An in-depth look at GQ UK’s video strategy

Getting both the strategy and the content right however can be very tricky. Maintaining core brand values, while ensuring that videos are popular and widely distributed, is a balancing act that so far few media companies have successfully mastered.

Which is why many publishers are casting an envious eye over the success of British Vogue Video. Condé Nast launched its revamped offering last year and in its first eight months it attracted a subscriber base of over 200,000.

Now some of the lessons learned from Vogue’s video journey are being applied to its ‘brother title’ in the Condé Nast stable, GQ UK.

Earlier this week the magazine announced a shake up of its website, optimising its content for mobile readers, as well as making significant tweaks to its content management system. Wil Harris, Head of Condé Nast Digital explained to me that the new site includes a brand new gallery layout, features Facebook style infinite scroll, and its images and data structure load on mobile far quicker than previously. It also boasts mobile optimised ad formats including new ‘responsive’ formats.

Crucially it also saw the launch of a new offering, GQ Video, which is available as both a standalone page on the website, and as a YouTube channel. The company has curated some of its previous videos, as well as created a new series ‘The Luxury of Less.’ Helmed by high-profile vlogger Jim Chapman it takes the viewer on a journey to examine the pros and cons of spending money on luxury and bespoke wardrobe classics. It looks striking, is tightly scripted and presented, and should appeal to both the younger audiences on the website as well as loyal, and quite probably older, magazine readers.

‘The Luxury Of Less,’ and indeed many of the videos have clearly been created with one eye on sponsorship opportunities from brands. As Vanessa Kingori, Publisher, GQ says, “our native approach towards creating these films highlights a shift in the way content is regarded by both the industry and our audiences alike. The GQ audience has come to expect excellent content, they do not discriminate between traditional editorial or editorially relevant sponsored content. This coupled with the more general rise in video views, particularly amongst men, makes GQ Video a huge opportunity.”

The architect of the new channel is Condé Nast Britain’s director of video content, Danielle Bennison Brown (pictured left), who piloted the launch of Vogue Video and has a long track record in online premium content.

Here she talks about the creation of GQ Video, and the plans for distributing the content, while at the end of the post Jacqui Kavanagh, Commercial Director, Condé Nast Video, explains how GQ is going to work with brands.

Why has video become so important for GQ?

DBB – Video allows people to push the boundaries of content creation beyond still imagery and words, so it’s natural that more content creators want to build a foothold in video. For GQ, what’s most important is maintaining the quality and prestige of our brand; as such, we’ve been very considered in our approach, rather than creating video simply to check the box. Further, video is an important solution we can offer our brand partners, helping them deepen their relationship and build on the credibility of their work with GQ. With the success of British Vogue video, we now have several learnings  across the content strategy and commercial model that can seamlessly extend to GQ. Additionally, it’s a fantastic new window into the GQ brand, especially in helping GQ engage with a new generation.

What are the key lessons that you have learned from Vogue Video that have been applied to GQ?

DBB – We’ve learned several things from Vogue Video, all of which can be applied to the rest of the Condé Nast titles. In our first 8 months, we built a subscriber base of 200,000, generated 13.5 million video views, 45 million minutes watched and 185,000 likes. Over the course of that period, we’ve developed a set of best practices that we will be able to roll out at the outset of each new title. For example, the Alexa Chung series confirmed the importance of having a dialogue with your audience, and gave us a model for how to execute quality engagement. The series also allowed us to test longer form, serialised content, which did exceptionally well. These learnings are being applied to one of the longer form series that we have launching on GQ. Of course, this experience helped us reject the idea that content needs to be under three minutes for it to find any meaningful audience. The reality is that, as long as the content is interesting, people will watch it. And with the increasing reach of OTT devices and connected TVs, it’s nice to give our audience something they can lean back and watch. Of course, we still do shorter form content on Vogue, and we will on GQ, which gives people an opportunity to easily discover what the channel is about. Lastly, we also learned that having a host really helps our documentary content — you will see this run throughout our content for Vogue, GQ, and Wired in the coming months.

What type of video content are you commissioning? Are you giving your existing staff cameras? Employing freelancers or a mixture of both?

DBB – We are really keen on educating and empowering the existing editorial teams to get involved with video, and are providing opportunities to contribute in various capacities. Much like the magazines commission photography, we are working with established and experienced filmmakers to create our video content; however, it is definitely our ambition to build our own team of filmmakers in house as well. We are always very involved in the creative and the content strategy to ensure that the content is right for our brand and audience. While this dynamic can cause a bit of creative tension, it nearly always results in a better finished product, and a better experience for our audience.

The Huffington Post is committed to delivering 50 per cent of its content as video. Is this the direction that GQ is considering going?

DBB – GQ does so many things incredibly well from the magazine to the Men of the Year awards. Video is a new way of expressing the GQ brand, and we’re excited to help it play an increasingly important role in GQ over time. But we don’t see video as needing to meet a minimum threshold of our overall output. Across all of the Condé Nast titles, it’s very much about quality over quantity.

Will the videos be added to social media platforms like Facebook instant Stories and Google AMP? Or are they solely on the website?

DBB – Your questions has two important parts. With respect to platform-specific video, we know that you cannot simply take the same video asset, distribute it on all platforms, and expect success. As a result, we’re focused on ensuring that every video is entirely appropriate for the platform through which it is distributed; if that means that certain videos don’t travel across all platforms, that’s perfectly fine with us. The mantra of quality over quantity extends to distribution platforms as well as content volume. Given our focus on longer-form content, as well as the ability to provide integrated solutions for our brand partners, YouTube is currently our primary point of video distribution.

Danielle you were previously at i-D/Vice, is the video content on the new GQ site influenced by your former employer at all.

DBB – Naturally, my  view is of course informed by all my past experience, from VICE to NOWNESS to i-D and most recently with Vogue. Having worked on multiple brands (both editorial and commercial) throughout my career, I am first and foremost conscious of respecting the integrity of the brand, and ensuring that the output of content is reflective of the brand it represents. I’m confident GQ video will resonate both with loyal fans of GQ as well as new younger audiences seeking stylish entertainment.

What type of video ads are you selling? Have you already made deals with sponsors?

Jacqui Kavanagh, commercial director, Condé Nast Video replies: Our commercial video strategy is driven by the understanding that online audiences don’t discriminate against brand funded content so long as they are entertained, educated and engaged. For this exact reason, we’re very vocal with clients about the fact that we’re not making ads, we’re working together to co-create content formats and series that feel native to our titles and their digital platforms.

GQ Video will bring partners closer to our audiences than ever before, aligning their editorial interests with the interests of our viewers across a mix of formats (short form, recurring formats, and documentaries).

We are delighted to announce that GQ Video will launch with two multi-series partnerships with luxury brands, Haig Club and Lexus.

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