If you’re Italian and under 35, chances are you have heard of Will Media. Launched in 2020 on Instagram, Will Media has become a prominent presence in the media landscape, capturing the attention of Italian youth and beyond with 2.9 million followers across platforms, 1.3 billion impressions on Instagram only in 2022, and 17 million podcast download per year. We talked to the co-founder of Will-Media, Alessandro Tommasi, to delve into the story and explore the key factors contributing to its remarkable success.
What inspired you to create Will media? Can you share the story behind its inception and if there was a specific gap in the market that you aimed to address?
There were two main needs that we sought to solve from the very beginning. The first need was to share knowledge with non-traditional news readers, particularly those who were not accustomed to reading newspapers. This resonated with the people I grew up with, as I was often the only one interested in politics and current events. I felt a strong desire to share this information with them, as it mattered to me. I then noticed that during pivotal moments, they would become curious and ask me about voting or what was happening in the world. However, I never imposed my political views on them; instead, I aimed to explain the situation. This led me to consider the possibility of doing this on a larger scale.
The second need was more professional in nature, stemming from my experience as a manager in different companies. I observed that as these organizations transitioned from focusing solely on shareholders to considering stakeholders, they needed to address a wider audience. However, the highly polarized and politically charged environment of traditional Italian media made it challenging for these companies to tackle broader topics. We wanted to create a space where the community could understand global events beyond the daily political arena disputes, fostering a genuine interest in the world.
Who is your target audience?
We don't have a specific target audience; we have an audience that is constantly evolving. Currently, a majority of our audience comprises young people, as they are more active on social media platforms. However, our goal was never to exclusively target young individuals. We always aimed to be a bridge between generations. Interestingly, as the community ages, it benefits us because we are facilitating the transfer of values from one generation to another. At the beginning, more than 80% of our audience was below the age of 35, now that percentage is around 70%, and the remaining percentage consists of individuals between 35 and 44 years old.
Why the choice of no written article and why is there no content directly available on the website?
We made the choice to meet our audience where they are, and that typically isn't on our website. People don't use websites on a daily basis anymore. If we followed the traditional news organization model with a website, we would constantly need to refresh the homepage every five minutes or so. This would create an environment that goes against what we believe in.
As co-creator of Will media, can you share the editorial vision that drives the content curation strategy?
Our content curation strategy is driven by a strong set of values. We focus on four main aspects: demographic change, chronological change, increased sensitivity to climate change, and new ways of producing economic values. These four pillars form the basis of our discussions. On a quarterly basis, we decide on around 40% of the topics we will cover, while the remaining 60% is determined in bi-weekly and weekly discussions. The most important meeting we have is the daily meeting, where the core team gathers to brainstorm and plan. This is how we operate and ensure that our content is diverse and engaging.
What makes you different from other media? What are according to you some key factors to your success?
We believe that what sets us apart is our approach. We don't provide people with a recipe or a prescribed set of opinions. We are highly opinionated when it comes to the agenda and the topics, we think are important to discuss. However, we are not judgmental, and we don't tell people how things should be done. Our focus is on facilitating meaningful discussions and providing people with the information that should be discussed, which is quite distinct from the approach of many other media outlets.
Will Media has explored various media formats, from videos to interactive experiences. Is there a particular format that you find most exciting or challenging to work with? And why?
Every format and platform presents its own unique challenges. TikTok, for example, is particularly complicated due to the nature of the platform and the identity questions it raises. If we look at examples like Unilever, we see that different media outlets handle these challenges differently. The New York Times focuses on pure quality while not being overly concerned about smaller numbers. On the other hand, The Washington Post underwent a change in identity. For us, it's an interesting debate.
Measuring Impact: What metrics or indicators do you use to assess the impact and success of Will media?
When assessing the impact and success of Will Media, we focus on various metrics and indicators. These include engagement rate, follower growth, and other relevant data points that reflect the level of audience interaction and reach. However, we have also set our own standards and established a strategic plan that guides our actions. We are cautious not to fall into the trap of constantly chasing data and allowing it to dictate our content decisions. Instead, we strive to maintain control over the narrative and avoid spinning in circles or succumbing to news control. By resisting the temptation to simply follow popular topics based on data, we prioritize fostering proper discussions rather than polarizing the discourse. This approach ensures that we uphold our values and provide a platform for meaningful conversations.
Does Will Media incorporate user-generated content and foster a sense of community and involvement?
Though we do not incorporate user-generated content, we always try to include our audience. As a matter of fact we had a 20 stops tour in Italy, where we invite the ‘community’ and have a discussion. We ask them ‘What topics keep you awake at night? What is the most difficult topic to discuss at lunch with your parents?', and that’s it, we encourage our audience to share their thoughts, perspectives, and ideas.
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of Will Media? How do you envision the company evolving in the coming years?
Our primary aspiration is to stay relevant and true to our plan. We want to continue providing valuable content, fostering discussions, and engaging our audience. As for the future, we aim to expand our reach, deepen our impact, and adapt to the evolving media landscape while staying true to our core values.
Finally, what advice would you give to other media companies seeking to engage with younger generations and stay relevant in an ever-changing media landscape?
My advice would be to find your own voice and embrace the topics you discuss. Instead of simply talking about them, strive to understand them deeply and provide genuine value to your audience. Don't just chase the data; use it wisely to inform your decisions without polarizing the topics. It's crucial to maintain a balance between engaging content and responsible journalism.