From A Listicle Site To A Large Internet Media Company – How ScoopWhoop Is Re-Inventing Itself

Lighthouse Insights finds out how the millennial driven media company is trying to reinvent itself as the content creators as well as the distribution platform

ScoopWhoop

For an Indian parent his child always remains a little kid, even if he is 50 years old. Salim Khan, father of Salman Khan is going all guns in justifying why his son is the perfect choice as the Goodwill Ambassador of the Indian contingent for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Salman who is playing a wrestler in his upcoming film, may not be a professional sportsperson but he is an A level swimmer, cyclist and weight lifter, tweeted his father. Now that is a surprise for even bhai’s fans.

Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt was the first one to raise his voice against the irrational appointment, later athletics legend Milkha Singh joined in too by saying that rather than a film star an Olympian would have made more sense. This didn’t go down well with Salman’s father and the mudslinging began on Twitter. ScoopWhoop (SW) has covered the news as well as the controversy surrounding it. Subsequently, the Delhi based young media company produced a one-minute video explaining the entire controversy in the most simplistic manner. What more can you ask for!

But wait a minute, don’t we all know ScoopWhoop (SW) is a listicle site, or better known as the clone of BuzzFeed. Well that is in the past, having raised $4 million from Kalaari Capital last year, SW wants to change the existing perception and hopes to be taken more seriously. “We are not just doing listicles, we are doing a lot of original content, video and now we want to change the way news is presented, specially to an 18-20 year old person,” shared Sattvik Mishra, CEO & Co-Founder at ScoopWhoop.

Last month during my visit to the Capital, I had the opportunity to visit SW’s office – a huge farmhouse converted into an office with all the required facilities. After a quick bite, Sattvik gave me a tour of the office that hardly has any walls, never sleeps, and is never locked. “The news team is pretty young and it is growing. In the coming months we want to build this up and see how we can engage the younger audience more.”

Sattvik_Mishra
Sattvik

I was told that a journalist with 15 years of experience, Ashish Magotra, is leading the SW newsroom. Interestingly, his last stint was with Firstpost and most of his career has been writing stories in the old newsrooms. “Digital news isn’t different from what I have been doing. The objective of looking for a good story is still the most important agenda. However what excited me to join SW was presenting the same news to the audience of SW. It is very different and at the same time challenging to redefine and present the news in a form that would be lapped up by an 18-25 year old,” Ashish informed.

One of the big stories that SW had chased earlier this year was the whole JNU controversy. But it was a national story happening in the capital, how did SW make a difference to it? While talking over a call Ashish recollected that they did get hold of Kanhaiya Kumar (the main character in the JNU incident) but by that time he had already done 7-8 interviews, and the world knew his story.

“For us the challenge was what new could we bring to the table. At the same time we observed that our readers had a lot of questions regarding this whole issue. So rather than we deciding the questions we crowdsourced the interview questions. We had questions from a celebrity like Sonam Kapoor to the common questions from people on Twitter. We selected the ones that were credible and crucial to make the interview interesting.”

Another very interesting exercise that SW did was during this year’s budget. The team developed a micro portal to simplify the 2016 budget for its audience. Titled as “Why The F*ck Should I Care About The Budget?” the portal gave reasons why you should care about the budget in a lingo that is easy to get. For instance one should care of the budget because – “If you earn less than Rs 5 lakh, you save Rs 3000 more per year” or “Each cigarette will cost you at least Re 1 more” or “Ready made clothes are going to get costlier” or “Soft drinks are going to cost 3% more”, and the list is endless.

Now a guy like me who is not the TG of SW got excited on the day it was released. Two things worked for me: the simplification and the subtle gamification angle to the entire activity.

The portal had two buttons, one keeps on giving more reasons and by the time you think that you have had enough reasons you can click on the button “Budget is Important.” On click, SW takes you to the entire news coverage around the budget. “The generator gave the most important one line reason that would matter to our audience. Not just the fun angle but some of the reasons would raise questions in the young minds such as the government deciding to spend 100 crores of public money on Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s 100th birthday,” Ashish explained.

