The most surprising creation of the pandemic started with a tweet.
Alright everybody, how about #SomeGoodNews ! Send me the stories that have made you feel good this week or the things that just made you smile!
— John Krasinski (@johnkrasinski) March 25, 2020
At that moment it wasn’t clear that just days later, on March 30, actor John Krasinski would post the first episode of Some Good News to YouTube. Before we were all inundated with Instagram Lives and Zoom shows, Krasinski produced a charming broadcast with his wife, Emily Blunt, running the lighting and his logo created by his daughter.
Beyond Krasinski’s charisma, surprising interview chops, and ability to corral his celebrity friends, there was a certain romance to the idea that a Hollywood star had cobbled together this production from his home office. Not surprisingly then, that potent mix made the show an instant hit. Its premiere episode has racked up 17 million views. Episodes featuring the casts of The Office and Hamilton have 12 million. The Virtual Prom episode has 6.3 million. Last week, ViacomCBS acquired Some Good News, after a reputed bidding war, to run on its CBS All Access streaming service.
It was big news, considering the show is only eight weeks old and shot at The Office star’s house.
But what’s been missing from the story is that the success of Some Good News has been a family affair, a distributed one that extends well beyond Krasinski’s wife and children.
It was this team working behind the scenes that has played an untold role in making the “DIY” show a hit.
On post-production were the New York-based shops Senior Post and Leroi. Nashville’s Made In Network handled video distribution across other platforms. Calgary’s Arcade ran social media. And Giflytics in New Haven, Connecticut, did the GIF analytics.
The platform that brought them all together is called Communo, and Some Good News has been very good news for the upstart company, showcasing a different model for sophisticated production that enables projects to continue.
Founded in 2017, Communo is a subscription-based platform for both creative and production shops and individuals to find short-term project work. Users pay a set monthly subscription fee, which is tiered depending on whether it’s a single person or a company of a particular size. In response to COVID-19, basic individual memberships are free, with a “Pro” option for $49 per month. Company fees range from $300 to $1,500 per month.
Communo doesn’t get a cut of any work contracts. “Because we’re a subscription-based model, not a take-rate model like Uber [and other gig economy platforms], it helps us with labor issues,” says Ryan Gill, Communo founder and CEO. “We’re not involved in the actual contract, which is between two businesses. Those issues are dealt directly between producers and contractors. We’re just the matchmaker.”
Krasinski found out about the platform through a friend of a friend. “Out of the gate, it wasn’t always going to be eight episodes, it was a bit on demand, let’s see what happens,” says Gill. “From the time the jobs went up on the platform, it was four to six days before the show went live. That kind of speed—coordinating things like post-production and social—is amazing.”
Gill says that the Some Good News producers knew what they wanted, and the Communo team helped them break that down into individual jobs as well as find other things that they might not know they needed. “Like GIFs, for example. The SGN GIFs alone now have more than 287 million views. That came from our team to make sure they had a GIF person in the Communo community.”
The platform currently has more than 30,000 users, which include individuals and creative shops of all sizes, allowing prospective clients the chance to get job needs out quickly and at scale. Gill says that since the pandemic hit, with many companies cutting staff, user sign-ups were up 1,400%, and the market value of posted projects was up 1,300%. On a random Wednesday in May, Gill says Communo hosted $82 million in open job opportunities, with the average assignment being about $57,000.
In January, the company raised a $2.4 million seed round, bringing its total funding to date to about $3.1 million, with participants including Venmo founder Andrew Kortina and Complex CEO Rich Antoniello.
Right now, it’s yet to be determined whether the same team of Communo members will continue with Some Good News once it starts back up again under ViacomCBS. The show’s sale has already been controversial, with Krasinski coming in for the bulk of the criticism, because he’s now seen as profiting from what had seemed like a labor of love during the quarantine. That ire may shift to SGN‘s new owner if it jettisons all the folks who secretly made the show work.
But even if the Communo crew doesn’t return to work on SGN, Gill says it’s still a perfect proof point.
“John obviously gets all the credit, but it lets people know that game-changing work can be built by the crowd,” he says. “It always comes down to execution. Typically that can take months to plan, choosing partners, and all that. This happened in four days. That’s the story. And it happens every day on the platform.”