In this feature we look at how four publishers – Dennis Publishing, Future, IPC and Vice – have moved beyond magazines and are now producing videos for their existing audiences and to attract new ones.
Types of video
The four publishers are producing a range of videos, tackling a huge variety of subjects, with production values ranging from videos lasting a few seconds and shot on a phone, to hour-long documentaries filmed on high-end HD cameras.
At the top end of the scale in terms of production, Vice, which started out as a fanzine and now has offices in 34 countries, has just produced a series for HBO. Elsewhere, the best performing video for Dennis Publishing is footage of a car auction shot on an smartphone.
Vice's first documentary for HBO aired in the US last Friday – tackling the weighty subjects of political assassinations in the Philippines and child suicide bombers in Afghanistan (it is not available to view in the UK but you can see a trailer). Vice may have started out as all about "sex, drugs and rock and roll", but now sees its role as engaging people in their teens and twenties in news and current affairs.
While Vice is tackling subjects such as heavy metal in Baghdad, football rivalry in Glasgow and a tour of the hallucinogens of the Amazon, the other three publishers we spoke to have found success elsewhere.
Around one third of Dennis Publishing's portfolio is motoring, with titles such as Auto Express and evo lending themselves well to HD films of cars, not dissimilar to the sort of features which appear within programmes like Top Gear. Men's Fitness, another Dennis title, meanwhile, has found success in producing fitness videos showing followers how to do particular exercises.
Future, known for titles including T3 and TechRadar, is making videos in the technology space, covering the rumour and build-up to the launch of a product, the unboxing of a new phone, tablet or gadget, and the post-launch analysis, hands-on reviews and subsequent release of related accessories.
IPC title NME lends itself to music-related films, offering band interviews, performances, and a series where musicians explain how they wrote a song and the inspiration for it.
Complementing content across platforms
All four publishers we spoke to talked about how video and print can complement each other. NME uses its interviews with musicians to push the written exclusive in print.
Pete Wootton, managing director of Dennis Interactive, the digital division of Dennis Publishing, explained that when launching CarBuyer, the journalists used video to demonstrate "just how rigorous our car-testing process and procedure is", building the print brand values off the back of video.The magazine is our best marketing brochureDan'l Hewitt, Vice Media
Future is known for finding success with iPad editions of its magazines. And it is aware of how video can complement the reading experience on a tablet.
Grant Bremner, head of Future TV at Future, told us that around 25 per cent of video views are on mobile and tablet devices – and that is "growing very quickly". Bremner thinks video can create a unique selling point for tablet editions of magazines. "Much like we did back in the 1990s when we put DVDs on the front of our magazines, video as part of our digital magazines will be a core selling point," he predicted.
And Dan'l Hewitt, general manager of AdVice Europe, a division of Vice Media, said that while Vice magazine now represents just 2 per cent of global revenues for the media company, the print edition remains "incredibly important", with articles inspiring much of the video content, including two feature films. "The magazine is also our best marketing brochure," Hewitt said.
While the publishers all encourage video views on their own news sites, YouTube is providing both new audiences and revenue.
Vice partnered with YouTube in 2005 and last year became part of the YouTube original partner programme, commissioned to make original content to encourage audiences to recognise the platform as a source of quality content. The main Vice channel has now notched up 1.6 million subscribers and more than 260 million views and, according to Hewitt, is "recognised as one of the fastest growing sub-channels around the world".
Vice videos have generated 13 million hours of content consumption, Hewitt told Journalism.co.uk, and engagement. "People are watching our content through to finish," he said, with an average viewing duration of 26 minutes.
Future operates an MCN, a multi-channel network, on YouTube and has 70 channels. "We need to be supporting quite a lot of [channels] to drive marketing promotion of our existing brands and to develop them into potential standalone TV properties in the future," Bremner said.
YouTube reaches a new audience for NME, Kevin Perry, assistant editor of NME.com, , said. A recent video interview, in which ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr played the song Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now on his guitar for the first time in 25 years, went viral, generating 140,000 views.
Other videos, such as one featuring grime artist Wylie (which has clocked up 15,000 views), have also found "new life" on YouTube. "I think that's because they are finding an audience on YouTube that are not a traditional NME audience," Perry said.
The four people we spoke to were not prepared to share figures for the revenue generated from YouTube, although Wootton described it as "a significant revenue stream" for Dennis Publishing, explaining that video provides the company with £2 million a year in revenue (more on that in this article).
And for all four of the publishers, YouTube is where a significant number are consuming their content, with Bremner from Future explaining that YouTube accounts for about 65 per cent of views. "And we see that growing quite rapidly," he added.
Beyond the television
The films created by the publishers are not made with TV in mind (with the exception of the HBO series made by Vice). The publishers all said desktop web browsers provide the greatest share of traffic, with views on mobile phones and tablets increasing.
Mobiles are often used for viewing news-based video during the day, Wootton said, and car videos with buying advice are popular evening viewing on tablets.
Some of the publishers are experimenting in the area of connected TV. "I guess the ultimate prize for all of the people in this news space is the new play for the living room – but it is not there yet," Bremner from Future explained.
Future, Dennis and Vice all provide creative solutions for brands and create video content for other companies. (Future's showreel is here, Dennis's is here.)
And Vice is just launching a new part to its business: a Vice Player that other publishers can use to monetise content.
Hewitt described Vice as now providing a "bridge" for those publishers who are not generating significant revenue from YouTube. "For partners, YouTube is an amazing revenue generator, but for others it will be difficult to make the economics work. That's why we are trying to bridge that gap and sit somewhere on the middle," Hewitt said.
So how can publishers grow large audiences for video? Dan'l Hewitt from Vice says it is all about constantly analysing the numbers and trying to instil habitual behaviour.
"We have a very clear strategy on engagement and metrics," he said, explaining that Vice has "specialists", with one person responsible for Facebook and Twitter, while another person reads and responds to YouTube comments.
Vice has spent the past 18 months measuring and refining how to best post on its own Facebook page, which has 1.1 million subscribers, and the team have also been looking closely at people's viewing behaviour.
"What we are always trying to strive for is building habitual behaviour," Hewitt said. "Habitual patterns are built up, often subconsciously, and the more time you spend in a certain place, your propensity to go back there increases. What we are striving to do is to get people to spend more time on our properties because that is habit forming."
And that focus has paid off. Eighteen months ago Google organic search was the number one source of traffic for Vice. Now social has overtaken search providing 55 per cent of the 15 million monthly unique users, according to Hewitt. And direct traffic is now the third largest traffic driver. "That means people are choosing to come to Vice, they are typing it into their browser, they are bookmarking it."
And while all four media outlets started in print, video is driving a fundamental change. Future, which is led by Mark Wood, a former chief executive of ITN, no longer considers itself a publisher. "We are a media company competing with likeminded media companies," Bremner said. "Our competitors are now broadcasters, TV production companies and also the rising stars of YouTube."
For more on online video listen to Grant Bremner, Pete Wootton and Keven Perry in this podcast.