With ‘Got Your Attention,’ social video site Attn piles into podcasts

Attn has already figured out social video, so now it’s going to try and crack the code with podcasting. The self-described “issues-driven media company” is barely two months into its first podcast, a kind of roundtable-game show hybrid called “Got Your Attention,” but it’s already decided to invest more in the medium, putting its most senior editor in charge of audio operations and hiring two full-time producers, all without a single sponsor or monetization strategy in place.

“As a company, we’re thinking, ‘We’re succeeding at Facebook video, what’s our next step?’” said Mike Vainisi, Attn’s editorial director. “We want to be on every platform that exists, and audio’s a natural place to go.

“All of us are really passionate about the medium,” he added. “All the way up to the top of the company.”

Attn is just a couple years old. But it’s quickly grown a large video footprint on Facebook, where a combination of slick and amateur content now attracts 450 million views per month, according to Tubular Labs; the company claims more than 2 billion monthly impressions across all platforms. But while Attn has proved it can kill it on platforms – the social analytics startup NewsWhip named Attn the best new publisher on Facebook for 2016 – just a small fraction of that comes via their owned and operated properties; its site attracts just 6 million visitors every month, according to SimilarWeb.

What Vainisi and his colleagues hope to do is funnel a good chunk of those people to a medium where they can build much more intimate, much more direct connections. “We’re trying to figure out how we take that 450 million video views a month over to podcasts,” Vainisi said.

For now, they have only one show to move them toward. “Got Your Attention,” which publishes every Wednesday, turns a process familiar to any journalist – the pitch meeting – into a kind of game show, where staff writers all pitch possible stories they think Attn should cover, explaining why they think a particular story or trend is worth covering. An editor decides which she likes best, and awards points to those writers, and at the end of every episode, a winner is declared.

At first, the show was all game. But “Got Your Attention” recently added a news-making interview component, where an editor sits down for a brief discussion about politics (The first two guests have been fairly high profile – Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich).

Vainisi said that those interviews are likely to get longer, so that the show forms two distinct halves. “We’ll have two different segments, both of which are probably about the length of someone’s commute,” Vainisi said. “The goal will be to have them be two segments that can be bisected.”

Down the line, the plan is to let interview subjects serve as judges during the game show portion. He added that the company is considering launching issue-specific shows too, which would focus on topics like the war on drugs.

Before they get there, they have to start making money from podcasts. Attn is already doing plenty of sponsored content for brands including GE on channels including Instagram and Facebook. It’s also raised more than $22 million over several rounds of venture investment, most recently one from Tribune Media Company.

“The nice thing about audio and podcasts is you’re seeing a lot of publishers out there who are monetizing them well,” Vainisi said. “There’s a little bit of a blueprint.”

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