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BuzzFeed's New Twitter Morning Show Remains True to TV

By Published on .

Saeed Jones (l.) and Isaac Fitzgerald.
Saeed Jones (l.) and Isaac Fitzgerald. Credit: Drew Reynolds

Megyn Kelly isn't the only one moving to mornings next week. BuzzFeed debuts its Twitter morning show on Monday—and it will all look a whole lot like TV, including the ads.

BuzzFeed didn't necessarily set out to replicate TV, says Ari Shahdadi, head of business development, BuzzFeed News. But as they began taking the 10 a.m. weekday show, "AM to DM," out to advertisers, they realized it wasn't all that different from the traditional morning shows that have been a staple of network TV since the 1950s.

"The core of it is to maintain long-form," Shahdadi says. "We don't want to blow up the TV morning show."

Most digital video efforts have been squarely focused on short-form and snackable content. But newer platforms like Twitter's live streams and Facebook Watch are betting viewers will stick around longer.

BuzzFeed wants to keep viewers tuned in on their desktops or mobile phones for an hour-or-so-live program that consists of stitched-together segments and two hosts, BuzzFeed books editor Issac Fitzgerald and executive editor for culture Saeed Jones, anchoring. BuzzFeed promises some big-name guests, with the goal of "making news every day."

The commercial format will also resemble that of TV, albeit with fewer ads. There will be eight minutes of ads in the hour with four two-minute breaks. The spots will be a standard 30 seconds.

"We don't want to overload it with advertising," says Shahdadi.

Ad packages in the show range from $250,000 to half-a-million dollars or more, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Entry-level packages include the ability for marketers to further push out their messaging with Twitter Amplify. Twitter will cut clips of the show content and advertisers can air pre-roll in front of the clips that are then served to their specific audiences. The plan is to push out 10 show clips per day.

For $500,000, advertisers can sponsor editorial content, custom video segments and co-branded spots. All of the content is developed in partnership with BuzzFeed News.

Shahdadi compares the sponsored video segments to what ESPN has done with "Coors Light Cold Hard Facts" segment. Shahdadi says these types of sponsorships are nearly sold out, with plans to air one sponsored segment per episode. BuzzFeed is committed to 60 episodes of "AM to DM" to air through the end of the year.

Some advertisers says they see an opportunity in the long-form nature of the show.

"It's a chance for us to not rely on these quicks hits and create a more powerful connection with consumers," says Jimmy Bennett, senior director of media and social, Wendy's. "This is an evolution in the world of social."

Wendy's will sponsor editorial segments and is also working with BuzzFeed to produce longer-form content that integrates its Giant Junior Bacon Cheeseburger. It created the segment "Giant Little Stories," which will highligh stories that have received little attention in the media.

Bank of America will also sponsor segments in the show and create content around topical news events, says Lou Paskalis, senior VP of enterprise media planning at Bank of America. The financial services company is looking to reach younger consumers who Paskalis says are sourcing their news from Twitter and other platforms.

Paskalis points to topics like peer-to-peer payment capabilities and paying off student debt as topics where the company can inject its voice. The integrations will be highly participatory and in some cases air live and occur in real-time, Paskalis says.

He acknowledges "AM to DM" won't be a scaled media play right off the bat, but says the future is less about large reach and more about "scaled engagement." To be sure, Paskalis says, he was skeptical when Bank of America advertised in Twitter's stream of NFL games last year, but after watching it and seeing how there was a full conversation happening in real-time adjacent to game play, he became a fan.

BuzzFeed is co-selling ads with Twitter, but declined to reveal if this is a revenue share agreement.

Where "AM to DM" will be different from the typical TV morning show is when it comes to viewer interactivity. The hosts will respond to viewers' comments and if someone tweets an especially profound thought, it's very likely BuzzFeed will try to bring them on the show in some capacity in real-time, Shahdadi says.

There will also be segments like "Fire Tweets," where they will uncover some of the best tweets of the day, and "Push Alert," where stories that are dominating viewers' timelines will be broken down.

"We can't assume this is something they'll turn on in the background as they're getting kids ready for school," Shahdadi says.

Similar to broadcast's morning fare, "AM to DM" isn't intended to be a serious news program, but about having conversations around the day's big events (a conversation that's already happening on Twitter).

BuzzFeed first tried its hand at a live Twitter stream on election night, where Shahdadi says they were able to see how they could pull off something that is tried-and-true TV, but inside digital.

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