Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Samuel Regan-Asante and Serena Kutchinsky

Joe Media: ‘We’re more than just sports and politics’

In part one of our sit-down with Joe Media’s UK CEO, Samuel Regan-Asante, and Director of Editorial, Serena Kutchinsky, we spoke about why they both decided to join the publisher this year, and what it is that differentiates Joe from other social-first publishers. Now, we dive a little bit deeper into the inner workings of the business.

As any publisher with both editorial and commercial obligations will know, it can be difficult to balance both sides of the business. You want to make money, but you also have to consider staying true to your core editorial values and the image you’re known for among your audience.

Joe addresses this by ensuring that any sponsored content acts as “more of an extension of editorial”, according to Regan-Asante. “There will always be a bit of pushback and a bit of wresting and healthy competition [between editorial and commercial]. But the aim for us is to make sure that we’re always creating content that has that Joe ‘look and feel’, and doesn’t just look like another ad.”

This is helped by the fact that Kutchinsky’s team has editorial independence – something that is “hugely important” to her following her time at the BBC. But, at the same time, the two teams work very closely with one another and are able to supplement each other when necessary.

An example of this happened recently around a commercial partnership with sports subscription video streaming service DAZN.

Joe agreed to make two videos to act as previews for an upcoming boxing match, where Eddie Hearn was involved as promoter. On the back of these videos, one of Joe’s journalists came up with the idea of creating a piece of editorial based on the ‘No Context Hearn’ Twitter account, where he read out some of the tweets to Eddie Hearn himself and got his reaction.

“It was absolutely ingenious. And, when we showed it to DAZN, they said it was the best piece of video content they’d ever seen,” says Kutchinsky.

“So, very often, we’re in quite a lucky place, because our editorial is really strong, distinct, and credible. And that’s what people are buying. Often, the editorial that they want to create with us is very much in line with our editorial values.”

Growing beyond sport

The recent Euro 2020 football tournament was a huge success for Joe, producing one of the graphics of the tournament with its ‘England without immigration’, and managing to amass more ‘minutes viewed’ on its branded content than any of its competitors. And, despite the publisher’s main focus around sport, its managed to follow-up that success with strong commercial activity away from its number one vertical.

“That’s one of the messages that we want to get across, because it is a reality that the audience is engaged in more than just sport. We know that our audience cares a lot,” says Regan-Asante.

“One of the videos we did was about the Britney situation, an explainer video on that, and we saw that it completely flew. So, we know that the audience cares about a lot more, and clients are recognising that and are coming to us for more than just the sports-related content.”

The interest that Joe is garnering away from sport is also fuelling its desire to continue expanding on the content it delivers to its audience.

“There is a perception that Joe is mainly sports and politics, but there’s a lot of entertainment content, and we want to make sure that people get to see that,” adds Regan-Asante. “We want to really develop our original shows and our original strategy. And we’re bringing in a Head of Originals, so that’s something that Serena will work with them on.”

Kutchinsky echoes this desire to expand into different verticals and continue developing existing ones, and points to the need to continue growing the team to make this a reality. Naturally, as the team grows, the other ambitions begin to fall into place.

“We want to staff up and make sure that we’re staffing up with the right people in the right roles. That gets the foundations in place for us to be able to elevate the content levels further, and in line with the editorial and commercial vision of the business,” says Kutchinsky.

“If you said, ‘what does success look like?’ I suppose there are certain tiers to that. There’s elevating the quality and increasing the output of our content, making sure that we have a voice and an audience in areas such as mental health, identity, lifestyle, gaming, tech, and climate – those core pillars – and making sure that we have that output,” she continues. “There’s also growing traffic, growing revenue, growing video views, making sure that we are working with third-party platforms, growing those relationships, making sure that there’s no revenue stone unturned effectively, because the landscape changes so fast.”