Donut Media's Matt Levin On Creating A New Car Enthusiast Brand

Earlier this week, Los Angeles-based Donut Media ( announced a seed funding round, for its efforts to create a online, video-focused brand centered around car enthusiasts. We spoke with CEO Matt Levin to hear about how Donut Media is looking to speak to the Millennial car enthusiast through both its online videos as well as social content. Donut Media is venture backed by Techstars Ventures, 3311 Ventures, Fontinalis Partners and professional driver Ryan Tuerck.

What is Donut Media?

Matt Levin: At Donut Media, we are building the millenial automotive publication. The way we're doing that, is we are creating video content, which we distribute across social platforms. We saw a huge gap in this market in terms of car content, and took a young, fresh, and different look at what it is to be a car enthusiast. We've taken the latest change in technology and motor sports, and everything, which has been under-represented online, and built Donut Media. We're now reaching millions of young people who are excited about cars and things that go along with that, including working on cars, tuning, motor sports, and everything else in that universe. It's pretty broad. On the flip side of that, we're working with advertisers, reaching young or predominately young, high engaged audiences with their products, through branded content and other strategies, to help those advertisers reach and engage this audience.

How did you start the company?

Matt Levin: I came from Optimist TV, where I was head of product there. We had lots of success reaching the GenZ and millennial audience with video content on that platform. I had seen how things were working over there, and went through a number of acquisition. We started to see more and more audiences attracted to specific content online. Much like Tastemade and Mitu, with their specific subject focus, we saw this explosion of interest and social platforms around things that have shaped us, and where we can really engage with topics we care about. In looking at those topics that I was interested in, I found that there was not content around the automotive area. This was a huge, obvious gap in the content which was being created. My co-founders, Ben and Nick, come from the production world. Ben is a commercial director, who has been in post production and production for the past seventeen years. He's deployed that in the advertising world, and has been involved in making some of the biggest automotive films of all time. He was perfect to go into this. There's been a trend driving companies towards high quality content online, away from what had been low budget , low quality online digital content.

Quality content has had a reputation of being very expensive to produce, is that still the case?

Matt Levin: The cost of creating content have come down, and over time I think we've democratized creating content. That's great, because there are many young filmmakers doing their own things on YouTube. Doing content around cars has had the same downward pressure. It used to be expensive to get a car and access to a track, which is an aspect of production a vlogger making gaming or food content doesn't have, and is an obstacle they don't need to overcome. However, that has changed a bit with technology like the GoPro, drones, and ability to do this digitally. Also, since we've focused on this single vertical production area, we've been able to leverage huge economies of scale. For example, instead of going to a track to take one video, we're going there with seven cars, three camera crews, and four directors, and filming that all at the same time. That's really created efficiency around digital content, and allowed us to provide level of quality you'd expect from a bigger budget production.

What channels are you distributing this through? Youtube, Facebook Video?

Matt Levin: Youtube and Facebook Video are definitely the primary channels for us, but people also follow us on Instagram and Snapchat. We have found, over time, and I think this is true for everyone, that you really need to be across all of the different content platforms to be effective. You have to create unique stories and content across multiple platforms, and build different narratives across those platforms. For example, if we're building a car, you'll see shots of that car on Instagram, see a Youtube video on that, a short Facebook video of the car in action, and a live stream of the first time we turn the car on. We use all those platforms independently and in conjunction, so that it's really easy for people to consume that content and engage with us more heavily.

Talk a bit more about your cross platform strategy?

Matt Levin: We started as a company which was Facebook focus, mostly because we started making videos in late 2015, when Facebook was really trying to build a strategy around that. We started creating content for other platforms alongside uploading it to Facebook, and we found that video would outperform on some platforms versus others. We are a very data driven organization, and looking at the numbers, listening to our viewers, and collecting feedback, we discovered different things work for different platforms. We're really not multiplying our production costs, but instead, thoughtfully using different assets for the different platforms, depending on what work's over here, using a storytelling strategy. That's enabled us to be more thoughtful on understanding the different platforms, and finding out that different people consume content differently on different platforms. You're not seeing lots of the same people across different platforms. It's all about reaching all of your fans, where they want to consume your content.

Finally, since you're in the car content business, what's your thought on the idea that Millennials are not interested in or buying cars anymore?

Matt Levin: That's something we've heard repeated again and again. I think there was one study which said Millenials are not interested in buying cars recently. However, I think the truth is, is that cars have changed in relation to how they related to Millenials. That's 100 percent true. They are not buying in the same way, leasing in the same way, or following the patterns people use to follow. That said, from an interest perspective, they are very much interested. Whether it's around automation and artificial intelligence, companies like Tesla Motors, electric cars, they are no interested in the same things that the previous generation of gearheads were interested in. But, something we've found and which helps differentiate us, is figuring out who is that new auto enthusiasts. Maybe it's not about that hot rod and smoking tires, it's more about the technology and AI. For us, it's all about finding and defining the next generation of auto enthusiasts, and figuring out who that person is.

Thanks, and good luck!





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