12 questions for OMGFacts and Dose.com's Dee Fabbricatore

Dee Fabbricatore lifts the lid on an editorial approach that uses an algorithm to dictate the content her teams produce.

Name
Dee Fabbricatore

Title
Senior director of content

Outlet
OMGFacts and Dose.com

Describe your day to day
We’re a startup, so the day to day is always different. My team executes across both branded and publisher efforts. All editorial and branded content campaigns on Dose or OMGFacts, our two flagship brands, are handled here.

There’s no firewall between business and editorial?
[When I was editorial lead] at Groupon, I noticed that separating editorial creative from branded created silos and many missed opportunities. We have to evolve past that.

What brand partnerships are you most proud of?
We recently did a campaign for Netflix’s "13 Reasons Why" [a series about teenage suicide], called #ReasonsWhyYouMatter.

Using pretesting, we were able to identify content their audience wanted to consume and create videos and articles. The campaign was about telling loved ones why they matter, inserting a positive message and narrative for a sensitive topic.

A lot of our competitors [come up with an idea] then pray it does well on social. We don’t create anything until [our predictive technology] proves it’s a conversation people are already having in a social space.

Clicks come before content?
Not clicks — engagement comes first. We want to prove a piece of content hits the brand’s intended audience before we make it.

With the viral bubble bursting, we placed our bets on the future of branded content. We said goodbye to the programmatic model of the past. Now we’re evolving that editorial strategy. We want to not only identify a successful story before we write it but also the angle.

What’s the viral bubble?
Three years ago, we cracked the code on identifying pre-viral stories and writing articles that reach millions quickly. As Facebook advanced its model, it’s become challenging to get people to click away from social platforms.

We host all our content on Medium, which does not allow programmatic advertising, and focus on pretesting and engaging our audience on social.

Do Dose Media writers have beats?
We use an image-card format to weigh trending conversations, highly sharable standalone images that serve a relevant headline or piece of copy. It creates a movie theater for our audience to find the angle themselves. We call them ‘honeypot images’ because they attract so much immediate engagement. This spans topics.

Is Facebook your social media platform of choice?
It’s where we get the bulk of our distribution. In the next six months, we’re headed aggressively into Instagram, building audiences and engaging them through Instagram Stories.

The Times and Post boosted subscriptions following the election. Is Dose at risk of being usurped by the traditionalists?
The media industry has to respond to the political climate in unique and immediate ways. We rely on our pretesting capabilities, finding the angle that resonates most in a story, rather than regurgitating everybody else’s. I see those traditional outlets as our friends in this space, rather than competitors.

What do you say to those who deride your content as clickbait?
Clickbait is a dirty word to some, but my philosophy has always been it is only clickbait if it’s under-delivering. There’s a difference between overpromising and under-delivering, [between] baiting people and sparking their curiosity. We have radically shifted our focus from a cheap clicks model to creating engaging, meaningful moments with content directly on social.

There is plenty of opportunity to engage your audience with discoveries, which some might call baiting, but we deliver on our promise. It’s not a fair characterization today.

Is there danger in using an algorithm to decide what content to produce?
If anything we’re minimizing the risks and showing our audience what they want to see. It’s a bigger danger to subjectively decide, as creatives, what our audience wants to see. Our pretesting abilities allow us to listen to our audiences much more.

What’s the difference between telling them what they want to hear and what they should hear?
That’s a fine balance between serving up relevant, important information that needs to be disseminated and serving up what they want. We present relevant information regardless of vertical and let people come to their own conclusions. Our pretesting doesn’t say, "People don’t want to hear the truth about that, so we’re not going to do it." It’s more like: "Our audience is telling us they have that perspective, let’s find an angle that continues the conversation in a meaningful way."

Would you consider yourself a journalist?
I consider myself and my team to be storytellers. We’re trying to tell really good stories and authentic content-driven experiences. We put on that journalist hat to research, make sure we have the facts right, go straight to the source, and contextualize our content in a meaningful way. But we also elevate it to storytelling.

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