Entertainment news site Digital Spy consistently receives more than 1 million views a month on its site, plus a similar number of hits to its content on YouTube, made by a video production team of just two.
"Video is really at the heart of Digital Spy now, and it's at the forefront of our plans for the future," editor of the title David Moynihan told Journalism.co.uk.
The Hearst-owned site has more than 20 million monthly readers, 35,000 comments a month and 20,000 forum posts a day, Moynihan and Tom Miller, a product strategist at Hearst, explained.
What types of video content are created?
The Digital Spy team creates three types of video: "talent", which includes interviews with actors, actresses and pop stars; tech content, which includes product reviews; and presenter-led shows, such as a weekly entertainment news and soaps news shows.
The team uses footage they shoot themselves, plus are sent press packs with clips of soaps and TV programmes.
"Video has really taken off in the past two years," Miller said. "We've had a video team of two for probably three years or so, but it's really moved to the forefront more recently, having launched a dedicated video section about 18 months ago."
Miller shared some figures. "In March 2012 we were at 560,000 views, whereas in March 2013 we were at 1.2 million.There's an appetite for watching related content at the same time on a different deviceTom Miller
"It feels as technology evolves and people are more into multiscreening and they have their mobile and tablet on the go while they are watching TV at home, there's an appetite for watching related content at the same time on a different device."
Moynihan explained that the most successful videos are those where the Digital Spy team identifies "a highly engaged group of users on our site" and works out what type of videos they might want.
"For example, our weekly 'soap scoop' video came about because we were seeing some incredible levels of site visit lengths, pages per visit. We launched the weekly show and it's doing phenomenal numbers.
"Similarly around tech content. We could see that our tech reviews, especially around the really big, hot releases, were getting some extremely high engagement. So again we have created video content there to enhance the user experience."
Videos also perform well which cover "quality TV" programmes such as Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, "the shows that people are really, really passionate about".
Where are people watching the videos?
Videos are embedded within news articles, features and reviews on Digital Spy, plus in the dedicated video section.
Around 70 per cent of views are within articles, 30 per cent via the video section. "So people are definitely watching it inline as they read," Moynihan said of the embedded videos.
The team also posts films to YouTube, "generally several days after it's gone live on our own site", Moynihan explained. Hearst receives revenue from videos the publisher uploads, "but our main interest in YouTube is more audience acquisition", Miller added.
"YouTube is the second largest online search engine, so they are discoverable there once we have achieved the revenue goals from our own players."
How does Digital Spy make video pay?
YouTube provides revenue and new audiences, but the focus is on encouraging video views on Digital Spy's own site.
"It's a better audience," Miller said. "A lot of our content that does really well is quality TV, movie spoilers, the blockbusters, and the quality of conversation on our own site is so much higher than what you see on YouTube – which is kind of where good comments go to die."
"We are able to try more interesting things in terms of monetisation on our own site," Moynihan added. "We are using pre-roll, in-skins, and show sponsorship, which is really interesting for us because it is about working closely with a partner to produce content we want to do and that they want to be associated with."Our video operation is profitable and delivering some fantastic revenuesDavid Moynihan
Viewers watching on Digital Spy can also view videos full screen, without distractions, and sponsors for the video section include Love Film and Netflix, plus Hollywood films.
And what are the differences in how people watch on different devices? People watch a greater number of videos and for longer on tablets, Miller explained, as they are in lean-back mode. "We do have a fair few number or mobile streams but the large proportion is still desktop – which is good as that's where our advertisers want to be," he added.
In addition to revenues from YouTube and advertising and sponsorships on Digital Spy, the news site has also entered a commercial partnership with content recommendation engine Taboola. "It surfaces really interesting content, which is not necessarily related." Miller explained. "Their algorithm works out what people want to see and surfaces that. It's had a really positive impact, both in terms of views and in revenue as well as we surface third-party content for which we are paid."
Miller and Moynihan were not able to share revenue stats but Moynihan said "our video operation is profitable and delivering some fantastic revenues".
How is Digital Spy approaching social?
"Our social audience has really grown over the last year," Moynihan explained, with the @DigitalSpy Twitter account recently passing 100,000 followers, and a Facebook community of 60,000. "We treat both of the platforms very differently," Moynihan said. "Twitter is very newsy, so we will fire out headlines and commentary, and try to capture the general feeling of our audience if we can.
"As a Facebook user my newsfeed is increasingly just full of noise. So if we post something on Facebook it has to be worthy, it has to prompt replies. If no one is going to be interested, no one is going to comment.
"Digital Spy at its heart loves TV and tech, if we are posting something that isn't going to capture that essence, I'd rather we didn't put anything up."
How many people are viewing content and engaging on the site?
"It's been a great year for Digital Spy generally," Miller said. "Since January last year we have grown 62 per cent year-on-year, passing 20 million uniques per month in January."
While 70 per cent of traffic comes from the the UK, the US is the second biggest audience.
And that is generated by the work of an editorial team of 20 people in the Soho newsroom, plus around 20 editorial staff who work from outside the office, either from home, such as the night shift and some of the global staff, plus freelancers.
And the audience is highly engaged, posting 35,000 comments per month and around 20,000 forum posts per day, Miller explained, requiring a team of four to moderate comments round-the-clock.
Digital Spy now has its own in-house commenting platform, which they are looking to roll out across Hearst.
"We've made sure that users can sign on with either Facebook or their Digital Spy ID if they want to comment on an article," Moynihan explained. "With the heritage of our forums we had a lot of people who simply wouldn't want to sign in with Facebook, as far as they are concerned they have already got a DS login.
What advice does Digital Spy have for other publishers thinking about offering more video?
"It's about being lean," Moynihan said. "Creating video content can be very costly. So to try and keep costs down we do as many edits as we can from any opportunities that we get.
"If we get a period of time with a pop star, for example, we'll try and cover a variety of questions which enable us to get at least one edit from it. It might be that you get a short clip in answer to a hot topic question that can go into one article, it might be that you get some general talk about their album that goes into another article. It's really about trying to maximise content from opportunities."
"Our editorial team are very good at planning around seasonal events and big tech events," added Miller. "So from all of these interviews with talent it only takes one question: 'what's your favourite Christmas song? what's your favourite mobile app?' to release some really great compilations to release later in the year."There's absolutely no point in having a video graveyard on your site that do one goes toDavid Moynihan
"Beyond that it then becomes very much about placement," Moynihan said. "There's absolutely no point in having a video graveyard on your site that no one goes to."
"With a news site like ours, people are looking for headlines; and it's those that pull them into articles. Once they are in that article we try and position the video at the top of the page and give away just enough information in that video that it really teases the content and makes them want to watch it to find out more."
Moynihan also believes there is a danger in focusing too much on production and too little on the range of videos available. "I think sometimes people worry too much about production values and spending a week on creating a stunning video and then actually they are upset when they put it live and the views trickle in. I think it is better to do lots of video. Obviously quality, but do lots of it, distribute it in the right way and the numbers start to add up over all."
It is also important to utilise the skills in the newsroom when thinking about creating a video, such as filming "three of our staff talking about the latest Star Trek film", Miller said
Moynihan added that although access to talent, such as actors, is important for brands such as Digital Spy, he urges other editors to "look around their own newsroom and realise they have got this fantastic authoritative experts already sat there".
"If a celebrity announces a new fashion range, get your fashion editor and put them in front of the camera and get them to talk about why it is significant, what it means, what's good about it, what's not good about it. Immediately you have some video content that users will enjoy watching because it's going to inform them more about the news that they are interested in."
For more on how news outlets are approaching online video see this feature on Dennis Publishing, Vice, plus Future and NME.