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Condé Nast and Joe Media on creating a sustainable video strategy

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Getting online video right can bring lucrative revenue streams to publishers, and is often cited by as a key area for growth. But as more established media owners make the leap from written word to moving images, the challenges involved with monetising online video – and making that monetisation sustainable – are becoming ever clearer.

FIPP recently spoke to BBC Worldwide about the company’s new video content partnership deal with Snapchat. As the newly rebranded Snap Inc. launched on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) earlier this month, it did so with a plethora of traditional publisher/broadcaster content deals at its disposal, highlighting the growing appetite for premium online video content. Twitter will also reportedly announce later this month that it is opening up its Application Programming Interface (API) to allow publishers to livestream videos directly through the platform, in a move that it believes will help the company to better compete with Facebook Live. 

But livestreaming and social tie-ins are not the only ways that publishers are making money from online video in 2017. Indeed, as film has grown up and broken free from the high cost, Hollywood production value constraints of the previous television age, the medium has opened up a whole host of new opportunities for publishers looking to monetise audiences online. 

Here, Angela Byun, senior director international development and strategy for Condé Nast (focused in particular here on Golf Digest), and Will Hayward, CEO of Joe Media, provide some detailed insights into how they are creating successful and sustainable video publishing strategies online.

Joe Media

Joe Media a leading men’s lifestyle and entertainment publisher. The brand places a high emphasis on video content in all forms, and having previously also worked for both BuzzFeed and Dazed, the Company’s CEO Will Hayward is well placed to talk us through the evolution of the publisher video industry: 

“Broadly, across the industry, I think there have been three stages,” said Hayward. 

• “Firstly, with pre-roll the industry approached video with the same value proposition we did for traditional media: access to audience. We’re going to create a great video that lots of your target audience will look at because that content will be relevant to them. And you can then deliver a message before that. We will have no involvement in that message, our job is just to deliver the audience. That worked fine for a while but ultimately in the era of Google, Facebook, etc., access to audience isn’t a strong offering - they can deliver eyeballs at lower cost, higher scale, and greater targeting.”

• “Then we had the age of branded content, which to a certain extent is still going and has some strong value to offer. In this instance, publishers create the content themselves, and it is a good mix of content the audience expects from the publisher, but with some sort of brand message in there too. Ultimately, the challenge with this more often than not is that it arcs towards what the advertiser wants rather than what the audience will enjoy. This ironically means it is less effective, ending up as a slightly directionless half-way house between an advert and a bad piece of editorial.”

• “I think we’re now entering a new era. The focus for us at Joe is creating episodic, series based content that has brand sponsors. This is what radio and TV have done for years, and I think the format allows us to focus on the audience, create a long term relationship with them, but then also have a brand message in there as a defined segment that delivers clear and meaningful value.

The temptation with a company like Joe, which was founded in 2010 and is four years younger than BuzzFeed, is to think of its video offering purely in terms of a social timeline play, but actually as Hayward goes onto explain, there are a lot more options available.  

Will Haywards and Joe Media HP ()

Above: Will Hayward, CEO of Joe Media (far left), and screenshot of Joe Media's homepage.

“Our strategy is twofold: We have our extremely high reach entertainment content - more often than not, our world famous face swap videos. These generate millions of views a week and our audience love and share them like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We also have our own in-house studio that we use to create live, panel based shows. We broadcast our live football show every Friday night and generate in excess of a million views on a weekly basis. We’ll be rolling out a slate of other shows that approach topics outside of football in the coming months.” 

“The central point to everything we do is original content. There are a number of other companies out there that are focusing on aggregation and have built impressive scale on the back of this. But our bet long-term is that original premium content will win, so this is what we are focusing all of our time on. Our ambitions stretch a little beyond being the Facebook version of You’ve Been Framed and our focus is entirely on branded and sponsored video shows. We can do this because we have a strong, differentiated brand. So my advice would be to focus on original content that delivers a clear message of what your brand is about. If you get it right, advertisers will be lining up to work with you.”

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Asked about the production hangover from the previous television age, which can often still see publishers feeling the need to go down the route of high cost, low volume, Hollywood production style films, Hayward says: 

“I’d say the market is currently split between high production value, and extremely high cost, TV content that was never really meant to live on the web. So, things like Carpool Karaoke. This show could never survive independently of TV, it’s more of an awareness driver for an entirely separate enterprise. I interview TV guys all the time and ask them what kind of budget they would need to create an hour of content and in their answers they show how ill-suited this kind of thing is for the economics of the social web. At the other end, there is the low value UGC content that the lad sites and a few others have tied up. This is high reach content right now, but I’m not convinced it has legs. Facebook’s aspirations stretch beyond ten pages all publishing the same video of a scaffolder falling over.”

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“Our key insight, which we have always been extremely open about, is that the social and mobile web totally levels the playing field with TV, allowing us to reach huge audiences, but without the necessary production values of TV. I look at TV and every key interest point (sport, humour, politics) seems like something totally ripe for distribution on social. Our obsession at JOE is figuring out how to take these categories, and reimagine them for the web. On the one hand we’ve taken huge, huge strides already and learnt so much in the last few months. On the other, there is so much more for us to learn, and so much more that we can’t wait to unveil across 2017.” 

