youtube generation
Credit: By jonsson on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
"What's very clear is that video has allowed us to reach huge audiences," Al Brown, head of video at Vice UK, told when discussing the outlet's increasingly preferred medium. Launched in 1994 as a magazine in Montreal, Vice has had almost 300 million views on YouTube and now focusses its editorial output on video.

"I think that's just natural in terms of what's happened to journalism and print and to an audience that's moving more and more towards video," he said. "While we're still very proud of the magazine and it still does very well, it's just that video has grown and grown at such an exponential rate that it's now our main mouthpiece in talking to our audience."

YouTube claims over one billion unique visitors are watching more than six billion hours of video each month. Vice still hosts all its own video content online – a hangover from the days of network – but the enormous traffic that YouTube enjoys has played a major factor in boosting Vice's viewing figures. According to VidStatsX, Vice boasts higher viewing figures on YouTube than some global media brands, including CNN, Al Jazeera and Fox.

Future Publishing's head of video, David Boddington, was equally enthusiastic about the role YouTube can have in boosting a publication's online presence as video becomes an increasingly prominent part of online journalism.

"A lot of our print titles have their own YouTube channels," he said, describing it as "a really important place" for outlets to share recent content.

"It's also important not to underestimate the fact that YouTube itself is actually the world's second largest search engine after Google."

Putting your editorial output in front of the right audience is key to being a successful publisher. But what specifically works on YouTube? And how have other organisations found success?


"You go back five years and YouTube was a place for skateboarding cats and dogs falling over," said Boddington, "but YouTube has matured as a platform so much and become a far greater destination to digest complex, long-form video content of a really high quality."

The number of views and subscribers to some amateur video bloggers, or "bedroom YouTubers", in Boddington's words, is testament to how good ideas executed well strike a connection with an audience.

Amateur videographers often cater to a very specific audience for specific reasons, as is true with traditional bloggers, but that audience still expects high quality content distributed on the internet for free.

"There's always been this perceived view that you can chuck crap at the internet," he said, "and I think there are lots of people out there that do that.

"But [YouTube] should just be seen as another way of consuming media and the best media is what will rise above everything else."

As such, Brown says that Vice pit their production efforts against television and feature films in terms of quality control. Setting a high benchmark in terms of standards of video production has led to Vice being in the "top 1 per cent" in terms of engagement from YouTube viewers, said Brown, with news and current affairs among the most viewed content – quality journalism done properly.

"The more that we concentrate on telling great stories and getting great access and coming up with content that no one else is making, then that does 90 per cent of the work," he said.

'British nationals fight with Al-Qaeda in Syria' video by Vice

This year the most popular videos from Vice have included a documentary on 3D printed guns, a three-part film in North Korea, a documentary about cannibalistic warlords and child soldiers in Liberia and, most recently, a video including footage and interviews with British nationals fighting in Syria (above).

Such top-end video journalism is fine if you have the resources and connections to make it happen, but Vice are among the few global media brands able to consistently turn out worldwide coverage of important topics. For others the options are slimmer, but that should not affect quality, said Boddington.

"I believe that video on YouTube is about quality, but it is about the quality of the idea, not just the execution," he said.

"It's lovely to see beautifully shot things with nice cameras and sound equipment. But if the idea is solid and there are voices and personalities that I want to engage with and I want to hear from on a regular basis then it doesn't matter if it's low [production] quality, as long as it's interesting."


"In the beginning everyone told us that you couldn't put longform documentaries on the internet," said Brown, "that no one would watch them and everything on the internet needs to be three minutes long. I think all our stats on all our films and how they're consumed disproves that."

The fact that viewers are now more likely to watch and engage with longer videos on YouTube is symptomatic of a wider cultural shift in the way that the internet is replacing some elements of media consumption in society as a whole, says Boddington.

"We are far more happy to come home from work or spend lunchtimes browsing things on YouTube," he said, "perusing our favourite channels instead of just tuning in to  Channel 4 as we used to, or just going to BBC 2.

"We're able to see and seek out this far more rich video content on YouTube."

It is an evolution of broadcast in that it gives you the flexibility to provide content that is perfect for your audienceDavid Boddington, head of video for games and film, Future Publishing
Vice has found success by creating what would traditionally be considered television content; pitching long videos to young adults who are more used to watching from their laptop. There is still an interest and desire to watch videos and hear stories that take a long time to tell, and how the audience arrives at that content does not mean their tastes and habits have changed, said Brown.

