Vidcon: Katie Couric, Buzzfeed’s Ze Frank discuss emotion behind digital content

Ze Frank of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures speaks with Katie Couric about the future of narrative media in the ballroom at VidCon.

Ze Frank of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures speaks with Katie Couric about the future of narrative media in the ballroom at VidCon.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

If Katie Couric dyes her hair blue, blame VidCon.

The former network anchor took the stage at the annual online video conference in Anaheim on Thursday to interview Buzzfeed Motion Pictures President Ze Frank, whom she deemed the “OG of this industry.”

“This is my first VidCon and I feel very old -- I’m going to go home and dye my hair blue now,” Couric joked. “Did you notice how everyone here has blue hair?”

The media heavyweight, who serves as Yahoo’s Global News Anchor, asked Frank about his thoughts on the future of digital entertainment and what it takes to create content that resonates with audiences.


Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, a division of the Buzzfeed media company that launched in 2014, focuses on creating any and all moving images -- from animated GIFs to feature films.

It recently expanded into unscripted medium-form content and serialized formats with developed characters and storylines. Frank said the company produces 75 short-form videos a week and 100 pieces of bite-size content.

When Couric asked Frank why he wanted to delve into the online video industry with Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, the online guru joked: “Why did I want to go into television and TV? Why’d you want to go online? What happened here!”

Couric, who came from traditional media, said she turned to the digital world because she felt she had done “pretty much everything” that she could in TV news.

“I wanted the flexibility...and the lack of structure that digital media could give me,” she said. “As a result I’m playing with all different formats.”

At Yahoo, that now entails conducting exclusive interviews with high-profile people such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ellen Pao.

Frank said Buzzfeed Motion Pictures focuses on “why people share media with each other” to figure out what content works.

“It became obvious that…people use media to express who they are,” he said. “We have now a modern opportunity to let people recognize a version of themselves in media that had been left out.”

The idea behind Buzzfeed’s studio was to “incubate talent the way they like to work” and to “change the process.”

“The way media is created is still very industrial, very specific roles that just do their thing,” Frank said. “The tools these days are cheap and you can learn them fast. There are more generalists, more fluid roles….so you can have people in front of the camera and behind the camera.”

As far as data go, Frank said they can be a helpful tool but not a guiding force.

“Media is about people, it’s about emotions, it’s about feelings…that’s what we are great at,” Frank said. “But data can help you start to see patterns and trends and start to reveal certain things that are hidden. All the data in the world isn’t going to tell you what to make but it can help you when you have a couple different options in front of you make choices.”

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