While more general interest media brands like JOE may set their sights on content segmentation across different verticals, special interest publications are navigating an altogether different path towards success through video. 

Condé Nast, with Golf Digest

As part of the Emmy Award-winning Condé Nast Entertainment channel, Golf Digest represents a real success story for creating and monetising premium publisher video content online. Garnering an average 20m+ video views per month, Golf Digest is a special interest brand that operates video on a huge scale. Angela Byun, senior director international development and strategy for Condé Nast, begins here by introducing us to the proposition: 

“Golf Digest Video Channel’s success can be attributed to our award-winning content creators,” said Byun. “They produce fun, original feature and instruction videos, as well as many of our custom/branded video series, which engage both US and international viewers. Golf Digest’s in-house creative team, the Golf Digest Studio, has become the industry leading producer of branded digital video geared to the lucrative golf audience, with an average video-series reach of 3.7 million viewers who watch our custom videos at an average view-through rate of 68 per cent. Also, the beauty of our video content is that most of it is continually relevant – driving deep engagement and delivering integrated promotional messages for extended periods of time.”

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As an aspirational brand with a high-end feel, and an affluent readership to match, it can be tempting to imagine that Golf Digest stays true to the high-end production values of the previous video era. But in fact, as Byun explains, with online video there are always multiple options available and it is often a case of matching the right content to the right channel and covering the spread.  

“Perhaps because we produce high quality, high value and timely content, it may seem like a lot of our videos are expensive to produce, but we actually run the gamut of production costs. We are constantly thinking, tinkering and testing with new platforms, and as long as we stay true to our mission – which is to be the authority on how to play, what to play and where to play, we believe we will continue to resonate with our audience to make them better players, smarter consumers and more discerning travellers, while also offering the kind of informative and provocative stories that fuel the unending conversation that is golf.”

In fact, Golf Digest’s repertoire of video content reads like a blueprint for the multitude of options now available to publishers online, from Facebook Live, to storyboarded and post-production masterpieces.

“Whether it’s using an iPhone to capture a Facebook Live of pro-golfer Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston giving golf lessons in a pub, which garnered over 300,000+ views, working with high-tech drones to capture a 360° virtual reality experience of the 2016 Olympics golf course, or collaborating with supermodel Kate Upton and Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander to showcase the latest 2017 BMW M760i in a custom video series, Golf Digest utilizes a range of talent and equipment to create the best-in-class stories for our audience as we know how, when and which platform they prefer to consume our content.” 

“Video shoots can range from being live and unedited to requiring several weeks to produce from start to finish: storyboarding, scripting, scouting, shooting, post-production, launch. In addition, videos can also be simply comprised of photos overlaid with compelling text. For example, we recently created a 1-minute video clip on ‘Why Tiger Woods Will Win This Week’ using only iconic images of Tiger Woods and interesting stats throughout his career and it garnered over 1.5+ million views.” 

“We try to produce one new video a day and spread our content across all of our platforms - online and on mobile at golfdigest.com, our video channel video.golfdigest.com, YouTube, daily e-newsletters, across social media platforms where we reach 1.5 million followers – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat - and through our international audience of 10m+ through our network of 27 Golf Digest international editions worldwide. It depends on the series, but video clips and episodes can range from between 1-5 minutes.”

Where monetisation is concerned, online video offers a lucrative video stream for Golf Digest and Condé Nast. And importantly for an international brand, digitally distributed moving pictures can of course be an extremely appealing way to package internationally saleable content. 

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Above: Angie Byun, senior director international development and strategy for Condé Nast, while speaking at FIPP/VDZ Digital Innovators' Summit (left), and with Golf Digest International Team.

“In 2017, we see digital video advertising increasing by more than 30 per cent. By 2020, we predict that 80 per cent of our online traffic will come from video. Through our high-impact ad experiences (pre-rolls, site takeovers, sponsored content) we work closely with our advertising clients to provide them the best exposure in our videos as we have a very deep understanding of our client’s audience. From Rickie Fowler and Butch Harmon to social media stars and You-Tube sensations like Dude Perfect, we are constantly looking for interesting and influential talent that can connect and entertain our audience, and improve and inspire their passion on and off the course.” 

“The world is getting smaller and a lot of our traffic is also coming internationally. For example, we have a global ad deal with Mercedes-Benz across five continents because of the universal appreciation and popularity of Golf Digest’s video content that speaks to our golfers all over the world.”

From Facebook Live and face swap content, to post-production and Mercedes Benz, it’s clear that the opportunities for publishers in online video stretch far and wide. In many ways the internet has lowered the bar for entry in terms of creating successful, sustainable video, allowing publishers to compete against traditional broadcasters on a more level playing field. As Angela Byun emphasises, the time is right for publishers to increase their focus on this sector of the industry:

“The industry does need to think more about video and in particular sustainable video. As the head of the Golf Digest international business, I recommend that the industry starts to strategise, create and market content, particularly for a global audience.”

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