It’s only fitting that a publication started up by two students at Northwestern would evolve into a journalistic platform highlighting the many talents and varying journalistic styles of students at campuses across the nation. Spoon University is a start-up publication turned website that claims to be “building a network for millenials, by millenials.” On the About Page of the site, Spoon University says it’s “helping teach the next generation of journalists, marketers and event planners the best practices in digital media.”
The NiemanLab report brings up a very important question, and one that Spoon University has already addressed itself. “What if news outlets decided to flip their model, so that the editorial staff was not subservient to the brand, but the “brand” become a platform for talent?” Well, this is exactly what Spoon has done- you gotta hand it to the start-ups, they always seem to be two steps ahead of the game. Spoon University is a website that follows the flipped model where co-founders Mackenzie Barth and Sarah Adler aren’t the ones writing the articles or defining the brand, but rather the 1,000s of contributors from over 100 different campuses are the voices and personalities that have shaped the digital publication to make it what it is today. Spoon has become a platform for showcasing the differing journalistic talents and styles of students across the globe. (Yes, globe– they have chapters at McGill in Canada and the University of Delhi in India). Talk about a far-reaching effect.
The reading goes on to make a point that “many outlets are getting their ‘talent’ out there increasingly, having them do more media to help promote company brands.” Further promoting and leveraging the Spoon brand, the publication has dedicated an entire team to creating recipe videos, which often get millions of views on Facebook and drive a large audience to the website. There is now an entire section on Spoon called, “WATCH” where consumers can go to view videos, but this section didn’t exist at Spoon’s initial conception. As the reading notes, and as Spoon has followed, the website has helped leverage its brand by dedicating an entire time to creating these videos, resulting in an entire section of the website and increased viewership. They’re also constantly trying to get contributors who normally write articles involved in the video production process.
One of Spoon’s video contributors, Dylan Barth, spoke to me about her experience leveraging Spoon’s brand through the creation of her videos, and how she has created a brand for herself with her video-production niche.
Rebecca Soverinsky: Was video always your thing? Or, did you ever write?
Dylan Barth:Throughout middle school and high school, I had always liked writing, and my parents constantly told me I was a great writer, but I never felt that confident in my writing skills. My freshman year, I started on Spoon (as a writer), but I knew I wanted to mostly make videos for them-there just wasn’t an established video section at the time. So, before I really started making videos regularly for Spoon, I had written a few articles here and there, but I knew video was what I wanted to do from the start.
Rebecca Soverinsky: Do you feel like, now, since your videos have become so successful, it would seem out of character or “off-brand” for you to contribute articles to Spoon?
Dylan Barth: I really feel that making videos is my strong-suit and that I should definitely stick to doing video work more than writing full articles. But, with each video I create, I am required to write a little paragraph to go with it, so it’s not totally out of character for me to be writing for Spoon. I’m very familiar with the “Spoon voice,” But I definitely consider myself to solely a video contributor for Spoon. I’ve built that sort of brand for myself.
Rebecca Soverinsky: Have people ever become familiar with your videos first and with Spoon second?
Dylan Barth: Not usually. Since Spoon’s Facebook page is mostly where my videos are shared and published (besides Spoon’s website and my own Facebook page sharing links), most people will see first see a Spoon video and then, after, they’ll realize it’s my video. However, A lot of my friends will say to me, “I can always tell which videos are yours!” Just because of the way I film and the word choice and captioning I provide to enhance the videos.
Rebecca Soverinsky: Speaking of enhancement, how do you think video has enhanced Spoon’s brand, and where do you see video taking Spoon in the future?
Dylan Barth: I think video has been a hugely important and beneficial addition to Spoon’s brand. Facebook’s automatic-play feature on videos, as you scroll through your newsfeed, makes it so easy to watch and share videos, and this has really helped Spoon grow their following. Video has also helped Spoon gain a following on Snapchat, which is another amazing platform for growing a brand. Spoon’s videos have been featured on Food Network’s Snapchat Discover, which reaches millions of viewers (obviously helping get Spoon’s name out there.) I think the possibilities are endless for Spoon’s future with video. They are still working on perfecting the formatting and the style of their videos, and they are constantly improving. Video has (and will continue) to help Spoon connect and partner with other companies and grow their brand in that way, as well.
Dylan has used her personal brand as a journalistic videographer to help enhance Spoon’s brand, while further establishing one for herself. Going forward, she foresees that video work will be something she’ll continue to do, and maybe one day, she’ll contribute her talents to other publications and platforms to both enhance and continue to grow her personal brand and further catapult the brands of other publications. While her video work has branded her as such, it’s helped her find a niche, and ultimately, by niching her talents, she’s been able to greatly explore the depths of this specific skill set.
One of Barth’s recipe videos