Media Interview with Sam Barcroft, Founder and CEO of Barcroft Media
Can you rewind to 2003, when the agency first launched, and tell us how it all started?
I was a freelance photographer working for various magazines and newspapers and I decided that it was time to expand my solo business so I formed a company and hired an assistant and that was the beginning. Back at home in my spare room in Tottenham, we all worked really hard until we graduated to a small office in a local business park and the rest is history.
What’s the difference between Barcroft Media, Barcroft TV and Barcroft Productions?
We have a few divisions, Barcroft Media is our content creation company that concentrates on news and provides content for news outlets all around the world, from Mail Online, Guardian.com to print newspapers and television shows. Barcroft Media was our original business, from that content we developed our TV brand, Barcroft TV. Barcroft TV is a business to consumer brand that reaches millions of viewers through YouTube, MSN and other major web portals. Barcroft Productions is our stand alone TV production company that provides finished TV shows and series to broadcasters.
Barcroft TV has attracted 311 million views on YouTube and currently has 329,000 subscribers. Do you think your experience as a former photographer has helped with producing great content?
I think it hindered for quite some time because what a lot of people don’t realise is that print journalism, although very successful and has a great history in this country, is very different to television and video journalism and requires a different set of skills. Although we often tell the same stories, it’s told in a different way. As a photographer for national newspapers & magazines, I thought the transition would be quite straight forward but it took some time and a lot of trial and error to realise we needed a different approach to creating excellent video content. But with a fresh approach we got the right talent and finally cracked it (I hope).
Barcroft Media focuses on ‘the amazing side of life’ – providing content that provokes an emotional reaction. Do you think this is why it has such a global appeal?
Yes, because as humans we’re all excited by generally the same thing, wherever we are in the world. People are stimulated by shocking news or challenging news in the same way. There is a universal appeal to well produced, exciting human interest stories.
Can you tell us about some of your biggest scoops?
A recent one was around the Boston bombings that happened early last year. We had a lot of background information and exclusive pictures and stories about the Tsarnaev brothers, which ran all over the world. We also revealed Madonna was adopting a baby from Malawi. And we did some good work surrounding child labour around the Commonwealth Games in India. These are just a few that spring to mind.
Do you work closely with PRs and how would pitching for digital content differ to print?
We do work closely with a small group of PRs, some of the leading PRs in the country. What they recognise about us is that we have a second-to-none editorial distribution network; we have contracts with major newspapers and websites to provide content into them on a daily basis; and we also have our own Barcroft TV platform that reaches millions of people in the UK and abroad. The companies that work with us understand that the content we produce together has to have a certain newsworthiness, and so we work slightly differently with PRs to a lot of other news agencies or companies. We only really want to work on projects that we feel will have serious reach and will have positive impact, so we do a fair amount of PR work now. But most of it, I would say, people wouldn’t realise was publicity, it would be seen very much as editorial.
Do you just have staff contributors working for Barcroft, or do you commission freelancers?
We do have a team of staff here and based in our other two headquarters, but we use freelancers every day. Mostly we use videographers, and photographers to work on assignment for us, but we also hire in producers, coordinators and directors. We have a fantastically talented team here, but with the scale of work we have now we need to draw on all the fantastic talent that we can find around our HQs to be able to deliver the work of a high standard that our clients expect from us.
How should people get in touch with you?
The best way to get in touch with us is to email our section editors. I think you can find a list of them on the contact page on our website, and they’re the people to ping a letter and a CV to. We’re very interested in working with talented freelancers.
So what are your plans for the next three years?
Mostly lying on the beach, but I don’t know whether that’ll come off, unfortunately. We’ve got some really ambitious plans for the next three years, a lot of which I can’t really talk about at the moment. But I can certainly say that they revolve around continuing the success of Barcroft TV as a B2C brand, and building on that success. We were named YouTube’s number one emerging news channel and I think SocialBlade.com now has us in the top five news channels in the world, so we’re very excited by that. Our TV production company has been going from strength to strength, and we’re looking forward to getting more series away on TV. And thirdly, we really want to continue our influence and reach in the world of online publishing, which is growing so quickly.
On a personal note, what would you say are your three favourite foods?
It depends on where I am in the world – one of the benefits of my job is travelling a lot, and travelling a lot means you’re often sitting in restaurants on your own, which is quite weird! I love sashimi when I’m in Japan and eating curry in Delhi; when I’m in our office there is a really fantastic experience. Eating shepherd’s ice cream on the farm where I live in Hay-on-Wye with my children is my third favourite thing, I’d say.