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For entertainment start-up Mitu, Facebook might be sharable but Snapchat's relatable

For entertainment start-up Mitu, Facebook might be sharable but Snapchat's relatable
Mitú founders Beatriz Avecedo and Doug Greiff oversee a production. The company has now begun posting to Snapchat Discover. (MiTu)

To understand the differences between Snapchat and Facebook from a media company's perspective, entertainment start-up Mitú provides a striking example.

The Santa Monica company considers itself a leader in providing news and laughs to the nation's young Latinos, a group that numbers around 30 million and speaks English but remains connected to its heritage.

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On Monday, Mitú became the newest U.S. channel on Snapchat's curated media hub Discover. Similar to the 20-plus existing channels such as MTV and BuzzFeed, Mitú will each day supply at least 10 articles, videos or images on Discover, most of them exclusive to Snapchat. It’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Short commercials appear between them. Terms of the financial agreement between Snapchat maker Snap Inc. and Mitú were not disclosed.

Mitú posts to Facebook and other social media websites too. But Snapchat gives readers an unrivaled experience, as Mitú's Chief Product Officer Mike Su noted. Here's how.

• Attracting readership for stories that make people smile is easy on Facebook because that's the stuff people want to like and share. But a link to say Steven Spielberg's Holocaust masterpiece "Schindler's List" wouldn't go over so well because it "would depress my entire friends' list," Su said. Snapchat is a more intimate environment. People have to carefully choose whom to send a link to. And they are exposed to everything if they explore Discover as opposed just the stories that have the most shares. That has Su thinking that content about dating, undocumented immigrants and other sensitive subjects will become bigger topics of conversation in the Snapchat universe. "It's things very important to community but something they might not want to share to the rest of their feed," he said.

• Facebook is the No. 1 reason Mitú has increased its readership to 16 million people a day over the last 18 months. Why? Facebook is a meritocracy: Offer interesting content and it can spread like wildfire. The problem is it often moves within the same community of users, what Su describes as preaching to the choir.

Becoming part of Snapchat Discover requires getting hand-picked by the Venice start-up, so it's more difficult to get started. But once in, every story gets broadcast to anyone who opts to tune in, and there's less competition. To Su, that means being able to pull in a bigger audience and have a bigger effect on society.

Hip-hop might be very much about the black experience, but it's enjoyed by people across cultures. And the same for Korean pop. The genres are authentic about a certain group's experience, increasing its appeal to outsiders.

"N.W.A. — they have this pride and unapologetic attitude that resonates," Su said. "We program to that authentic and unapologetically Latino voice."

Having Mitú on Snapchat holds promise for showing Americans new representations of Latinos, who are too often depicted in media as drug traffickers or hotel maids. Su's hopeful that such exposure will lead to more appreciation of Latinos' role in American life.

• Lastly, Discover separates posts from companies such as Mitú and posts from a user's friends. Facebook merges different forms of content into one big feed.

Su said the separation gets people settled into an open and intrigued mind-set when they enter Discover. He sees that as important to engendering loyalty from users. They'll be more likely to recognize Mitú as a brand, and the company will get a better sense of whether it can inspire readers to come back daily than it does on Facebook.

"Building a brand that people fall in love with is the most important thing," Su said. "Snapchat provides us a great way to reach part of that audience."

Stop, Breathe & Think: Meditation for millennials

Jamie Price and Julie Campistron co-founded a company developing online software to guide people through mental health activities.
Jamie Price and Julie Campistron co-founded a company developing online software to guide people through mental health activities. (Stop, Breathe & Think)

Venice start-up Stop, Breathe & Think raised $1.3 million from investors as it strives to become a major mental health care provider for middle schoolers up through young adults.

The company's app, which includes both free and subscription-only elements, guides 200,000 users each month through meditation exercises. The app began as a companion to workshops that are intended to improve the emotional health of impoverished teenagers. But co-founder Jamie Price had larger aspirations and teamed up a year ago with long-time Demand Media executive Julie Campistron to turn the app into a business on its own.

Monday's funding announcement validates the initial success they've had in what's emerging as a hot field for venture capitalists. Start-ups developing pills, headgear, digital activities and other tools aimed at boosting mental health have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.

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Stop, Breathe & Think — Campistron recognizes the name is a mouthful, but nothing better has emerged — expects to stand out because of the tactics it employs to make people stick to a regimen. They include digital stickers as rewards for achievements, tracking progress closely and integrating with popular apps and devices, including Kik and Amazon Echo.

"The lighthearted tone, playfulness and rewards are important elements to keep people engaged," said Campistron, the firm's chief executive. "There's an image of what a healthcare company is that might look more serious, but we feel this is the way it's going to work and be more accessible to people."

The app's target users include students who might be stressed about finals, or someone's who is seeing a therapist to combat depression. The hope is that the app is more enjoyable than taking a pill, and that it can change people's behavior and mind-sets for the better long-term.

Stop, Breathe & Think plans to expand well beyond meditation. It could offer videos that guide people through yoga and other physical exercises to help those experiencing stress or insomnia. Dieting could become a major component. Soon, a feature could prompt people to write diary entries, such as chronicling what the user is grateful for each day.

"We're working on this idea of journeys, let's say anxiety or sadness," Campistron said. "And have every day be a bite-sized piece of content or inspiration to work on that."

Going into healthcare is likely to subject the company to regulatory scrutiny at some point, Campistron said. But she expects assistance from lead investor LaunchPad Digital Health, which is run by veteran health technologists.

"We want to start those conversations and start building those relationships," she said of working with regulators as well as larger healthcare companies. "We want to be ahead."

The company's initial investor and its home base is new business mentorship facility AmplifyLA in Venice. Stop, Breathe & Think supports Tools for Peace, the nonprofit it was born out of, with 10% of net sales.

Elsewhere on the Web

Honest Co. is losing two top executives and letting go of about 80 of its 550 employees early next year as it automates some call center roles and focuses more on offline sales and other areas, according to WWD.

Sean Rad is stepping down as CEO of Match Group-owned dating app Tinder for the second time in two years, according to Recode. This time, he’s switching jobs with Chairman Greg Blatt to instead focus on making investments in matchmaking technology.

Online video maker New Form has raised $18 million from Discovery Channel's parent company and a British broadcaster, according to Variety.

Snap's research division is expanding hiring of people with expertise in 3-D modeling, according to Business Insider. Other new Snap job postings are looking for people who know how to manage the Hollywood production process or have gun permits so they can guard Snap employees.

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Finance technology start-up Digitzs is closing in on $3 million in equity crowdfunding, according to PaymentsSource.

Santa Monica workplace software company Cornerstone onDemand is still feeling pressure from activist investors to explore new directions, including a sale, according to Bloomberg.

In case you missed it

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Hacking 4 Diplomacy: These Stanford students are hacking the government to try to solve the world's problems.

Soylent CEO Robert Rhinehart still hasn't removed remnants of a shipping-container home he allegedly had placed illegally in Montecito Heights, a prosecutor said.

Twitter: @peard33

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