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From the Digital Innovators' Tour: Content for millennials at Hello Giggles

HelloGiggles.com seems to have cracked the code on creating content for millennial women. After a flight from San Francisco, participants on the 2016 Digital Innovators’ Tour assembled in the beautiful conference room at HelloGiggles’ designer offices in downtown Los Angeles to meet general manager, Penelope Linge.

She told the group that the site was started by actress Zooey Deschanel as a blog because she felt there was a lack of positive content and a safe place for young women to gather online. Today, the site whose audience’s median age is 26, reaches more than 30 million millennial women a month. HelloGiggles.com was acquired by Time Inc in October last year.

Penny Linge, HelloGiggles ()

According to Linge, content is sourced from a contributor network of 1,000 millennial women from whom 50 to 60 pieces of content are sourced each day. The common differentiating thread across all of this content is a positive narrative.

Traffic to the site comes from mobile and social channels. ‘Our audience is so young, we had to design for mobile and social first, because this is the engagement pattern for young people. They live their lives on the phone and on their social platforms,” said Linge.

Fully embracing social channels

It may be surprising to know that Linge anticipates that in 24 to 36 months, most content will not live on hellogiggles.com. "We are embracing a distributed content model with most of our articles being hosted as Facebook Instant Articles via an RSS feed as well as the other channels our audience engages with. We will still be able to monetize this content," she said. Linge says the HelloGiggles team is seeing the same trend on Snapchat.

"Facebook is our number platform and we are investing in creating original content for this channel. We are an official partner for Facebook Live and we are embracing Facebook Instance Articles because of the amazing user experience. Pages load instantly and we’ve seen a significant traffic increase."

According to Linge, the same level of engagement has not been possible on Twitter with this audience in spite a posting 40 tweets a day.

"Snapchat is where we are the most bullish." She said. This is because 14 to 20 year-olds are on Snapchat all day. Linge is hiring a Snapchat-focused team that will create content including video and invite advertisers to participate. She is quick to stress that the team is equally bullish about other social channels.

Content strategy

HelloGiggle’s content strategy is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, the team creates content for each channel. With Facebook, for example, the audience doesn’t listen to sound – while they are at work or in line at the coffee shop - they want captioning. So the team focuses on creating videos every woman can relate to.

A recent example is a funny short video titled: ‘If you suck at putting on eyeliner’ which shows a young woman applying eyeliner to each eye and then returning over and over again to make corrections until she ends up putting sunglasses on over a wiped clean face. 

“We are hoping we can create videos that we can take to advertisers, said Linge. The opportunity is to add a front card or tail card with the brand’s information. "We are also creating original videos for them because we are proving we know this space," she said.

With recent Facebook Live Videos the team has created, there have been 20,000 – 30,000 people watching the live videostream and asking questions. ‘We have looked at what Buzzfeed is doing and recognized that Live Video is doing very well for them,’ she said.

Linge and her team are testing across platforms and trying to figure out what is next. ‘I think Snapchat is a greenfield opportunity for publishers and we are hoping to define what it means to be a publisher on Snapchat

Because HelloGigglee’s audience has not embraced paying for content, Linge said the team realized that heavily commercial sponsored content will not work on the site. ‘Millennials have never seen advertising and this generation does not see a quid pro quo for advertising. That is why we try to create a lot of organic video that doesn’t feel sponsored, but is brought to you by a brand’

Brands want content that will go viral and according to Linge, this audience is turned off if content feels too commercial. Instead, the team is creating premium video series and bringing in sponsors.  This content is then distributed across multiple channels on the web including hellogiggles.com. This makes HelloGiggles both a content creator and a distribution channel.

Solutions for advertisers

A growing part of the business for HelloGiggles is creating premium branded content for advertisers.

"There are so many ways for young women to find out who they are today. Kids can pick from thousands and thousands of identities. Zoe tapped into that zeitgeist. Our narrative, therefore, is find your freedom to explore who you are and embrace that. This is the messaging we are taking to advertisers," she said.

HelloGiggles’ content creation team consists of 10 staff writers aged between 22 and 28 who edit contributor content.  If something breaks and editors are looking for immediate coverage, this team also writes original content. Currently there are 4 video producers on staff, but this team will be ramping up fast.

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