Early this year, LA-based Mammoth Media, the mobile entertainment-app startup raised a Series A $13 million funding. The newly-acquired fund solidifies the company’s position as a mobile media leader. It also diverts attention to how the startup is creating short-form, mobile-first entertainment to appeal to the arguably lesser attentive millennials and make them loyal consumers.
Its primary offering are its two apps: Yarn and Wishbone with a new trivia app, Arena slowly gaining popularity. Founder and CEO Benoit Vatere claims, “Netflix owns long-form entertainment, while Mammoth Media owns micro form”.
Former CEO at PlayHaven, a large mobile gaming app network, Vatere started the company in 2015 to “redefine mobile entertainment”.
Netflix of Micro Form
When Vatere decided to “find a way to entertain audiences with content”, he found that companies struggled to take their highly successful content from desktop to mobile. The mobile entertainment space was dominated with social and game content. Moreover, entertaining users was one thing, getting them to stay was another.
Vatere, however, had his eyes pinned on resolving another problem. With Facebook, and subsequently Youtube and Instagram’s, changing policies, Vatere didn’t want to rely on a platform he didn’t own. He writes in his Medium blog: “A lot of companies have had great success on mobile, delivering well-formatted, premium content but when it comes to fulfilling ARM (Acquire, Retain, Monetize), they oftentimes rely on the major networks (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, etc.) to meet one or more of these criteria. Entrepreneurs using these platforms might derive great benefit from the exposure. But they are constantly wary of sudden announcements that can affect their outreach.
Therefore, Vatere built Mammoth Media to establish his own distribution and monetization strategy and has since launched a number of successful apps.
The first one was Wishbone.
Wishbone first hooked teenagers in 2016 when it featured on numerous lists as part of ‘Popular teenage apps parents should be aware of’. Still successful, the app allows users to choose between two innumerable possibilities – Classy or Casual? Would you rather date your crush or a celebrity? Once you have picked, you can see what percentage of people chose which option. Apart from the 12 questions that the app provides you twice a day, users can go on the community feed and keep making selections for hours.
The app garnered both high user acquisition and monetization potential through ads and subscription. In addition to entertaining teenagers, its basic comparison feature is proving to be extremely useful to brands. Besides, the ease of making a choice and seeing if you fall in the majority or minority category catapulted the app into success among tweens and teenagers.
But the app has seen its set of controversies: As it is focussed on gullible teenagers, some have claimed that they often discuss their choices with their peers in school which later results in bullying. The app has also been hacked, jeopardising the personal data of millions of users.
Stories on Chat
After Wishbone, Mammoth Media’s second app Yarn caught the attention and interest of not just teenagers but also millennials.
Yarn delivers bite-sized experiences to its users with an interactive fictional storytelling feature. The app has a salicious, voyeuristic appeal where it feels like one is reading through screenshots or someone else’s chat window. While incomparable with e-books, the app, with themes like horror or modern dating, can be appealing to those looking for a new type of reading experience. Yarn has also found the perfect way to ensure readers keep coming back. Each episode ends with a twist and the app asks you to wait for about 25 minutes to read further. Or you can pay to subscribe and read faster.
However, this is not the only reading app. Many others such as Hooked, Amazon Rapids, Lure, ReadIt, Wattpad, are flooding the market. Yarn, however, has pulled in more than $15.5 million via in-app subscriptions since its launch last February.
How? It’s because Yarn is the perfect example of Mammoth Media’s strategy to attract the younger audience who don’t pay to watch TV. To develop Yarn, Vatere says, that “they looked at TV and saw that the most captivating and successful shows have been the dramas and sitcoms — the linear narratives that you tune in for once a week”. So what if they could entertain people in a format they had become most comfortable with? Instant Messaging?
As a result, Vatere claims that Yarn users read 4 times a day for 2 minutes at a time on average.
But the company is far from done. Its latest app is Arena – a trivia or quiz app just like HQTrivia with an additional feature: The app requires you to select a mob or a team. While it doesn’t matter who your mob is, and you can individually win a prize too, but if your mob wins, your prize money gets doubled.
While both Yarn and Wishbone have propelled to prominence and Arena is on its way up there, what’s sustaining Mammoth Media are its multiple collaborations.
Cloud9, for example, has partnered with Arena and will use live format and mob-based trivia challenges as ‘a new, fun way to engage directly with our fans through trivia matches on Arena’.
But it’s most important collaborations have been for Yarn. In April, Archie Comics partnered with Mammoth Media to produce original mobile story content based on the “Riverdale”, “Betty & Veronica” and “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” comic book series. In another instance, AMC’s martial arts drama “Into the Badlands” premiered on the app as did SYFY’s new content for Wynonna Earp, tied to the series’ season 3 premiere in July.
Its multiple apps, Vatere says, are its channels. In claiming so, Mammoth Media is doing for the mobile entertainment space what Viacom did for TV by launching multiple channels. Each app may be indistinguishable to some but to many, it has a different tone and aims at providing a different experience. However, collectively, each app is trying to make Mammoth the Netflix of micro-form entertainment.