcroft said. “That’s combined with our own team of internal producers and our stringers who we commission, who create our own premium content as well.”
The majority of Barcroft’s content is produced on behalf of major news outlets like The Huffington Post and Inside Edition. Once those outlets are done using the content on their products, it ends up on BarcroftTV where it finds a new audience. Since BarcroftTV has a global reach, many BarcroftTV viewers will not have seen the video before.
“Essentially, I’m a big believer in the economy of news these days needs to be subsidized,” he said. “And so, we create a lot of this content by having it commissioned by other broadcast partners and then retaining the rights to be able to exploit it on our own channel after that moment, which seems to work for us.”
This business formula allows Barcroft Media to function as a true multimedia company, sending out teams of photographers, producers and writers to shoot stories and produce content for its partners and, eventually, its own platforms.
The more Barcroft and his editorial team produce content and see how the audience reacts to it, the more confident they become about gauging what type of videos their audience will be interested in viewing. That means sometimes covering stories on their own without a business partner.
“A lot of the traditional news media is in flux at the moment, and some of it isn’t as confident as commissioning as it once was,” Barcroft said. “And so, we take advantage of that by now commissioning out of our own internal budgets and then seeing how that does.”
This interview was set up in partnership with Steffen Konrath of Liquid News Room.