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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Time Inc. creating INSTANT mobile experience to cover digital celebrities

May 24, 2016 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Last week at the NewFronts, Time Inc. announced the upcoming launch of INSTANT, a mobile-first, all-video platform featuring content about the lives and projects of digital celebrities as well as content created by digital celebrities exclusively for INSTANT. The new brand will deliver news, features and exclusives about and by “the new famous,” the digital artists of YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, YouNow, Vine and other influential emerging platforms.

Significantly, the content will be mobile-centric, to reflect the dominance of mobile in the content consumption habits of INSTANT’s target audience. Content will be delivered as a fluid video stream that facilitates audience engagement. Slated for launch early this summer, INSTANT is being designed to offer a native app-like experience directly in the mobile browser.

We caught up with Kirstin Benson, INSTANT’s editorial director, to learn a bit more about the origins of the project and her plans for INSTANT.

Kirstin Benson, Editorial Director, INSTANT

Describe the origins of INSTANT:
The seeds for INSTANT were planted long before I joined the company. Word on the street is that the concept was born last summer during a strategy meeting after an executive pointed out that there was no outlet covering digital artists the way People and EW cover traditional Hollywood stars and entertainment.

Was this launch motivated by the behavior of your digital audience? Advertiser driven? Recognition of larger industry trends?
There were a number of factors that motivated us to launch INSTANT, including trends with users and advertisers. But, most importantly, we saw an opportunity to be the first media outlet dedicated to a group of people – digital artists – who play an increasingly important role in our audiences’ lives but are massively under-covered in the media. Until now, there has been a gap in the space.

Why do this as a multi-brand initiative rather than leverage one particular brand’s strength?
There is no media company better positioned to launch a platform like INSTANT than Time Inc. From TIME came People, from People came InStyle and Entertainment Weekly…and now, People and Entertainment Weekly are joining forces to launch INSTANT. Just like People and Entertainment Weekly curate the best in entertainment, human interest, and pop culture, INSTANT will tell its audience who and what to care about in the vast and frenzied digital world. Thus, we wanted to leverage both of the brands for INSTANT’s launch.

Given that you’ve opted for a 100% native and branded ad offering, could you describe what will the advertising experience be like?
All advertising on INSTANT will be presented through native and branded videos that play in-feed. In the absence of banner ads, pre-roll, and pop ups, the experience will seem fluid and seamless for our audience.

This native ad content will be created in house by the INSTANT team to ensure a consistent voice and aesthetic across content experiences, both branded and editorial so that it meets our audience’s expectation of great content experiences. All ad content on INSTANT will follow Time Inc.’s well defined guidelines for native and branded content and its labeling.

Why the focus on mobile and video for INSTANT?
Our goal with INSTANT is to create content that our audience craves (read: video) and deliver it to them in their native environments – mobile web and social media. And the statistics support this logic: Video is taking over the web and will account for 80% of web traffic by 2019. Meanwhile, 78% of teens check their phones hourly and a third of them say they “feel addicted” to their devices. It was a no brainer to make INSTANT an all video, mobile-first platform.

Why have you opted to make INSTANT browser-based rather than develop an app?
From an audience development and retention standpoint, it made more sense to make INSTANT browser-based rather than an app. We want INSTANT to be as accessible and as native to our audience as possible – and forcing them to download, register, and open an app does the exact opposite of that. That said, the INSTANT experience feels very app-like, despite being browser-based, so it delivers the best of both.

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