Few media are diving into live streaming like Cheddar, the millennial-focused CNBC of Facebook Live.
Broadcast from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Cheddar puts an entirely new spin on live business news, bringing a more off-the-cuff, authentic, and entertaining take on the stories of the day.
Cheddar covers the companies and stories young people care about most, from tech to sports to entertainment. There’s talk about startups and the latest from tech giants like Facebook and Amazon. Interviews include CEOs and personalities, and founder Jon Steinberg has even caught Pokemon in the middle of the broadcast.
Why is Cheddar an outlet to watch, and what kind of stories are they looking for? I called up Liam Roecklein, executive producer for Cheddar, to see what they were all about.
Mike: So how did Cheddar get started?
Cheddar was started by Jon Steinberg, former president of Buzzfeed. He’s a big fan of business news, but CNBC and FOX Business and Bloomberg all trend much older. Jon’s philosophy was that younger people want business news; they just don’t want to watch CNBC or Fox Business or Bloomberg.
So the origin of Cheddar was to meet these consumers where they watch the content, on all the over-the-top networks, whether that’s Facebook Live, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon, ChromeCast, all that stuff.
With Facebook Live, we’re trying to be what the internet generation wants to see. TV on the internet so far, in its brief history, is like trying to shove a square peg down a round hole. You have what traditionally worked on television and people think oh, well just repurpose that and put that on Facebook Live.
Here at Cheddar, we’re really not trying to do that. We’re trying to make content or make new media for the internet generation. We’re trying to talk to the consumer directly. We do a lot of Facebook comment reads. We talk, we call people out. We keep it very fresh and live and we try to keep it entertaining as well so that business news isn’t so stuffy.
I was reading an article in Mashable, and it was saying — the quote’s pretty good from Jon — that the whole Facebook Live platform is going to replace live television. Mat Yurow of the New York Times tweeted me that social is the new cable. That speaks to what you guys are doing and how you’re leveraging that platform.
Absolutely. There was an article out in the Times about Facebook Live and how cable news companies should be really concerned, and even CNBC has said that they’re going to try and do Facebook Live now.
But again, it’s a philosophical switch, a switch in the type of content we’re producing. We’re not trying to be CNBC on the internet, we’re trying to be a new type of business news. Business news that’s actually entertaining, not just informative. Business news that reaches the consumer who cares about certain types of stock.
We have what we call the Cheddar 50, which is actually a little bit more than 50 stocks. It’s on our ticker that runs throughout our show. And we cover mostly the big tech companies — Apple, Amazon, Google — along with big consumers like Under Armor, Nike, and then we cover media as well, so the Viacoms, Yahoos, even the Time Inc.s of the world.
We talk to the stocks that we think young people are most concerned about. Then there’s talk about startups, entertainment news and entertainment business, sports news and sports business. We talk about VR, robotics, “Pokemon Go,” and augmented reality. It’s really talking directly to them about what they care about.
How do you guys get that feedback? Is that just based on personal experiences, what you guys are interested in, what you’re reading about, hearing about? Are the viewers telling you what they’d like you to cover or talk about?
We get a lot of feedback. We get direct feedback on Facebook Live. We talk directly to people when they’re unhappy. We monitor our traffic — what does well, what doesn’t do well? We do polling both within our office and outside as well: What kind of stories do you want to see? And what we’ve seen is people want to see more VR. After all, it’s a visual medium, so we want to show things that look cool, so Jon played “Pokemon Go” live on the stream today. I’m sure that’s the first time that somebody literally took their phone, and streamed a live catch of a Pokemon.
Yeah, I saw that.
But we do stuff like that all the time. We try out apps live. We show VR live. We use props effectively. After all, a lot of these people are watching Facebook live without any audio so we try to capture them by being visual first but also being very informative and very knowledgeable and very good within our journalistic approach as well.
Also, it’s really refreshing to have people that want to experiment. We’re doing a lot of experimentation here at Cheddar to see what works, what people want to see.
We always call out our mistakes on Cheddar. If we mess something up, we say hey, the graphics aren’t working today or hey something broke.
At 9:30 in the morning on the East Coast, we’re talking to you directly and if you want to talk to us and say hey, let’s talk about Tesla, we can talk about Tesla, or hey, that was great, let’s do more of that. We’ll do more of that, and that’s really what we want to do, we want to make sure that we’re being what our customers want us to be.
So is that time built into the show to allow you guys to be a more free flowing?