At Future, Boddington said one of the most successful channels is CVG, or Computer and Video Games. Some videos may be over an hour long, he said, but engagement levels were still high because it was a well-presented topic.

The key for both was in having the flexibility to tell the story properly.

"With traditional broadcasting you have your half-hour slot, or your hour slot plus ad breaks, and you have to fit in to these pre-defined parameters of broadcast," Boddington said. "Whereas on YouTube you have the flexibility to tailor and deliver exactly what you want from the product."


This is not to say that all the ideas from traditional broadcasting should necessarily be dropped. One tactic, that seems to go against the ideas of flexibility and freedom central to the internet, has played a huge role in boosting viewing figures at CVG.

"Over a year ago we launched a weekly show called GTA [Grand Theft Auto] 5 o'clock, about the GTA V game," Boddington said.

"Covering it every single week, episodes would last between half an hour and well over an hour and we saw more and more people tuning in and demanding this content because it was of such a high quality."

Viewers would be coming to the channel "because they knew it was going to drop," said Boddington, and the team saw "great returns in terms of engagement and interaction".

Grand Theft Auto Five was one of the most hotly anticipated games in the history of computing, and went on to break several world records for sales, but the format of regular, scheduled videos on YouTube was such a success for Future that they extended it to every day of the week.

At Digital Spy, a Hearst magazines title, head of video production Tom Mansell said scheduling and programmed content was an area that is becoming increasingly important to the success of a channel on YouTube.

"Scheduling makes a huge difference," he said, "I don't know whether it's just because people are indoctrinated to an idea of scheduled programming in a cinema and TV.

"When we're a content maker that deals in shows, then that regularity of content is crucial. Even someone like us with a more varied content offering on YouTube, being regular is absolutely crucial."

Read more about scheduling practices at Future in a previous article from here.


Making videos costs money and advertising is still a primary revenue stream to recoup that expenditure. Again, YouTube has some advantages over traditional broadcast models in terms of being able to tailor that advertising to the target audience in a more engaging manner.

Boddington said that the range of topics covered by different Future titles – technology, games, film, music, bikes and more – gives them the chance to have "vertical specific" advertising campaigns for products that they know the target audience will be interested in.

Boddington described pre-roll ads that run before the main video as "fundamental to the way YouTube works" but there are other elements which are just as useful.

"It's also important not to underestimate native content marketing and content partnerships as well, which is something that Future look at quite closely," he said. "There are great opportunities to work with other companies to produce some really amazing content."

If you don't put your content on there someone else willTom Mansell, head of video production, Digital Spy, Hearst Magazines
More advanced options for customisable advertising and monetisation on YouTube are only available for larger channels with a high number of views. Mansell said that Digital Spy use BrightCove to host their video content as it gives them greater control over their advertising, but he said ignoring YouTube while their video output is growing would be foolish.

"The main reason why we first got into YouTube – and a big reason why pretty much everyone that makes videos should be on YouTube – is that if you don't put your content on there someone else will," he said.

"If we've got a great interview with an actor for a movie junket we could put it on BrightCove and monetise it under the way we do now but someone could rip it, put it on YouTube and it might get 100,000 more views."

If for no other reason, said Mansell, a publication should be on YouTube to protect the copyright status of its content, said Mansell, and look to step up the ladder of YouTube Partner status as it becomes appropriate.

A level of "critical mass" in terms of the number of YouTube views or subscribers had been "alluded to" in meetings, said Mansell, so Digital Spy are hedging their bets by growing the YouTube channel while still monetising the video content on YouTube.

Interview with Alfonso Cuarón, director of 'Gravity', from Digital Spy


"For us it's been a progression," said Brown of Vice's transition from a magazine distributed in coffee shops and fashion stores to a global media brand.

"Vice has been around for 20 years and we've spent that time honing our voice and the way we talk to our audience. I think you know what you're going to get with a Vice film and that really helps in terms of retaining and growing an audience as they are coming back for a consistent style of film-making and content."

Speaking to an audience and finding a niche are the basics of successfully branded journalism and Vice, with 3.5 million YouTube subscribers and a view to expanding further into news and current affairs programming, have achieved that through experimentation.

There are fewer expectations on the structure and nature of videos on YouTube, so testing different formats and modes of presentation is key to finding what works best for the subject and for the audience, said Mansell.

"For some channels having an on-screen presence and a visual persona you can really connect with is really important," he said. "It is variable, there's no 'one size fits all'.

"It is an evolution of broadcast," he said, "in that it gives you the flexibility to be able to provide content that is perfect for your audience and that is highly tailored towards your audience."

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