As video content continues to grow in popularity and importance—with the original video sharing platform YouTube now the second most visited website in the world (behind Google)—are publishers doing enough to capitalise on this highly effective and engaging form of marketing?
For the last three years, Peter Rossiter has been in charge of video content at Penguin Random House, helping their YouTube channel grow from 40,000 views per month to 250,000 (that's 1.1 million minutes watched each month).
Here he shares his thoughts on the future of video in the publishing industry, as well as his top takeaways for creating a strong and successful digital marketing strategy.
What makes a great YouTube strategy?
1. Find your audience
It sounds simple but finding your audience and the type of content that resonates with them is key. It took me almost a year to work this out at Penguin. We tried many different formats aimed at various demographics, from funny staff tests to animation led short-form content, and analysed everything from our actual audience demographics to retention rates. Once we had figured out what does and doesn’t work we were able to grow, not only in video but also in audience share. Ideally the strategy should be serving an audience need that can't be filled with mainstream media. If you have great video content the intent to purchase the book will be significantly higher.
2. Who are your competitors
Similar to finding your audience, work out where you sit on the platform. Who will YouTube put your videos next to? One of the challenges at Penguin was the sheer variety of content, trying to create a style guide for such an audience can be tricky. The earlier you work this out the better. Look at the types of content that are working for similar channels, can you do something similar? Be realistic, you’re not going to be Red Bull. Work out what resources you have and the access to talent that you can feature in your videos. Once you have these you can start to find your niche. In publishing you’re less likely to be Buzzfeed and more likely to be TED talks.
3. Your content strategy
Google have published a series of great free resources on how to build a successful video strategy. My favourite model is the Hero, Hub, Hygiene strategy. The idea being that you create one piece of amazing "hero" content every few months that brings in lots of new viewers. This trickles down into "hub" content which is published once a week and is a nicely produced series. Finally, you have "hygiene" content which is what your channel is known for. For Penguin, hero videos were big campaign pieces like Summer and Christmas, hub content were long-form talks like Simon Sinek in conversation with Reggie Yates and hygiene content were the regular author interviews and the podcast series.
4. Publish regular content
YouTube loves consistency. If you miss an upload it can have a knock-on effect for weeks. Gamers have the largest channels because they can publish multiple pieces of content a day within the same niche. That being said don’t publish sub-standard content just to have a piece of video there, it should still maintain the values you have set out in your strategy.
5. Collaboration is key
The best way to grow your channel is to collaborate with other successful channels. Penguin Random House does this regularly with the BBC and Doctor Who channels. If you’re working with influencers, could you do one piece of content on their channel and one on your own, linking in the description from one to the other?
6. Save money by bringing video in-house
As kit gets cheaper, access to higher quality footage and demand for it will naturally increase. A strong recommendation I have for companies planning on launching a long-term video strategy is to bring video teams in-house, it will save you money in the long run. On average a one day shoot with a two-man crew should cost between £1-2k and then a location will be £500. If you have multiple shoots a week, you will definitely save money over the year. Not only that you will also create a team that will understand the brand guidelines and know how to push it forward.
7. Have a purpose
The same as with any strategy, your channel must have a greater purpose than selling products. You need to be able to relate to your audience not just sell, sell, sell. In publishing we’re lucky to work with some of the most creative and inspiring people. They already have the knowledge, it’s simply a case of transferring what’s in their mind into a video format that your audience can relate to.
Where publishing can capitalise
The main area I think publishing can capitalise on when it comes to video production is long-form content. It’s no surprise that audiences who love books also love long-form content. I think it’s difficult to share the kind of ideas that are shared within a book in a one-minute video. Short form content is also a massively oversaturated market in the UK. If a 16-year-old can make it in their bedroom I would suggest you should not be doing it. They'll be far more passionate and consistent than you will ever be.
This model of regular long-form talks does present challenges though. Most teams are disjointed with marketing and publicity run seperately, causing this kind of content to fall through the cracks, as typically it would be organised by publicity while the event is a marketing asset. It also requires an investment from senior management if you're going to do it regularly.
Penguin Random House had access to the talent and resources needed to regularly produce long-form talks and since doing so the channel saw incredible growth. Not only that but generally the book sales for authors appearing in long-form videos also rose.
Low-budget film making for long-form content is trickier but there are some examples in publishing. I'd recommend hiring a freelancer with one 4K camera and having them film a two shot of your speakers. They should be able to punch in and out of this, giving a single shot of each speaker to a HD standard and essentially turning one camera into two or three angles. I think the London Review Bookshop do something similar for their events.
The future of online & on-demand video
Looking further ahead, on-demand platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will rise. Apple, Disney and Warner Brothers have all announced platforms that will be launched within the next couple of years. In my opinion, the way publishing can stay ahead is to create long-form content like this series on the Penguin channels and sell them to these platforms. Not only does it increase the viewership of the content and potential money to fund future projects, it also raises the audience intent to purchase and thus the overall book sales. Publishers should be looking at channels like TED and the Talks at GS series on Amazon Prime with keen interest.
If you’re keen to learn more about the YouTube algorithm I highly recommend this article, though it is a little old now, on reverse engineering the algorithm. I’m also available to consult and help with any video strategy plans you may have. You can contact me at peterrossiter.com.
Peter Rossiter is a TV producer/director and editor who has worked with brands such as Adidas, BBC, Comic Relief, Lego and Penguin Random House over the last ten years.