From launching the careers of emerging artists to serving as the HQ for legacy media companies like Turner and Cox, Atlanta’s influence on music, culture, and the entertainment industry can’t be overstated.
Now, local investors and Mark Cuban are backing an Atlanta-based media group looking to grow the city’s next media empire.
Offbeat Media Group, launched by a group of UGA alumni, has built a native media network with over 1 billion followers to date, a concept first trailblazed by Offbeat’s co-founder Bailey Grady when he was just a sophomore in high school. With new investments from Mark Cuban and Atlanta Ventures, the team is growing quickly and expanding its own original content.
Shep Ogden, one of the Offbeat co-founders, started working in the ad and social media space during college. He eventually scaled up the enterprise to an “ad network of publishers, influencers, meme pages, travel pages, and gaming pages that other influencer agencies or marketing companies wouldn’t go after.” With clients in 10 countries, the team works to integrate global brands’ content on different publishers’ pages.
They’ve already garnered quite an impressive client list, helping brands like Twitch, Netflix, TikTok, Warner Music, and Grubhub market new content.
Virtual Humans Forming Real Connections
Ogden describes the launch into original content and social shows as the building of the 21st Century version of MTV.
The Offbeat team is also pioneering new spaces in the virtual world.
Around two years ago, Ogden said that record labels started approaching the Offbeat team to help get their artists embedded in culturally relevant social media trends, like virtual idols. After following the trend of virtual idols and online avatars, Offbeat’s co-founder Christopher Travers built VirtualHumans.org as a place to “really document, cultivate, and empower the virtual humans industry, and help brands to create their own virtual humans.”
Ogden and his team believe virtual humans can ultimately serve as brand spokespeople and become part of a customers’ full user journey. In a blog post, the Atlanta Ventures team wrote that “while unclear the exact path things will go, we believe the virtual human space presents a huge opportunity for brands, media, and consumers to collectively engage with.”
It was also the virtual humans website that first caught Mark Cuban’s eye.
“We got an email from Mark Cuban through the contact form, and we didn’t actually think it was him at first,” Ogden said. After a few emails back and forth, the Offbeat team got on a call with Cuban about a potential investment.
Despite their global reach, the team is proud to grow in Atlanta. “There’s a lot of legacy brands that did build something massive here, like Cox and Turner, but there haven’t been as many new ones,” Ogden told Hypepotamus. “One of the things that we like about Atlanta is really the ability to meet the people you need to meet. We’re one of the few companies doing what we’re doing. Everyone’s passionate about Atlanta, and everyone’s wanting to help a company here in Atlanta. Most of our clients might be in LA and New York, but we have great talent here in Atlanta.”
Keeping Up With Social Trends
The latest Pew Research data suggests that upwards of 72% of American adults have a social media presence. The proliferation of new platforms like Tik Tok and Clubhouse over the last few years has made it even more essential for brands to find the right digital audience. Ogden told Hypepotamus that managing multiple meme pages and popular profiles has helped the team see online trends as they are developing. “We move where the attention is. If the attention is on Tik Tok, we now have audiences on Tik Tok. Snapchat has been around for a while but it’s having a resurgence now.”
Ogden added that the team is using Snapchat to launch its show, a man-on-the-street interview series called ‘Excuse Me, What?’
He said Snapchat has managed to stay profitable by starting to invest in creators to make new content. “It’s a straight-up Netflix competitor, but most people don’t think of [Snapchat] like that.”