Dennis Publishing is creating 600 videos a year, many shot in the publisher's studioCredit: Image courtesy of Dennis Publishing
The magazine publisher, which has more than 50 titles including The Week, evo, Men's Fitness and Auto Express, is generating £2 million a year from online video, the managing director of Dennis Interactive told Journalism.co.uk.
That total includes income from YouTube, ads displayed around videos placed on any of the 20 Dennis sites, and income from providing creative video solutions for brands.
Pete Wootton, managing director of Dennis Interactive, the digital division of Dennis Publishing, talked us through the evolution of video, which started when the publisher recruited its first videographer in around 2005 to create content for DVDs to accompany magazines.
"As the online part of our business has grown, that's evolved into six full-time videographers and we produce about 600 broadcast-quality videos, all shot in HD, each year," Wootton said.
And now Dennis is not only creating video for its own sites. Dennis Film offers that service to other publishers and brands looking to outsource video production (the showreel is at this link).
What types of video content are created?
Around one third of the Dennis business is in motoring, Wootton explained, with titles such as CarBuyer, evo and Auto Express.
"They are all about reviewing cars, and a video review or video content around cars is great compared to the printed matter. A car is all about movement, the excitement of driving, and you can convey that so much easier on a video than you can just with written words and pictures."
The video journalists at Dennis are not just shooting films for the publisher's sites, but are also producing videos for motoring brands, having been commissioned by companies including Peugeot, Skoda, Kia, Seat.
"We produce high-quality video for them and then help them distribute it to their target audience," Wootton said.
The videographers are also creating films for the Dennis health and fitness titles. "Fitness is a great product for video because you can demonstrate how to do certain exercises, such as the perfect bench press," Wootton said.
The publisher is also shooting films for technology titles, such as Know Your Mobile. They are producing "unboxing" videos to show off new gadgets, "how tos" and reviews.
The publisher has built a studio complete with infinity wall, autocue and green screen, and also invests in post-production.
"Just like you'd find on TV there are annotations, there are various onscreen graphics, to make sure that we are really getting across our message and making it as entertaining as possible."Video can be a really important part of what makes a brand tickPete Wootton
And where most of the motoring videos involve professional videographers, expensive HD cameras, top end lighting and microphones, some videos are filmed on an iPhone.
"At the other end of the scale the quality is the least important thing," Wootton said. "One of our most popular videos we have ever produced was filmed by someone on an iPhone when they went to a car auction and the Ferarri sold for many millions of pounds, which was a record for that car.
"They happened to be at the auction, they filmed on an iPhone, the production quality is poor, but the important thing about the video is that he was there at that moment in time."
Where are people watching the videos?
Dennis Publishing posts videos on its own websites as well as on its various YouTube channels.
"We very early on realised the importance of YouTube and set up channels for all of our main brands," Wootton told me.
"We've now had more than 150 million views, and that's growing each month. And if you add the video views on our own sites, views are up to about 200 million," Wootton said.
And people are discovering Dennis titles via YouTube. "Not only is it a really important way of engaging with our existing audience but it's a really good way of bringing new people into the brand," Wootton said.
The CarBuyer YouTube channel
People also get to see the value of the brand. Wootton explained that when launching CarBuyer, the journalists used video to demonstrate "just how rigorous our car-testing process and procedure is".
CarBuyer launched in November 2010 and has had more than 45 million video plays to date on the YouTube channel.
"Video can be a really important part of what makes a brand tick," Wootton said.
It is also about being present on platforms where there are people interested in the topics covered by Dennis titles. "We want to be where our audience is, so anywhere that we believe people are going to be consuming videos, that's where we want to make sure our content is distributed."
What types of devices are people watching video on?
Asked whether viewers are watching on connected TVs, iPads, smartphones or desktop computers, Wootton said it depends on the type of content.
"News-based video is often viewed on mobile devices throughout the day," Wootton said. "When it's video around a significant purchase, maybe its buying advice for a car, we find a lot of consumption in the evenings and at weekends and increasingly on tablets."
How much is Dennis making from video?
Wootton said he recently did a calculation and found that video brings in more than £2 million a year in revenue.
He explained how he reached that figure. "It includes the YouTube revenues, and it also includes elements of creative solutions that we do. It also includes ads, maybe MPUs, appearing around our video play content, so if somebody comes in as an entry point to a page and watches a video on one of our sites and we are serving an MPU next to that, that obviously is revenue which we wouldn't have if we didn't have that video to show."
Wootton said he was unable to share the amount of income from YouTube but said "it has become a significant revenue stream".
Dennis Publishing has been working very closely with YouTube over the past few years. "We see that as a key partnership," he said.
And both YouTube and Dennis are now selling advertising for the motoring channels. YouTube has been "working with us to sell sponsorship on our channels, particularly in the motoring sector as motoring is so buoyant as an advertising sector", Wootton explained.
Dennis's sales staff are "now out there talking to interested clients about selling our own channel sponsorships on our own YouTube channels".
What advice does Dennis have for other publishers?
For publishers who want to launch or develop online video, Wootton has some advice. "Don't assume that your best journalists are your best video journalists," he said. Being in front of the camera "is a very unique skill".
"You can improve somebody's ability but there are people out there that are just damn good at it and have an innate ability to be really good on film," he said.
"One of the things we introduced very early were screen tests for everybody from the office junior, the staff writer, all the way up to the editorial director, and then we focus in on certain members of the team who we think have got talent and potential, and they become our faces for video for the individual brands.
"Just because someone is an editor or a very senior member of the team that does not mean that they should be the person that you are supporting for video going forward – and often it is the ones you don't expect."