Absolutely. We’re not a very scripted show. It’s funny, I just spoke with a long-term producer who was at MSNBC, ESPN, etc., and they’re like hey you guys don’t really script that much. Why is that?
It’s on purpose. We want a free-flowing conversation. We want our guests to be at ease but to not know what’s coming next. We don’t want the packaged interview where they knew the five questions beforehand.
We don’t expect everybody to answer everything, but we always ask all the pertinent questions and we get the relevant answers, so that’s part of the goal of the show: to be more real. And we do that by asking questions, by having a free-flowing conversation and by not being so scripted.
We do scripted news reads at the top but then we converse on them without any scripts. And we do some scripted intros with some topics that we want to cover, but it’s really just a free-flowing conversation with our guests, and we’ve found that the guests love it. They come off and they feel refreshed. It’s different. It’s not as stuffy. It’s like having somebody over your house and just having a conversation. And I think we get better content because of it.
For you, what are some of the more memorable stories or segments you guys have done?
Oh wow. We’ve done a lot of really cool stuff here. We covered the Twilio IPO, we had the Twilio CEO. We owned the Line IPO story, probably the biggest tech IPO in 2016. You know, it’s really hard for me to say. I love all my shows equally, but some stuff works better than others.
We had John Legere of T-Mobile, who was awesome for us, but I also like the smaller startups. We’ve done some really cool packages with Peter Gorenstine, our CCO, going to a Grateful Dead Concert. We’ve produced some packages with Lux. We have some more great stuff coming with some major TV company executives as well.
So I guess the answer to your question is I really like the big gets like the Legeres of the world, and I like the packages we’re producing, and I like doing the startups because I really want to give diverse content to the consumer. Some of my favorites are our beauty shows or fashion shows or travel shows, our wacky shows on Friday, which are all thematic. We really want to keep it fresh here, and the way we do that is by having a lot of variety.
I think that answers my next question, but what do you and your team look for in a story? What makes for a good story for Cheddar? And then, because you did mention VR and some other categories, what makes for a good tech story on Cheddar?
Sure. So what makes for a good story is a very interesting question, but I think a good story moves the meter. And by move the meter, is it something a modern young consumer like myself would be interested in?
Right now we’re covering a lot of tech, so what kind of tech are we talking about? We’re talking about self-driving cars. We’re talking a lot of Tesla. We’re talking a lot of social media. There are the giants — the Facebooks, the Googles, that kind of stuff — and we really want to own the VR and AR space.
We are going to talk about “Pokemon Go” every day because it’s a huge story. It’s what our demographic wants to hear about and we feel like we should own that story. It’s a passing mention on CNBC or Fox Business, but this is what people care about; they want to talk about the Pokegyms and what it’s like meeting new people, having more user growth than Twitter or Tinder.
And speaking of Tinder, that’s a space we want to own as well. Talking about dating in the 21st century and how we’re using technology to find significant others. So really what makes a good story is: Is it interesting? Is it newsworthy in the sense that it’s in the space that we’re covering?
We’re covering tech, consumer, and media within our Cheddar 50. But in the same space it’s other things, too. We did a story today on how Pokemon searches in Pornhub were up 136 percent, so that’s kind of a wacky story, but it’s interesting, and it shows the reach of “Pokemon Go.” We did another story about vaccine-laced M&Ms that the U.S. Wildlife Service was dropping to save ferrets. That’s what I would call a very Cheddaresque story. We have drones, we have vaccine-laced M&Ms, and we have wildlife, and it’s something that a younger demographic, we believe, is interested in.
I agree. I mean you measure things over the years, like the different tech and platforms you use, and find things that are just kind of sticky. And to me, you already feel sticky. It’s just engaging. It almost feels like it’s just you watching it, but at the same time you know you’re talking to a larger audience.
That’s a huge compliment and thank you for that. Because really our main goal is to make every single person who’s watching it on Facebook Live feel like we’re talking just to them, even though we want to talk to ideally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. We still want it to feel like hey you, who’s watching on your phone or your laptop or your iPad or wherever you’re watching, you’re a part of this show. You comment. We’re going to talk right back to you, and it’s happening instantaneously.
That’s awesome. So where are you guys going — what’s next for Cheddar?
Next for Cheddar is that we’re going to be expanding. The plan is to expand exponentially, and I can’t get into too much detail, but we’re going to be doing much more content — new types of shows — and the long term plan is to expand exponentially.
Thanks, Liam. You can watch Cheddar live every morning at 9:30 on its Facebook page (we certainly will be).