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Great Big Story on Building a Video Storytelling Powerhouse from Scratch — Facebook Live

On May 10, we went live on Facebook with Courtney Coupe, the VP of Content at CNN’s Great Big Story for our first edition of The Rough Cut…
Great Big Story on Building a Video Storytelling Powerhouse from Scratch — Facebook Live
Courtney Coupe and Alex Ragir live on Facebook

On May 10, we went live on Facebook with Courtney Coupe, the VP of Content at CNN’s Great Big Story for our first edition of The Rough Cut. Hosted by Storyhunter Co-Founder, Alex Ragir, we brought you the inside scoop behind the company’s digital media strategy. Read excerpts from the interview and watch the video below:

Alex Ragir: How many people were hired for the base team?

Courtney Coupe: The startup team was around 30 all-in. It was a mix of producers, editors, social publishing, our graphic arts department, and a small sales team. We’re still in the same office space, but we’ve almost doubled in size, busting at the seams two and a half years later. That’s good for a company in two years to have that much growth.

AR: How many videos did you produce that first year?

CC: It’s always been a question for us of that crossroads between quality and quantity. Because we’re not a news brand, we don’t necessarily need to hit the quantity. We’re not about pushing out hundreds or tens of videos everyday because we really think of ourselves as a micro-documentary shop. So we have an eye towards quality.

So how many do you need to produce to hit that bar? Produce enough so that people know who you are and expect something new from you everyday, but not so much that there’s a flood of content and they’re not seeing all of it. And so from the very beginning we produced roughly two to three videos every single day. And that’s still the number that we maintain today. We think it’s a good number. There’s something new every day, we’re telling you stories, we’re surprising people on a daily basis if that’s how they choose to consume us. Or if they choose to find us once a week, they’ve got new content that they can rabbit hole — stay and watch multiple videos at a time.

AR: A Storyhunter freelancer who started a production company says he’s trying to build out a team and create a digital publication. How would you suggest that he look at hiring and what types of people should he bring in on that first core team?

CC: I think it really depends on what he’s trying to accomplish. Getting an understanding of the value prop of your own company and what you want to do and the type of projects you want to take on. Whether that means working for hire for others or creating your own voice and your own brand, laying that out will help answer all those questions.

I can speak about it best for what we did. We recognized that Great Big Story was all about cinematic storytelling. And so everything we do is in service of that. So we think about who we’re hiring, and what makes a good Great Big Story hire of our own internal producers. Because it is storytelling, they needed a producer/journalistic background, really keen editorial abilities, the need to identify stories, define pitches, put together this story arc, questions, know how to conduct interviews, get the answers that you need. All those things that come with just being a great editorial mind and producer. But also, knowing that cinematic is part of what we do as well, they have to have the skill behind the camera. Not just the ability to turn it on and point it wherever the action is, but to have that cinematic eye, to think about framing, to think about sequences, to think about elevating it to that really high bar of quality that we have. So for us, knowing what Great Big Story was absolutely fed the types of people we were looking for.

Courtney Coupe and Alex Ragir

AR: It’s kind of tough balancing between the journalism and more commercial, narrative, cinematic side.

CC: I often say that our producers are unicorns, because not everyone can do both. And they’re swiss army knives because they don’t do just one thing and I think that’s something that’s really been evolving in this industry.

AR: Talk to me a little bit about who your audience is, what’s next, how you develop for brands, how you develop for editorial.

CC: When we launched, we really thought of ourselves as a digital, social video company. Our tagline was “feed your feed.” The idea that there could be real storytelling in your feed. And in the two and a half years, I think we’ve evolved beyond just a digital, social video company. We’re thinking about our voice, our brand, and storytelling as it expands beyond that — what it means in short film, what it means in long form, in serial, and how to take that Great Big Story storytelling and take it everywhere.

AR: Who did your audience end up being?

CC: The word that I hate more than anything in the world is ‘millennial’ because I think it’s too broad. But I do think our audience is on the older side of that millennial scale. They tend to be a bit more urban, people who are interested in creativity in general, who appreciate good storytelling and good video storytelling. That is our core audience, but if you tell a good story, it ages up, it ages down, it crosses borders, so our audience isn’t just domestic. We do have a big international audience as well, because I think we’re telling stories that try to surprise people, show them something they’ve never seen, or tell them something they didn’t know. And hopefully we’re doing that in a scale that reaches an audience that is bigger than just our core fan base.

Watch the full interview in the livestream on the Storyhunter Facebook.

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