A still from a Vocativ short about a Mexican island populated with dolls. The website's short, intriguing content attracts millions of viewers. (Image via Vocativ)
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The video-only company lives and dies by social media traffic, which can easily get problematic.

The viral spreading of short videos on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook has never been easier, especially when sharing remains a click away. And Vocativ, a producer of both long and short videos, has been adding to that chaos for the last several years with its takes on underreported stories.

Vocativ was founded in 2013 by Mati Kochavi and Marty Edelman. The award-winning media company creates roughly one-minute-long storytelling content to fit all platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Subjects range from art to politics to special interest stories. Subtitles run along the bottom of the video, making it easier for viewers to watch without sound or even necessarily clicking on it.

Their most-viewed video on their YouTube channel, called “Chinese Kids Driving Supercars: Inside the Secret Southern California Meet-up,” has accumulated 4.7 million views since its release in November 2014. The spotlight the film put on young affluent Chinese exchange students, primarily in California, showcased their love for the finer things in life.

The subjects, usually the children of the high-profile elite, hide their lifestyle from the outside world — per the Chinese government’s influence — so the inside scoop they gave to Vocativ was a treat. Producer Kristie Hang spoke to a few attendees of the meeting to find just how much money the sea of sport cars cost.

“I study in California and this car name is California. Very romantic,” said one man when describing his $270,000 Ferrari at the meeting that took place in San Gabriel Valley, California. To make their cars stand out amongst the ones on dealership lots, some elect to have wraps like holographic green put onto the car to set it apart. Wraps can cost upward of $8,000.

Capturing the underground culture of such a specialized group, in this case, rich Chinese students studying in America, helped add intrigue to the video. Oddities appeal to viewers, particularly when the subject shows how some people’s dreams can become a reality for others.

Vocativ made headlines itself when it broke in June 2017 that it had laid off its entire editorial staff — about 20 people — to focus more on technology-based storytelling. “As the industry evolves, we are undertaking a strategic shift to focus exclusively on video content that will be distributed via social media and other platforms,” a statement from a Vocativ spokesperson said.

The media company jumped into another new venture when they teamed up with Showtime to create an eight-episode docuseries called “Dark Net,” which premiered its first episode, called “Crush,” in January 2016. The show describes itself as an explorer of the “often-disturbing darker side of the Internet. The dark web, as it’s known, was originally intended to be a hidden area where members of the intelligence community could privately meet, but it is increasingly being exploited by online predators and criminals.”

Showtime renewed the series for a second season in March 2016 that premiered the next April. No other seasons have been requested.

Reviews for the show range from being described as “a circus-sideshow manner” to having a “strangely perfect tone between curious and judgmental.” A 67 percent on Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t make “Dark Net” a must-see, but rather an interesting series for tech-savvy people to binge.

Most of Vocativ’s success comes from their Facebook page because it has over 2 million likes. One of their most-viewed videos, filmed in July but reposted last Wednesday, shows an African-American man named Shayne Holland being harassed while laying out at the pool in his apartment complex.

The property manager called the police because she assumed Holland was trespassing even after he showed her his key. Holland showed the officer and property manager the key for his apartment, again proving he did, in fact, live there and had the right to use the pool like other tenants.

Due to the incident, the property manager was put on administrative leave. The video has since gained over 726,000 views, proving an act of simple discipline won’t make the unprofessional acts made by not only management, but also the police, go away.

Although Vocativ’s YouTube channel has over 171,000 subscribers, it has shied away from posting there. The most recent video, posted December 2017 and called “Meet The World’s Oldest Professional Gaming Team,” has only around 3,000 views. It follows The Silver Snipers and their desire to becoming a respected competitive team, but fell so short with audiences that Vocativ seemingly ditched the channel all together.

It’s more profitable for media companies to post on other platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, because they use a great feature for accumulating tons of views: autoplay. A mere five seconds of view time gets counted as a full view and, in return, more money in the pockets of the creators.

Vocativ’s video presence on Twitter gained some backlash, though, when a video released in May criticizing streamer Ice Poseidon’s “Fear Factor” challenge hit the airwaves. The video shows Poseidon spraying people in the face with pepper spray, shooting them with paintball guns and much more, all for the chance to win $1,000.

A response from Ice explained the video and how he felt about the media company: “@vocativ You created a story out of context and spite of me. It really shows how uneducated and biased your journalists are and it shows that no one should ever look at your stories or videos as facts…”

Vocativ, like many other journalistic institutions, gets accused of bias regularly, but due to their compact video style, it’s easy to see how a story can be taken out of context.

Quick and easily digestible feature journalism like Vocativ will continue to be popular amongst short-attention-spanned consumers. Whether it be a story about a 3D house or the world’s fastest police car, clicks and views will pile up for social network-based storytelling companies.

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