The advent of the internet has propelled the amount of content created and distributed exponentially. In fact, 211 million (yes that’s million) pieces of content are created each minute. As a result, publishers are all vying for a limited amount of attention and eyeballs. Creating engagement and interactive content is one way that creators are able to differentiate their offering and attract the views. Playbuzz, is an online publishing platform that allows publishers, brands, agencies, and individual content creators to create rich interactive content without knowledge of coding. Already used at AOL, Netflix, Fox and NBC among others, Playbuzz has become the content creators’ new best friend.
AlleyWatch chatted with Chief Storytelling Officer Shachar Orren about the company, its progress, future plans, and its most recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $35 million in Series C funding, led by Viola Growth with participation from existing investors including Disney, Saban Ventures, 83North, Carmel Ventures, firstime and Oded Vardi.
Tell us about your product or service.
Playbuzz is a storytelling platform for the authoring, distribution and monetization of interactive content. The world’s top publishers rely on our tools when they want their stories heard, using our platform to create engaging, visually-stunning editorial content – no design or development skills necessary. Top brands also partner with us to create interactive, branded content campaigns that Playbuzz then distributes at scale to its existing network of tens of thousands of publishers.
What inspired Playbuzz’s mission?
Our founders – Shaul Olmert and Tom Pachys – noticed how content consumption habits were changing, though much of the content produced remained the same. This was the catalyst to them launching a startup that would promote meaningful, interactive audience engagement.
In an era of Snapchat and FOMO (fear of missing out), publishers are finding it difficult to engage their readers and ensure they truly consume the content they produce. In fact, many articles published today resemble those from the 16th century – text-heavy, a bold header or two and an image. Our tools enable journalists to easily create visually-stunning, interactive content – such as polls, flip cards, ranked lists and more – that compel users to actively consume. The Playbuzz platform can assist editorial teams to become multi-media storytellers, even offering video tools that require no video or editing experience.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Our focus is on publishers and brands. We already work with premium publishers including ESPN, BBC, ABC, HuffPost and VH1. And our brand partners include Netflix, eBay, Ford, Unilever, Universal and more. The market is endless, and we are looking forward to expanding our branded content footprint stateside and abroad with the mission of producing interactive branded content that audiences actually want to engage with.
What’s your business model?
We leave the content to the pros. Publishers can utilize Playbuzz’s storytelling platform for free, and embed their creations on their websites and apps. They can also monetize their content with Playbuzz via our smart, interactive ads that bring the engagement of our storytelling tools to ad units.
When the Playbuzz platform is used to create branded campaigns, Playbuzz distributes the campaign to relevant publishers we already work with editorially, where the item is then embedded. The advertiser pays per engagement and revenue is shared.
How have the dynamics of your business changed since we last spoke to you after your last round in April of 2016?
In the past year, we have worked hard to become a platform that publishers rely on even more to create entire interactive articles, versus interactive components that they embed within their articles. In addition, we have partnered with top advertisers to produce and distribute branded content campaigns, including The NY Lottery, Netflix, Brita, Universal and more.
What was the funding process like?
Any funding process is grueling, and it’s no secret that many great companies are finding it difficult to source investors’ credit and continued support of their operations. That said, all of our existing investors reinvested in Playbuzz for this Series C round, highlighting the importance of interactive storytelling in today’s media landscape.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Post-investment, we are looking forward to focusing on the following:
- Further enhancing our storytelling platform to not only enable publishers to author and distribute their content, but to also drive revenue with a suite of monetization offerings that bring the interactivity of Playbuzz’s tools to ad units.
- We will also utilize the funds to expand our fast-growing branded content business in the US and abroad which already works with Fortune 500 brands to produce interactive, native advertising campaigns.
- In addition, we plan to increase our sales and publisher development operations across all markets.
- We also plan to expand our machine learning and AI capabilities beyond the existing optimization of engagement, into AI-driven authoring assistive technologies.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We are focused on the long-term sustainability and success of Playbuzz. We recently celebrated our 5th birthday and had the opportunity to reflect on our expansion from six people in one room in Tel Aviv, to a global, 150+ person operation with offices worldwide that is relied on by the world’s top publishers and brands.
We fully intend to continue expanding our business as an independent operation. Now, we will do so with the additional financial and operational support from all of our existing investors.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
Every season, eating great dim sum in Chinatown.