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Pop culture pivots: youth publisher Uproxx shares how it’s survived the pandemic

Uproxx’s first digital cover feature starred Rico Nasty.

Adam Smith, chief revenue officer at entertainment and youth culture publisher Uproxx, explains how the pandemic has forced the publisher to change tack.

Publishers and media companies have spent the best part of the last year dancing around consumer behaviour shifts and coronavirus lockdown restrictions. With concerts on hold and cinemas shut, pop culture and youth culture media has been particularly affected.

Entertainment and youth culture publisher Uproxx has adapted its content offering to suit the new circumstances, unveiling a ’digital cover’ property and bolstering its stable of content verticals in order to offer brand partners more real estate. According to Adam Smith, chief revenue officer at the publisher, the challenge meant ’evolving in real-time.’

“Understanding that our audiences are now spending most of their time at home and their consumption patterns have shifted, we’ve adapted to meet those needs,“ he says. ”We have leaned further into music, TV, film, sports and lifestyle recommendation and taste-making. Simultaneously we’ve expanded our offerings of robust ad products to an uneasy market concerned with the lack of predictability around tent poles and cultural events.”

“Evolving in real-time is never an easy task, however, given the breadth of our programming and diversity of content delivery, we were already well-positioned to address the rapidly changing consumer demand curve that 2020 unleashed,” he says.

Its efforts included launching multiple TikTok channels across subject such as music, gaming and sports, with a collective half a million followers and 50m views achieved in “a matter of months”, according to Smith.

The publisher also launched its Uproxx Edge gaming vertical with partner American Eagle, as well as its 2020 ’Year of Impact’ year-end review with McDonald’s, as it aims to create unique sponsorship opportunities with brands that extend beyond standard tentpole moments.

“We have built new artist-focused programmings such as React Like You Know and Uproxx Sessions, that have already generated millions of cross-platform views and engagements while aligning Uproxx with some of the most notable rising stars in music like NLE Choppa, Trippie Redd [and] Danileigh,” he says.

“We have also expanded our core verticals with programming like People’s Watch Party [film/TV], Recon [gaming], Obsessed [film/TV], and Making a Mixtape [indie music] that have all successfully landed brand partnerships since launch.“

Its first digital cover product, which starred rapper Rico Nasty, blends high-end photography and quality journalism to create a package that artists, as well as advertisers, want to get involved with.

Even though the pandemic hit Uproxx’s advertising partners, Smith says it has helped its clients cement consumer relationships by reorienting messaging to convey compassion and flexibility. Now that spend is rising again, the publisher is placed to take advantage of altered strategies.

“We have seen a shift in demand from evergreen, custom solutions to more hyper-focused initiatives coupled with hard-working media,” he explains.

“The change in consumer consumption habits, including new platforms and more time spent overall, has created more potential engagement points for brands and they’re adapting rapidly. Fortunately for Uproxx, our diversified distribution strategy and native programming capabilities ensured we were well-positioned to address this changing demand alongside our brand partners.”

Native, brand-supported creative programming is an increasingly popular avenue for consumer publishers. USA Today previously explained to The Drum how it is making use of creative programming solutions like augmented reality to boost its audience and engagement metrics.

Smith argues that the successful publisher of the future will need to function like a Swiss Army knife: delivering audience at scale, producing creative original content, and maintaining a compelling editorial perspective. Wide-frame quality engagement is the goal, he concludes.

“Scale means the ability to fulfill large-scale media campaigns across quality owned and operated inventory and owning massive YouTube-like scale with today’s global superstars. Perspective means having a voice and brand that resonates with audiences. Creative means to work with partners on big ideas and change perceptions,” he explains. While it’s come from a pandemic pivot, Smith’s vision for Uproxx could provide a blueprint for pop culture publishers everywhere.

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