There is no set formula to creating viral content: Rishi Pratim Mukherjee, Co-founder and COO, Scoopwhoop

Rishi Pratim Mukherjee of Scoopwhoop on revolutionising trends in digital content consumption

e4m by Anam Khan
Updated: Dec 20, 2017 8:51 AM

Scoopwhoop, a platform that creates and curates content, despite being a young site has managed to attract lot of eyeballs considering its presence on social media. In an interaction with exchange4media, Rishi Pratim Mukherjee, co-founder and COO, Scoopwhoop, speaks about the modern revolutionising trends in digital content consumption and content production. Excerpts:

What kind of content consumption trends are you witnessing when it comes to India?
Well in my opinion, the content consumption trends for the Indian market is not very different from overall content consumption trends, in the sense, breaking news and stories going viral across social media, which we basically call social news. Also there is content created by influencers and content creators that go viral, which might not have a political angle to it but is still hugely followed by the millennial audiences in India who are active on social media. Such type of content usually gets the most amount of traction usually followed by niche category wise content. So there is a significant amount of interest for people who follow a certain category or a bunch of categories for example sports, food, travel and fashion, lifestyle, relationships. A lot of these categories are grabbing eyeballs, at least on Sccopwhoop.

How do you decide your editorial content?
We basically have certain custom built tools which is proprietary technology to us which we have built in-house. It helps our editorial team and our editors take more informed decisions about what content to put out and what categories to put this content out in. So we have trackers which sort of tell us that what kind of content is doing well across social media.
There might be something that might be doing well on Twitter and might not have travelled throughout the web as yet or might only be trending on Twitter and not on Facebook or Instagram. Then our editors take a call whether it’s relevant content for our audience or not.
Then the challenge is to post or publish news around that instantly because a publisher who publishes the news first usually takes away most of the eyeballs. 

What are the typical elements of viral content?
I would like to tell you that it’s a myth. There is no set formula to creating viral content. We often hear from brand advertisers, ‘How can you make this content go viral?’ I don’t think the industry has yet arrived at a formula for creating viral content. Yes, there are certain elements that all viral content have in common and the first and foremost is that you have to relate to the content and it has to provoke something in you. That provocation could either be anger, disgust or it can also be something new that you learn or it could be humour or laughter but that provocation is very important because that is the trigger for you to share that content. Interestingly if you put viral content in mathematical terms it’s a content that’s shared so view ratio has to be high. There might be a piece of content that you receive on Whatsapp, Facebook, and you might consume it but you might not share. Such piece of content will never go viral. There is something with viral content that makes you want to share it with your friends and family.
I think it is more important to study that why does certain content go viral and why does certain content not go viral.

How important have algorithms become for the newsroom?
Well if I talk about Scoopwhoop, we are data informed but not data driven. I don’t think that an algorithm can decide 100% accuracy of what we should be creating as content. I don’t think any newsroom across the world will ever depend on an algorithm which promises to do that.
I think population and content creation will always have a large human element at play. But if you compare those to networks, curated platforms like UC news have a much more deeper relationship with algorithms because there is a plethora of content and the user has to be given the right gambled content at a given point of time.

What are the biggest challenges for digital news platforms?
I think the biggest challenge is actually having access to right data, to understand who their audience is and then using that data to their advantage to revenue to monetise that content. Today if you look at digital media, two biggest players of social networks are Google and Facebook and they both capture a huge amount of data based on the users and they have vault gardens because that’s their revenue model that’s how they make money.  
Digital news publishers become increasingly dependent on social media platforms. Is this trend going to continue for long or do you see disruption happening in this space?
I personally don’t feel that there is going to be any disruption in this space, I think this trend is going to continue. We might see the advent of new social networks.
If you look back at the '90s or in early 2000, news and content distribution on e-mail was the norm before social networks came into their own. So e-mail was then the social network in a way. Then came the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat.
What do you think of a brand utilising digital content to drive sales?
Digital content or sponsored content is reaching there in terms of achieving performance for brands. I don’t think we are there yet where one can confidently say that sponsored content directly leads to more sales for brands. 
There is no clear cut data or analytics to link content to sales today like there is for pure advertising on digital or television.
Our recent campaign with Brand Factory was a fresh sort of content marketing, it was a native content initiative where the advertiser was ready to clear what they wanted from this campaign and with their co-operation we were able to clearly track the consumer journey with tracking codes and IDs and with the help of smartly engineered campaign we were able to link content, consumption of content. The message was passed on to the viewer and then the call to action that was being taken- of going and purchasing the voucher where we were able to sell 30k passes. Now that funnel is very few and far between in the Indian market.

There have been reports of layoffs at Scoopwhoop.
Well we went down from about 180 to 170 people. There was a certain set of people who were dealing with news (breaking news). That was something we couldn’t monetise well enough because news is a very difficult stream to monetise. That was a decision that we had to take and it was also dependent on performance reviews.

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