The news industry has failed to appreciate the “power of memes”, according to a new ITV-backed wellness media brand targeting Generation Z (those born around the year 2000 and on).
A team made up of (among others) former Ladbible, Vice and Channel 4 staff have launched Woo, a “culture and lifestyle brand” and wellness product marketplace that promises to produce content that will be an “antidote to the toxic news cycle”.
Woo’s chief executive Stephen Mai told Press Gazette that memes serve as a form of wellness and self-care for many people and that often meme channels had some of the “biggest audiences in the media”, something underappreciated by mainstream media executives.
He added that the 30-strong team includeas 22-year-old Kit Chilvers as a memes director-at-large to build the growing brand’s meme content and campaigns.
ITV Woo investment
Funded and owned by ITV through its Studio 55 investment arm, Woo says it will help the broadcaster reach Gen Z viewers through its mixture of social media content as well as documentaries and comedy series featuring major Tiktok stars, all centred around wellness.
Mai said: “I think one of the main things that the media industry doesn’t really appreciate, as much as it probably should, is the power of memes.
“And the power of how actually these meme accounts have some of the biggest audiences in the media. They have some of the most influential followers as well.”
On the intersection of memes and wellness, he added: “Actually, what makes you feel good and provides wellness in the quickest way possible is something that is really funny or something that is heartwarming.”
Mai said the brand aims to reach 45 million people in its first month, helped by the fact its video content will be hosted on the on-demand platform ITV Hub. It hopes to hit 12 million website visits within a year and gain a social media reach in the hundreds of millions.
He added that Woo will try to reach these goals by producing exclusive content for each of its various platforms – social media, TV, partner sites and its own website – in a move away from the “idea that we have to draw people back to somewhere specific”.
Woo has so far worked with an array of influencers and celebrities, including indie-rock musician Beabadoobee, Youtube musician Niko B and Tiktok star Oatmilk Leader, who has joined the brand as Tiktok editor.
‘A lens of optimism’
Mai said the brand is trying to answer the question “what if we made wellness more culturally relevant and more aspirational, the same way people think about music and fashion… For us, it’s about creating this lifestyle that people want to aspire to”.
He went on: “I kind of see Woo as a feel-good movement and an antidote to the toxic news cycle… News is not necessarily the most optimistic category at the moment. Social media algorithms have prioritised a lot of negativity and a lot of divisiveness.
“Inherently politics and news items will feed into our editorial proposition. But actually, if we are talking about climate change or climate disasters, we’re talking about it through a lens of optimism and solutions.”
Woo will fund its wellness content through a mixture of limited adverts, selling its video content, affiliate links and its own marketplace, set to launch in September, which will sell an array of wellness products from CBD gummies and candles to skincare products and clothes.
Mai felt there was no conflict of interest between creating content centred on the value of wellness while also selling wellness solutions because the brand will be “transparent” so audiences know “exactly when there might be a conflict of interest so that they can make their own decisions”.
The Washington Post announced in March that it was launching a new wellness section with almost 20 journalists in an attempt to reach younger audiences.
The Post’s managing editor in charge of diversity and inclusion Krissah Thompson told Press Gazette that it had “found great success in looking at news moments and helping us to understand how they impact our wellness”.
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