The $1.5bn content experiment gone wrong

Don't spend it like Quibi.

Hi! I'm George Aliferis and this is the monthly Fintech Marketing Newsletter, episode 7! It looks like I'm a forming a habit of borrowing from the media world to write about B2B Fintech Marketing. It started with Netflix then Spotify. I believe that building a media for your niche is a great marketing strategy, but this time it's about a media example you shouldn't follow: Quibi.


Netflix rival Quibi readies US launch - Mobile World Live

Quibi is short-form mobile video platform founded by Hollywood and Silicon Valley moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. The firm introduced itself as a "billion moonshot to revolutionize mobile-first viewing with Hollywood style content and budgets." The company raised $1.8 bn. It launched in March 2020 with a range of star-studded shows, on which it reportedly spent over $1.5 bn. The number of sign-ups, for the 3-month free period never matched the expectations. Worst of all, 92% of those who signed up abandon the app as soon as it asks for payment.

We shouldn’t laugh at struggling entrepreneurs, but when they are billionaires that will remain billionaires; it’s acceptable, no?

Quibi shows it is easy to spend on content without getting much in return. I’ll break down what seems to have gone wrong and offer some thoughts on how this can be avoided in the Fintech space and what to do instead.

What can we learn from Quibi?

There’s a lot of schadenfreude in media, every outlet has an article about Quibi. I've picked just three quotes from my favourite analysts of the media-tech scene:

Benedict Evans (ex VC and media analyst):

The core problem is committing $2bn to a hypothesis of a new content model before validating it with actual consumers in any way. A smaller launch and more experimentation might have been better.

You can apply it to Fintech, or any other industry: A classic case for using a lean approach, building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), then iterate based on user feedback.

The issue here is also an over-confident approach, of "fearless innovators and disruptors."

Ben Thompson (business, technology, and media analyst):

The single most important fact about both movies and television is that they were defined by scarcity: there were only so many movies that would ever be made to fill only so many theater slots, and in the case of TV, there were only 24 hours in a day. That meant that there was significant value in being someone who could figure out what was going to be a hit before it was ever created, and then investing to make it so. That sort of selection and production is what Katzenberg and the rest of Hollywood have been doing for decades, and it’s understandable that Katzenberg thought he could apply the same formula to mobile.

Mobile, though, is defined by the Internet, which is to say it is defined by abundance…So it is on TikTok, or any other app with user-generated content. The goal is not to pick out the hits, but rather to attract as much content as possible, and then algorithmically boost whatever turns out to be good…

Algorithms and robots are taking over, even in the creative world. You can still try to promote a single campaign or whitepaper that you think will perform best. But the modern marketer needs to re-tell his story in many different ways, iterate, and embrace the algorithms.

Scott Galloway:

The strategy never made any sense, and the firm showed up to a howitzer fight with a squirt gun.

While $1.5bn sounds like a lot, the amount is dwarfed by the $40 bn that the other players in the war of video on demand are spending annually ($17 bn for Netflix alone). If your competitors outspend you, you need to be very analytical and experimental about the content you publish.

What could Quibi have done instead? And how to apply it to Fintech content?

I am enlisting the help of my podcast guests to answer this. We are “only” at the twelfth episode, but the recordings form a great source.

The links below point to the right timing in the recordings if you want to listen to it in context.

You don't need to be a disruptor, fix a problem.

Alokik Advani, a strategic investor in Fintech at EightRoads, explained how Finance is in "perpetual disruption". Even before Fintech became a thing, it was about making investments in market structure changes or inefficiencies or tools. The financial advice proposition, for example, is broken and will need a lot of elements pulled together to fix it. The repair process is underway and involves many start-ups and scale-ups, like MoneyBox from Alokik’s portfolio (who just raised an addition £30M).

Sales-Driven Content

Melanie Palmer, CMO of Nucoro, shared how the interaction with the sales team provides the basis for the content that drives their B2B efforts. It’s quite easy to be sidetracked. Her motto:

“Customer customer, customer, just focus on the customer. It's really easy to get distracted but always bring it back.”

Data-Driven Content

Quibi made big bets on content, based on the expertise of the founders and on the star appeal of the talent they used. The approach is a high wire act.

Tom Martin, am audience development expert, explained how you could de-risk your investment in content by researching the keywords or topics that people are already searching.

Some tools that can help your research: Semrush, Ahrefs or VidIQ for YouTube.

Here is a tip if you are considering publishing fintech content on YouTube: Wirecard. The screenshot from VidIQ shows there are substantial search volumes, with limited competition. If it is relevant to your business, now is the time when people are searching for answers and your insights can help them.

Practical example:

It's an opportunity we didn't want to miss. We published two videos so far (note the keywords from the list above). The interest may be short-lived, but the content is evergreen (analysis not news):

Both videos were a speedy execution and are performing above-average. They are driving traffic to our other content and subscribers to the channel. Based on our KPIs, it's now worth considering an investment on a third story on the same topic.

Useful links for marketers & news

  • Tutorial: How to Transform your Whitepaper into an Engaging Video

  • Blog post: Make the most of being a podcast guest

  • We reached 2,000 views & downloads on The Fintech Files "vodcast". It's a small number, but it's ok compared to more established podcasts. You will hear that it doesn't matter how many people your podcast will reach, but for me, it's about the value we provide to our guests. If each episode can reach the equivalent of a large conference room, they've spent the hour well.


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