What's Trending Expands With Veteran Digital Executive (Exclusive)
James Haffner joins the company from DeFranco Creative, a division of Discovery Communications.
What's Trending has hired a seasoned digital executive as it continues to expand beyond its roots as a YouTube channel with a weekly show into a multiplatform digital company.
The company has appointed James Haffner to the newly created position of chief operating officer. In the role, Haffner will work with What's Trending co-founder Shira Lazar to grow the company's footprint with original content, branded entertainment, co-productions and international expansion.
Haffner was most recently executive producer at DeFranco Creative, the digital network created by YouTuber Philip DeFranco. While there, he helped build the company's merchandise division and helped it launch new content verticals. He also was part of the team that sold DeFranco Creative to Discovery Communications in 2013.
"Our goal is to aggressively grow the What's Trending brand in 2015 and who better to help us make that happen than James Haffner, who has an amazing track record, having previously built successful media properties and digital businesses," said Lazar. "I am really looking forward to working with James. He's the perfect candidate to help elevate What's Trending to new heights."
Lazar co-founded What's Trending in 2011 with Damon Berger. That year, What's Trending established a relationship with CBS News, which hosted the web series on its website. But CBSNews.com severed the relationship a few months later after the show's Twitter account erroneously tweeted that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had died. Lazar later apologized for the tweet.
In the years since, the company has grown its brand of newsy YouTube videos into variety shows and live specials distributed across a number of platforms. In October last year, What's Trending expanded into India via a partnership with Mumbai-based Culture Machine.
"Shira has built What's Trending into one of the most recognizable brands in our industry," said Haffner. "I believe there is tremendous opportunity for the company in 2015. I am really excited about diving in with her and the team to scale the brand and further build a creative, innovative and thriving business in the digital space."