'None of it made sense at times': RYOT CMO on what makes a great story

What’s the Story? is a storytelling video series dedicated to learning what truly makes a great story, told through the lens of the world’s talent and practitioners of the craft in entertainment, marketing and beyond.

The story of RYOT is, on its own, interesting. Started in 2010 soon after the Haiti earthquake, the founders, Bryn Mooser and David Darg, brought Molly Swenson, now chief marketing officer of the company, into the fold to launch the “first news site linking news to action.”

Indeed, over the years, the company has created and produced important, award-winning work, including the Academy Award-nominated Body Team 12, which profiled a Liberian health worker at the height of the Ebola crisis and was executive produced by Olivia Wilde and Paul Allen.

But the company has also embarked on plenty of firsts — including being the first company to shoot an entire documentary (The Painter of Jalouzi) on an iPhone 6s Plus, the first to capture 360-degree video in an active war zone (Syria), a disaster zone (Nepal), and underwater in the Bahamas. They have also been on the forefront of content in the ever-emerging VR space.

RYOT, owned by Oath, is also deep in content marketing, with RYOT Studio announced earlier in the week as its global creative studio for brands and agencies. So far, brands such as American Family Insurance, Jack Daniel's, Sleep Number and Sun Life Financial have leaned on the company’s expertise.

And though there is an impressive body of work, Swenson believes that the story of RYOT itself is the best one she’s ever told, going from small team to being purchased by HuffPost in 2016 to where it is today with Oath.

“The RYOT case was this classic startup story,” she says. “When you were in the weeds of it, none of it made sense at times, but then looking back, you can weave it all together as this cohesive story with pivots that happened, and with characters that had a huge role or impact.”

What makes a great story is certainly in the wheelhouse for RYOT and their litmus test — those that you can’t wait to go and tell someone about. If past work and future ambition is any indication, there will certainly be no shortage of sharing of their stories.

What's the Story? is sponsored by Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), the first global network for branded product integration in the entertainment industry, across all media, including the influencer space.

Filmed at Tribeca Film Festival

If you would like to pitch someone for “What’s the Story?“, please complete the linked form.

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Doug Zanger

Doug Zanger is the Americas editor for The Drum. He leads the Americas editorial team’s content activity in the growing region. Based in Portland, Oregon, he is committed to sharing the most meaningful stories that benefit the global industry and its people. A Minnesota native, Zanger has covered a wide range of brands, issues and personalities, including Aloe Blacc, Seu Jorge, Wendy Clark, Susan Credle, Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby and more. Fiercely dedicated to diversity, equality and talent, he has interviewed several women in leadership roles through his Exceptional Women of the World podcast.

All by Doug