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Facebook is using a familiar strategy in its original video push: Youth first

  • In partnering with BuzzFeed, Vox Media and others for video content, Facebook is pursuing a familiar demographic.
  • The company has used a youth-first strategy in hiring and acquiring and in attacking Snapchat.
  • Locking in under-30 users now would mean more video ad dollars later.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Getty Images
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

As it begins producing original video content, Facebook looks to be using the same strategy it has applied with success in hiring workers, acquiring companies and attacking rivals:

Target the young and irreverent first.

If this latest incarnation of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's youth strategy succeeds, the company could soon apply to TV networks the same competitive pressure it's already putting on rivals like Twitter and Snapchat.

Facebook will partner with BuzzFeed, Vox Media and other news and entertainment companies focused on millennials to produce its first set of TV shows, according to Reuters.

That story follows others in reporting that the company is hiring more Hollywood-type personnel and planning a slate of a dozen shows, short and long form.

The focus on the under-30 set looks like the all-out attack Facebook has launched against Snapchat over the past year, by putting its best engineers to work aping the fun features of its younger, hipper rival.

That strategy is working, judging by both companies' first-quarter results.

Yet Facebook still has room for growth in the under-35 demographic, according to data from the German market research firm Statista, which shows that 45 percent of Facebook's U.S. users were under 35 as of January.

Locking in younger users now will mean more video advertising dollars later, given that their highest-earning years are likely ahead of them.

Such a trend will make them even more attractive to online marketers.

In the first quarter, Facebook advertising revenue surged 51 percent from a year earlier.

A youthful vibe

Partnering with companies whose often-irreverent content is targeted at millennials makes sense for anyone who's ever visited Facebook's home offices in Menlo Park, California.

Walking around the company's West Campus, located across the road from its headquarters on the southwestern shore of San Francisco Bay, the overwhelming vibe is one of youth at play.

Inside the vast, unfinished openness of Building 20, workers meet in conference rooms named for pet peeves like 'Cutting in Line' and 'Chewing With Your Mouth Open.'

In a sign seen in the building this week by a CNBC reporter, someone was encouraging employees to test the company's latest virtual reality offering with the exhortation: "Facebook 360 for VR, now Dogfooding."

On a wall nearby, the letters of the word "GROWTH" were spelled out in gold balloons.

In the outdoor pedestrian village a few hundred yards away, it's hard for a visitor to shake the impression of being inside a theme park for the young.

The health clinic, barber shop and dentist's office are located a very short walk from the game arcade, a burger joint and the Temple Bar, one of the campus's IT-help offices.

The uniformity of design and ultra convenience of having all these services clustered gives the place the look of a Hollywood movie set.

Now Zuckerberg is going Hollywood for real, and in targeting youth first he's doing as he did when he bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2013.

Back then, Instagram had just 30 million users.

The service now has 700 million — or more than four times more than Snapchat's 166 million — and helping to drive the company's overall growth.

If Facebook can grow its ecosystem of original video content in the same way, its first TV partnerships could prove just as lucrative.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in BuzzFeed and Vox Media.