Ashish_Magotara
Ashish

Giving more insights into SW’s digital newsroom, he informed that the tracking of the news happens the same way but the challenge is picking up the right content and presenting it. “You can’t upload a heavy stuff and at the same time it can’t be really simple. As a team we really work to find the balance.”

Going further SW plans to make news as exciting as their listicles. For instance if you see Daily Mail UK site their news is 80% images, SW wants to introduce different formats of news telling and keep its audience engaged. With all this excitement, the biggest challenge for Ashish is to gain credibility so that people can trust SW’s newsroom. “This won’t happen in a day or a month, it will happen over the time as we go on covering interesting stories and gain the trust of our readers.”

SW also wishes to build a small team of 2-3 people across the country and do contextual content, informed Sattvik.

“We are right now very Delhish in our approach. For instance on the JNU instance we were on it from the next day itself but it took us a week’s time to understand the scale of Chennai Floods. In the next 2-3 months we are also going to build more contextual content hiring guys from Chennai or in Kolkata and doing stories from there. So going forward depending on your location you would be served content.”


Definitely the digital newsroom is the young kid for SW but the creative team remains the bread and butter for SW. Sriparna Tikekar, one of the co-founders at SW is leading the creative and the news team, she is the Chief Content Officer. “I handle the entire content team in SW which includes the brand team that takes care of the sponsored content, the creative team that does all the social media related listicle stories and there is the news as well as the video team that I manage.”

Giving a peek into her day at work, Sriparna says that her  job is to tell more interesting stories while presenting them in various formats. The tech team is also playing a big role, the team is working on developing a tool for SW that would inform about story bites which are about to go viral. “We want to have a predictability in our content model. Right now we don’t know how will our numbers be next month or the following month, but if we can observe a sustained growth over months then that will bring a predictability in the business.”

Another growing arm of SW is the video team. Today the team creates around 20-30 videos in a month but going forward the team will create around 100 videos in a month. In an earlier interaction last year with LI, Sattvik had stated that  ‘any publisher who doesn’t invest in video lacks vision.’ This was the time when SW was starting to build ScoopWhoop Talkies and had launched its first web series ‘Baked.’

Today SW not only does fun and entertaining videos but it has also dabbled in investigation. For instance they did a 11-minute video story on country made arms, prior to that they did another story on illegal gun buyers of Delhi. The latest news is that SW has tied up with independent news media platform Newslaundry, and plan to launch a hard hitting 5-6 webisode documentary series about issues in different parts of India, every quarter.

The trailer is out and it is engrossing.

If you want to be the country’s biggest and popular media company, you can’t just do listicles, remarked Sriparna.

“My team is on the Internet 24*7 crawling stories and today we not just writing stories but chasing the better ones by going out.”

However, the biggest challenge for SW today is that almost every big publisher who is doing news is covering stories that will appeal to youth and also praying it goes viral. But then that is a challenge for any content driven site and the only way to crack it is by brainstorming and trying to visualise a story from angles that might have been missed out. “My approach is not to think much on what other websites have done, that doesn’t mean that I am not aware but the focus is on SW. Have we done the story, how quick we were, could it be better and did we miss any aspect that was crucial,” she added.

Sriparna
Sriparna

Armed with a creative team, a brand team and a video team, SW is chasing a goal to solve the two biggest problems often faced by brands – content creation and distribution.

“We have a team that understands how to create content and we have a platform that solves the discovery problem,” Sattvik said before escorting me to the gates of SW.

It was almost 10 in the night; the video team was about to start their work. Rest of the team had a big party in the evening; half of them were still working while I left the premises.

“Whatever we do at SW, it will be done in scale,” Sattvik’s words kept echoing in my mind as I navigated my way back.

SW is no more a listicle site, it is very well driving itself to be one of the largest media companies in India. In doing so it is shaking up the old media houses and changing the game of how content is prepared and served. After all, India is set to be the youngest country by 2020.