You might not know Barcroft Media, but if you've ever found yourself watching a buffalo launching a lion into the air, a snake devour a crocodile whole or a dog the size of a Coca-Cola can, you've encountered its YouTube videos. With 68.2m views in March, Barcroft TV was the 40th biggest YouTube channel in the world that month, according to industry site Tubefilter. The channel now has more than 460,000 subscribers and 426m lifetime views.
Barcroft Media was founded in 2003 by photojournalist
Barcroft TV is now the second most popular news channel in the world on YouTube, while the company also distributes its viral videos to sites like
Is it just about shocking and/or funny animal videos? Barcroft says not, pointing to a series of videos about transgender couple
"We present them in a way that connects with our audience really well: non-judgmental and in a clear and simple way. Our trick is to present controversial, shocking, emotional and thought-provoking stories, but to tell them in a very straight way," he says. "Our audience then get hold of those things and furiously debate them. We don't tell people that it's right or wrong to go and shoot elephants for sport, or to not eat, or to have a gender reassignment surgery. We present people's stories objectively and carefully, then we hope that stirs debate and interaction."
Like other online video and/or news companies - Vice, The Young Turks and Upworthy for example - Barcroft Media sees itself as serving a youthful audience neglected by traditional media. "A lot of young people have very important views about issues in the world: that's the demographic of people on their phones, and sharing and commenting and interacting," he says. "They're the native internet generation, but they have been completely abandoned by the mainstream media. Our content is designed for them."
Barcroft admits that making money from
"As a news company, it's pretty much impossible to make enough money to survive just on YouTube. But it's about being clever about how you use your content: two years ago,
Barcroft is animated when discussing the "traditional shoe-leather journalism" behind his company's videos, with newsrooms in
"The reason our company has done so well is that our factual content helps people go into other worlds, and enjoy stories that take them out of their 9-to-5 and the challenges of living in a recession. Why shouldn't people be excited about
And eyeballs. "We're going to do a billion views over the next year across all of these platforms, and we're a small company in Hackney," says Barcroft. "We think that's proof positive that if you've got a real understanding of what people want, and you're very energetic about creating great content, these new platforms give you the chance to be a global player."
Snappy image . . . Barcroft Media's photo shows a crocodile trying to grab an impala
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