News & Views
What Is CNN’s Great Big Story?

Say hello to video network Great Big Story. While word of yet another millennial-focused media outlet launching might not seem so novel in the platform-saturated landscape of 2015, one major difference works in this newcomer’s favour; it’s funded by CNN.

The aim of Great Big Story (GBS) is to produce video which is tailored towards millennials, shareable on social media, and designed for consumption on mobile screens. It is also entirely suitable for native advertising; brands will be able to work with GBS on branded video series. “We view brands as partners, not just sponsors,” says CNN’s vice president of video development Chris Berend.

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All content will live on the GBS homepage and be distributed across channels like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, and later other platforms like Apple TV. The content schedule will initially consist of between three and five videos per day exploring untold stories and new frontiers. It is not a news platform. “The core proposition is show me something I haven’t seen, tell me something I haven’t heard,” says GBS advertising lead David Spiegel, formerly of BuzzFeed.

GBS will also function as a space for experimentation, which viewers might not necessarily expect or want from the more traditional CNN brand. Berend recalls how a profile piece on Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (entitled Is This The World’s Most Interesting Man?) “did nothing” with CNN audiences but got over 2.5 million views within 24 hours after being shared on Facebook. People look to CNN for the news and nothing else; GBS is where the varied styles and voices will be found.

Berend believes that GBS can easily compete with current content heavyweights BuzzFeed and Vice. “One of those is very shouty. The other is cotton candy,” he says. “We didn’t see anybody occupying the smart space in the middle that was fundamentally optimistic about the world.”

A platform for positive content is certainly a nice idea, but Berend (and CNN at large) seem to be taking a rather optimistic view themselves; BuzzFeed and Vice have both invested heavily in producing impactful documentary films and investigative journalism alongside their scandalous confessional essays and cat videos. Not to mention, as Fast Company’s Sarah Kessler points out, the high quality of video content coming out of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Condé Nast. Which begs the question; other than CNN’s money, what will set Great Big Story apart in the long run?

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