Less than a month after launching, Sean "Diddy" Combs's Revolt music channel debuts a new website at Revolt.TV, which aims to integrate with the broadcast channel to create a multi-platform "MTV for millennials."
"It's young people who Sean Combs really wants to fall in love with Revolt and to make it a place of their own to find and share music," says Conor Brady, chief creative officer at Huge, the digital strategy firm that built the new site. "He would often talk about watching his kids on the sofa finding and listening to music on their phones and it became clear to everyone when we were working on this, that there really isn't a single great place for either kids or artists—if they're looking to launch a new release or make a big statement—to go these days. In my generation, it was MTV, and you got it via a TV screen in the living room."
Revolt—whose cable station is available in Comcast and Time Warner Cable households—is set up to feel the same and work the same whether you're watching on TV, or using a desktop, laptop, tablet, or a smartphone, says Brady. The new Revolt.TV is formatted as a continuous feed, reflecting the way that people consume news and features on social media. There are no sections and subsections, just one continuous feed of content.
"Understanding that this generation has a short attention span and a critical eye, we set out to make something that really works for them and that can run all day in the background, but that provides them with real value whenever you they want to dip into it." The site was conceived and designed in less than eight weeks, including heavy design involvement from Combs. "He would show it to his kids to get their feedback and the reaction he would get from them when they opened it for the first time—that meant a lot to him."
While the channel is currently focused on music videos and a few original news/interview shows, the feed’s content will primarily include news, video from both the TV channel and dedicated digital content teams, and social media posts from Revolt and others across the web. There will also be real-time alerts related to the broadcast channel’s programming, and users can customize the feed to focus on the types of items they’re most interested in. The digital component is also designed to break into the television broadcast in the form of pop-ups or tickers with news and social media posts.
Fitting the network’s theme of "revolution," there will also be a citizen journalism component, wherein users who have been vetted as "ingrained in pop culture and different movements in music," will be authorized to post video, photos, or other content directly to the feed, according to Huge’s VP of User Experience Sophie Kleber. The current Revolt.TV site has a "We Want You" section where videographers, photographers, and other content creators can submit links to their work. Revolt Communications Director Kai Wright says the site (in its previous iteration) received 10,000 submissions.
"The feed can live larger than the channel," says Kleber, noting that the channel programming itself, including its online stream, is restricted to subscribers to contracted cable providers (meaning, if you want to watch it online, you'll have to sign in, kind of like HBO Go). But since the TV channel isn't available in all markets, "it’s really important that the feed communicates what Revolt is," says Kleber.
Whether Revolt’s hybrid approach will resonate with consumers remains to be seen, and will likely depend on the content. Music news and video sites are plentiful on the Internet, and music-focused networks like Fuse have failed to get anywhere close to early-MTV-like success. Revolt is relying on the vision and leadership of Combs, who has been extremely visible in the network’s early days, and by all accounts is deeply involved in the channel’s content programming, messaging, and imagery.
"You can’t underestimate the power of relationships that Sean Combs has," says Brady. "There will be more exclusive and first-time releases through Revolt." Exclusive previews and streams, of course, have become the primary currency of digital music properties, and sites like NPR, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Billboard routinely premiere music from huge stars. It's unclear what advantage will come from having a big name behind the site; Justin Timberlake’s coownership and stewardship of MySpace, for instance, has yet to result in any significant coup. And Revolt’s stated focus on a Combs-led "purposeful and thoughtful music curation," as Wright describes it, is a popular theme for new music destinations, including soon-to-launch services like Jimmy Iovine’s Beats Music.
But Wright believes Combs’s vision combined with the network’s focus on an integrated social media approach will make it a unique multi-platform experience with a well-defined feel and mission.
"We program for conversation and to start conversation," says Wright. "What we put on social media is just as important as what’s on air. We’ll put as much effort into a 15-second Instagram video as a 30-minute show."