Jungle Creations, Facebook's fifth largest publisher, is looking to “branch out into riskier monetisation strategies” such as e-commerce, events, experiences and eccentric products to earn more from its social scale beyond ad revenue and brand partnerships.
After its failed joint bid for Unilad (now LadBible), and following another Facebook video metrics scandal where the platform was found to over-inflate stats by as much as 900%, Jamie Bolding, founder and chief executive of Jungle Creations, outlined the need to diversify income from its viral social video brands.
These include include VT (general viral content), Twisted (food and drink), Four Nine (female facing), Kidspiration (parenting), LVL Fitness, World Unknown (travel and adventure) and Four Nine Hacks (DIY).
All combined, the title boasts more than 85 million followers. This fragmented approach has built communities in the way that a single brand could not, said Bolding. This has allowed the publisher to create communities at scale much like BuzzFeed, whose sub-brands such as Tasty are carving their own niches away from general viral content.
Jungle's sub-brands now benefit from a real-world footprint. Bolding pointed to Twisted, which has made the boldest venture off the pages of the internet. It first launched a print product (a cookbook), then a burger restaurant, and then a pop-up cocktail bar.
This, he said, shows the power of these social media brands. Bolding urged non-believers in the power of viral social video to continue not believing. “If they don't start meddling in the social space, we have less competition. I would encourage them to stick to their archaic ways.” He caveated this jibe with an acknowledgement that the four-year-old company remains in its infancy.
“We are a very new industry but we very much believe in our strategy and we know that over time people will realise a social first media business is a very serious thing – a force to be reckoned with. Only in time will it convert people and we are happy to wait for that because by then we'll be in a good place.”
Jungle has four money-making means. On-site display ads and revenue share from videos hosted on the likes of Facebook and YouTube deliver consistent and reliable income. The next two means vary. The company’s “bread and butter” is branded content. To date it claims to have delivered 1.3bn viewers for brands, which is a figure admittedly dwarfed by the 5.5bn average monthly views it gathers.
Its brand work encompasses anything from creating and distributing a viral video across its media brands to creating a year-old strategy and delivering it to first and third party platforms.
However, it is the final piece of the monetization puzzle that is the most curious, its e-commerce and product ambitions – “experimental stuff” as Bolding keenly put it.
In addition to an increasing footprint in the physical world, the group is looking to leverage its scale and communities to implement e-commerce into its practices.
Most recently, it rolled out Lovimals, personalised socks laden with the face of pet's faces. Silly as it may be, Jungle values the personalised product market at £1bn and it wants a slice of that pie. Already a home for some of social’s best animal content, the leap to personalised socks was not too large for viewers.
Videos for paw socks and the doggy umbrella (third party products) helped gauge the audience’s hunger for such products. From there it was about delivering a first party product. Currently, the Lovimals site hosts personalised socks, cushions and tote bags. Bolding noted “it is no coincidence” this has popped up in the run-up to Christmas.
The hope is consumers will directly buy products they see and love through Jungle channels.
He said: "It is a solid revenue stream but it is still an experiment, and there are two ways we can do it. The first is attaching our own brands such as VT or Twisted to a product or creating new products and brands like we did Lovimals. We are trying both ways – the scalability of this is huge. We could do this for all our media brands in different spaces as long as they were relevant to our audiences."
He continued: “As long as we understand the demand, we can see that by what is working, we can then become a manufacturer. The hardest thing is getting eyeballs and sales to your product. We have the most efficient way of doing that. It is very important for our business going forward.”
Now it has established scale and communities, Bolding has outlined a desire to move upmarket with longer-form video boasting higher production values. It will be a main focus over the next year – and it will help serve as a keen differentiator from viral rivals if successful.
Viewers may love original viral video – but whether they are communities or just passive audiences is the question that will be addressed over the coming years.