In the current era, traditional news channels have been challenged by new media platforms, pushing boundaries and changing the way we consume information. One of these remarkable challengers is Ac2ality, a Spanish start-up that has taken the media landscape by storm with its innovative, youth-oriented approach. The company has emerged as the biggest news player on TikTok in Europe, rapidly rising from a handful of followers to a massive audience.
The seed for Ac2ality was planted by co-founders Gabriela Campbell and Daniela McArena in London around 2015, amid the confusion of Brexit. Frustrated by the complexity of news articles and the barrier it posed for understanding current affairs, the duo envisioned a simpler, more digestible format. What began as an Instagram account summarizing current affairs morphed into a TikTok sensation when the "Five news about today" section unexpectedly went viral.
By leveraging TikTok's short video format and the appetite of a younger audience for straightforward content, Ac2ality exploded in popularity overnight. Campbell recalls: "One day, our follower count exploded. In the evening we had 100 followers and the next morning 40,000."
After this initial success, Ac2ality expanded their team and content offering, introducing "one-minute presentations on a single topic." They didn't stop there - branching out to YouTube and Twitch, constantly adapting and experimenting with content formats to best serve their audience.
Although the founders of Ac2ality are not journalists, their approach to news coverage is meticulous. They immerse themselves in a variety of news channels, compare facts from differing political perspectives, and always ensure their information is validated by multiple sources.
We had an exclusive interview with one of the founder, Gabriela Campbell, trying to dig deeper in the dynamics of a news startup, and most importantly understand what made them what they are today:
How did you come up with the idea? How did the adventure begin?
Gabriela Campbell: It all started before the pandemic, around 2015. Daniela Alvarez, the co-founder of Ac2ality, and I were studying in London at that time. Daniela and I often hung out together and discussed Brexit. After reading several news articles about Brexit, it was difficult to understand what was happening. We thought to ourselves, "I wish there was something that explains the news in a simpler way." My co-founder started working for the United Nations in New York with news about current affairs. She encountered the same problem: the information was very complicated.
Then my co-founder launched an Instagram account where she posted information summarizing current affairs in a simple way. I suggested using TikTok because, at the time, it was a new, trendy, and rapidly expanding platform. We tried several things, but the segment "Five news about today" went viral. One day, our number of subscribers exploded. In the evening, we had 100 followers, and the next morning, we had 40,000. After this success, two other girls joined our company. Another success was the "one-minute presentations on a single topic" and since then, we have been constantly creating video content about news. We also have YouTube and Twitch channels.
Are you planning to release other versions in different languages?
Gabriela Campbell: Currently, we are doing everything in Spanish, but the next step is to launch an English TikTok account.
How is the production organized?
Gabriela Campbell: We edit videos both on TikTok and on Canva. For more important videos, we work with a editing team that helps us with the shooting. The media agency, which is also our investor, assists us in various verticals, from video editing for YouTube and Twitch to marketing.
Why do the videos usually last 1 minute?
Gabriela Campbell: For our YouTube channel, we aim for longer videos (about 5 minutes) that explain most of the current events, conflicts in the world, such as the one where Russia attacked Ukraine. We use our TikTok videos for "Shorts" on YouTube, which are gaining popularity.
Twitch is a platform where we are still figuring out the best way to present the news. We are considering organizing live quizzes, where our subscribers can answer questions about current events.
Are you journalists?
Gabriela Campbell: Ultimately, we are not journalists. So our work process involves constantly watching different news channels, websites with different political opinions (left and right), and comparing their facts. When we come across interesting stories, we always choose the facts carefully and validate them with multiple sources. We also think about what could become viral and what would be a topic that everyone would talk about.
How long does it take to produce a video?
Gabriela Campbell: When we shoot, we have a script of 200 words, a summary of the story, but always in simple and understandable language. If a 13-year-old subscriber watches our video, they should be able to understand everything that is presented.
It took us some time to get used to being in front of a camera, but now we are comfortable, and shooting a video is fast. My three colleagues work from Spain, and I, based in London.
Personally, as a content creator, I can work from home and in another country since I live in London. All I need is a white wall. The work can sometimes be repetitive. We have a weekly schedule indicating who will make how many videos each day.
We usually post at 1:30 PM, 3 PM, 6:30 PM, and 7 PM. If there is more news, we post at 9 PM. We don't post early because we have viewers in Latin America for whom it is nighttime. On TikTok, you must make a MINIMUM of 3 videos per day.
Do you know the people who follow you?
Gabriela Campbell: We have a lot of followers (4.3 million).
Our main audience is aged 18 to 24, with approximately 65% girls and 35% boys. But we also have young people aged 13, 14, and 15 who want to know what's going on and follow us.
Our audience consists of Spanish speakers, mainly from Spain, but also from Latin America.
Do you involve the community?
Gabriela Campbell: Our regular followers often comment on the videos, refer to previous videos, and even create conversations.
Our key performance indicators are the number of likes, views, comments, and shares.
We have made some videos where we go out and ask people what they think about certain subjects, especially controversial ones. We have also asked questions about topics such as the name of the British Prime Minister, and it's fun to see that many people don't know it, and these questions work well on TikTok as parts of a video.
Often, our followers don't attach themselves to us as presenters, but they like our content.
What is Ac2ality's business model?
Gabriela Campbell: We can operate thanks to our investors, but we also try to collaborate with brands. For example, we recently promoted a new show coming to Amazon Prime.
Our new business model is to help other brands launch their TikTok accounts by acting as consultants. "We will launch your TikTok account, we will make X videos for you for an amount Y, and provide you with all the advice to continue managing it."
Thanks to our investors, our main focus now is growth, but revenues are currently out of reach. We are very careful about who we collaborate with to preserve our brand.
How do you verify your sources? How do you avoid fake news?
Gabriela Campbell: We mainly rely on other media publishers to get information. And sometimes, it's difficult to validate information and avoid fake news because we don't have our own sources. If they make mistakes, we make mistakes!
"We had a lot of new subscribers when we started covering the war in Ukraine."
What are your next challenges?
Gabriela Campbell: Our vision is to grow significantly in terms of subscribers. To engage more in consulting activities and eventually sell part of the company, but still continue working on it.
We had a lot of new subscribers when we started covering the content about Russia and Ukraine.
Today, it is increasingly difficult to go viral because TikTok is more concentrated, and viewers are much more selective.
Currently, we have 100,000 followers for our English channel, and I am in the process of developing a team in London. So we could find another way to grow.
We want to position ourselves as the "media account" on TikTok and aim to be one of the largest media accounts for news on TikTok.
The Future and What it Holds for Ac2ality
Looking ahead, Ac2ality plans to expand its content offering to an English-speaking audience and experiment with new content formats on Twitch, including live quizzes about news topics. The burgeoning success of Ac2ality illustrates the evolution of news consumption in the digital age.
As we look to the future, it's exciting to imagine how this new breed of news outlets will continue to evolve and adapt. As for Ac2ality, their success story serves as a powerful reminder that with a simple idea, a deep understanding of your audience, and the courage to try something new, you can change the world – one TikTok video at a time.