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'We have to build their loyalty sooner': why CNBC's millennial-friendly content is gaining traction


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

November 25, 2019 | 6 min read

CNBC International is seeing positive results from its decision to make millennials a big part of its focus on reaching new audiences, seeking to target aspirational consumers rather than just focusing on its traditional audience of inspirational consumers.


CNBC formed a digital video and social media team to create digital-only video content and millennial-friendly content.

The media giant claims to have drawn 50 million page views this year to its personal finance platform CNBC Make It, in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa. For its documentary-style video series, CNBC Reports and explainer series CNBC Explains, it claims to have drawn more than 100m viewers.

Cristy Garratt, the head of social media and digital video at CNBC explains to The Drum that as ambitious young professionals have big dreams of climbing the corporate ladder or even starting their own businesses, they will be the influential audience of tomorrow.

“As young people’s media habits are very different from previous generations. We don’t expect our aspirational audience to suddenly develop an affinity for TV news the moment they get the corner office,” she explains.

“We have to build their loyalty to CNBC sooner by giving them information in the way they want it on the platforms they already frequent.”

That is why CNBC formed a digital video and social media team to create digital-only video content and millennial-friendly content for CNBC’s social platforms. The team was the inspiration behind Explains, Reports and Make It, and to date has produced more than 250 episodes of the three-series combined.

Explains, which was launched at the end of 2016, was CNBC’s first digital original series. In it, the media owner broke down the biggest topics in business and economic news, without the jargon.

The show tackled one new topic each week, ranging from the blockchain and bubbles to tariffs and tech giants.

Reports joined the line up shortly after and saw CNBC reporters take viewers on a journey with them, as they gain access to places, events and experience normally off-limits to the average person.

The reporters visited Samsung and Alibaba’s campuses, explored Estonia’s digital society and have even learned how to fly a plane.

For Make it, the team produces videos with an international focus. For example, every month, it profiles successful entrepreneurs who helped transform industries like e-commerce and travel. It has since profiled companies from Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Chile.

“CNBC’s programming has to assume a base level of knowledge in order to deliver actionable insights to an audience already well-versed in the world of business and finance,” says Garratt, noting that all of these series are fronted by friendly faces with serious business know-how.

“However, people earlier in their careers are still building up this knowledge base, and some of the languages on our air may go over their heads. It’s critical we don’t alienate enthusiastic new viewers from our brand because of a bit of industry jargon. Better yet, if we can assist them with understanding these economic concepts and global trends, we may be able to win them over as loyal CNBC viewers for good.”

She adds: “That’s the main goal of our digital video and social media team - and we achieve it by creating smart, accessible content that is also enjoyable to watch.”

The digital video social media team also works with CNBC’s in-house agency Catalyst to produce sponsored videos and series for advertisers who are keen to leverage on the media owner’s 2m strong audience on social media.

“While our audience is the core CNBC viewer of tomorrow, they fit into our advertising strategy today. There’s a common misconception that millennials are still living in their parents’ basements without a real job,” explains Garratt.

“That’s just not true. Millennials are building businesses, being promoted and starting families. They have disposable incomes and want to learn more about investing. And the best part? Many are watching CNBC’s digital videos.”

While the well-documented struggles of millennial-focused publishers BuzzFeed and Vice weighs heavily on Garratt’s mind, it has not stopped CNBC from putting time and money into millennial-friendly video content.

That is because she notes as BuzzFeed and Vice were rapidly expanding, legacy media publishers like CNBC were forced to learn how to operate more efficiently.

That means every new person CNBC adds to the team and every new piece of equipment it buys is a carefully considered and deliberate decision. Its team of 11 last grew two years ago when it expanded the digital video team into Asia, and it has not increased its permanent headcount since.

“However, you wouldn’t be able to tell this by watching our output. By growing more efficient and leveraging freelancers and other members of the newsroom, our offering continues to grow and improve,” explains Garratt.

“We have always stayed true to what makes CNBC unique. When I put together the team’s strategy, I used our brand values as a guide. This keeps us focused. We’re not going to broaden our content offering just as an audience play. While what CNBC produces has evolved over the years, ‘all things money’ still sits at the heart of our coverage.”

Other media owners like Viacom and AsiaOne have also previously explained to The Drum why they are turning to videos to reach millennials.

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