DeFranco Elite: Not Another News Media Outlet

After four years of working with Group Nine and Discovery Digital Networks, YouTuber Philip DeFranco regained control over his properties. Now, he wants to fulfill his long-held dream to build “the next great news network,” which will be called the DeFranco Elite.

I can’t claim to be an active follower of DeFranco’s social media presence, but I’m enthralled by his ambitious endeavor. What about his network is so special and why should I give him my money? The longer I watched the video, the longer my question went unanswered.

What is it?
On his Patreon page, DeFranco describes his network as the following:

A show that prides itself on exposing fake news, properly investigating, researching and explaining all sides/arguments, and then sharing my opinion to start a discussion about this crazy world that we live in.

In short, this is DeFranco’s attempted pitch: a network that will seek the truth. But almost every news network does this. When it comes to exposing “fake news,” misconceptions, or falsehoods in the media, Politifact, Snopes and the Washington Post all already accomplish this. NPR released a guideline in December 2016. The Washington Post created a Chrome extension to challenge Trump’s tweets.  This pitch doesn’t isn’t convincing enough to invest in such an endeavor. Other organizations are doing this and have been for decades. Most of them cost the consumer nothing.

Who Are You Again?
An important factor that’s curiously missing from the conversation is press passes. While I’m certain DeFranco himself is aware of this, it isn’t visibly outlined in his Patreon, despite seeking staff members. Thus, his fans will be unaware of this.

Because it is a new network, it could take a while for DeFranco’s staff to get press passes. In order to achieve this, staff will need to provide information about the network. The staff in question will need to be seasoned enough to create a compelling reason to convince the other party to let them cover a story.  They might not be successful in getting the press pass the first go-around, especially if the particular reporters don’t have experience beyond a YouTube channel. A likable vlogger or friend of DeFranco isn’t going to cut it.

Where Does the Rubber Hit the Road?
DeFranco Elite will need to build trust before he can truly get the credentials to make it happen.

Until then, unfortunately, DeFranco will need to be diligent about the content he is sourcing to report until this is achieved. After all, he is attempting to create a network with unbiased content.

This is particularly important: content will already need to be in the queue before they can ask for a press pass. Events, organizations, and agencies do not just want anyone to have access to their records or employees. This, of course, will and should disappoint his audience. Why should they give DeFranco money to regurgitate the news they could read for free? Because he doesn’t make it clear how this will happen, it creates room for assumptions.

Why Should I Listen to You
DeFranco acknowledges that these changes will not happen overnight.

Now, this is going to take time just because we launch this campaign doesn’t mean boom the news network exists. The last thing I want to do is over promise or blow smoke up your ass and disappoint you.

This disclaimer though comes minutes before a lengthy wish-list:

Deep dives, debates, new podcasts, new interviews with experts getting out on the street to see what people really think also going out on the street to mess with people. Not in a “it’s a prank bro” kind of way but in a way to see what people actually know what they think also shows that involve you and building the tech around that to make it easier.

Buzzfeed, Vox, The Atlantic, Politico, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News already do almost all of these things. Even if these particular sources aren’t palatable to you, it would be disingenuous to say that this is a novel idea.

DeFranco promises “shows that involve you,” but what does this mean exactly? Most of the networks mentioned above interact with their audience through live streams, events, and Facebook groups. DeFranco doesn’t really explain this in his pitch, and a potential answer is hidden behind a paywall on his Patreon page.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 10.28.25 PM

Ideally, a consumer shouldn’t have to pay for a product or service before actually knowing what it is.

DeFranco wants to run a network under his vision of “getting the facts right first” before expressing opinions. This is already being done by CNN, and it’s a widely unpopular practice.

Mediators like Anderson Cooper present the facts but one side will always refuse to accept the fact, simply because it doesn’t jive with their narrative. This not new. It’s only human. By giving more than one side the opportunity to speak, DeFranco is opening himself up to the very real possibility that one side will not accept something as fact, regardless of how it is presented.

DeFranco also mentions giving “his opinion” which not only isn’t much of a deviation from what he already does, but it also isn’t news or groundbreaking. MSNBC and Fox News butt heads doing this.

I love the evening line up on MSNBC. I would be upset if Lawerence O’Donnell left the network. But let’s be honest: punditry and “asking questions” isn’t news. It’s just fodder for the ideas one already holds.

How are You Doing This
A large part of what makes the new media that has risen over the course of the past several years is that there was space for the purpose they served.

According to Business Insider, Vice CEO Shane Smith was one of the few to truly understand the power of digital first. Buzzfeed learned how to maximize their relationships with brands, making them “the first company to give advertisers the audience they wanted, when they wanted, and wherever they were.”  Despite a few stumbles since its 2014 launch, Vox was able to create a platform to make the news contextual and digestible.

Say what you will about these platforms, but the leadership of each organization recognized how they could differentiate themselves from a sea of noise in an ever-changing environment. DeFranco Elite, unfortunately, does not.

It’s easy to claim that they’re exposing “fake news.” But everyone has done this even before “fake news” had a name. DeFranco Elite will not be the first or last to try. Much of what DeFranco wants to do is being done by multiple news networks.

Philip DeFranco and his viewers are disenchanted by the mainstream media. And, yet, he’s ripping pages from their playbook and expects his audience to pay the tab.

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