Less than two months after its launch, Bloomberg’s 24/7 Twitter news service TicToc is already clocking up some 1m views per-day. Naturally, the media giant is buoyant about the future of the youth-focused platform, but in a world where social networks have the power to deprioritise publisher content with the click of a button, it's clear Bloomberg’s global head of digital is treading carefully.
Scott Havens, the exec tasked with overseeing TicToc, said that while he hopes to see TicToc distributed across other platforms in time too, and despite a “sea change” in the way platforms want to work with publishers, the latter must remain prudent when it comes to which ones they pair up with.
Havens classed the news network's relationship with Twitter as a good fit, crediting the social platform for its “openness and support” throughout the launch process. Yes, TicToc might be able to leverage the muscle power of Bloomberg's 2700-strong network of journalists and analysts, as well as the infrastructure of its 120 offices worldwide, but Havens admitted the team of around 50, also overseen by editorial lead Mindy Massucci, still speak to Twitter "daily" about how things are going.
Speaking to The Drum, he said that many digital platforms have come to “understand that the economic pie has not been maybe shared in a way that is helping the premium content providers”.
Across the board, he said, some of these businesses are working with publishers, having realised the levels of engagement and brand safety premium content has to offer.
“Not everyone is as aggressive and supportive about it [as Twitter],” he said, adding that even in the face of this shift in attitude, premium providers also have to “take control of their own destiny”.
“You have to build a business model that works for you and not be reliant on trying to outsource your content on others’ platforms,” he added.
While he didn’t directly address Facebook, Havens comments are timely given recent changes to the social network’s news feed algorithm which will shift the emphasis towards user content by demoting posts from businesses, brands and media to make them less prominent.
Some publishers like men's title Joe have said there’s “no need to panic” about the shift, whereas others like the Financial Times have implied that it is a sign social platforms should work more closely with publishers to find a “sustainable solution to the challenges of the new information ecosystem”.
Twitter, it would seem, was a natural choice for Bloomberg as it looked for ways to expand its coverage to suit millennials and better serve audiences hungry for round the clock news.
The social network has been slowly transitioning from social media site to a platform that wants to be all about news and events. Its ambitions were first laid out in 2016 when it recategorised itself in the app store as a news service. Since then it has inked a multitude of live-streaming deals as well as partnerships with other news networks like BuzzFeed, which runs its global breakfast show AM to DM within Twitter’s walls.
When asked whether TicToc's early successes – the network got a shout out in Twitter's most recent earnings call for logging an average of 750,000 viewers each day – have made it easier to make a business case for expanding on to other platforms, Havens' response was pragmatic.
Hinting at the reported deal Bloomberg has in place with Twitter where the revenues from seven advertising sponsors including Goldman Sachs and AT&T are shared between the two, he said: "Each platform is different. I’m very happy with the deal and the partnership that we’ve struck with Twitter.
"We have on and off conversations with other platforms to do different things and you might see us do something in the future. Other publishers have engaged with Snap or YouTube or Facebook to produce shows and programming so we very well might.
"I think the art, and the science [of that] is how to create business terms that work for both parties, versus just building stuff using the standard pre-excising conditions of a platform. Any deal we do needs to be structured in a way where can grow our business."
A cursory glance through TicToc's Twitter feed will give you a flavour of the kind of content it pulls together. Five-minute global live news streams bookend every hour, while a short contextual video or news story is posted up to 12 times per-hour.
These live streams, which also have the ability to pull in related Twitter buzz and polls perform well for TicToc. When it streamed President Trump's recent state of the Union address "in the neighborhood" of 1 million viewers tuned into watch, said Havens.
The Space X launch also drew similar numbers (because "people are fascinated by rockets, and Elon Musk perhaps too”).
Bloomberg's goal for TicToc is to double the number of its already sizeable audience by the end of the year to 2 million. "It’s a goal, we could be far higher than that or below," said Havens.
For him, realising this ambition boils down to staffing up the team in places like London and Hong Kong. At the moment, he said that the dedicated portion may seem "somewhat small for a 24/7 news network" but that TicToc was truly leveraging Bloomberg's infrastructure here to make things work.
On top of this, Havens is clearly thinking like marketer: "This is a new launch and we have to think like brand builders, you’ll see us putting some muscle behind that too."