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Hello and thank you so much for inviting me today to speak to you about the brand I love: Variety. Everyone here knows Variety, right? We are an icon that been in business since 1905; the authority on entertainment business news and a fixture in our industry. The business model that has sustained Variety over the past 113 years is to produce quality journalism. Like the NYT, Washington Post, LA Times and most other news organizations, the ad dollars that used to go to print and even digital banners are now going to FB, Instagram and Twitter. We live in a click mentality which has created a dire situation in journalism. How do we balance “clicks” and maintain our quality? I am happy to tell you that Variety’s business is once again on the rise. And today I am going to share with you some of the ways that we have applied global trends in publishing to ensure that our business is not merely surviving but flourishing.
Technology has caused massive, sudden and unexpected disruption in the publishing industry resulting in bleeding print revenues. To make matters worse the automation of buying and selling media has driven pricing down for digital dollars and created a low demand for direct sold display. On top of that ad blockers that originated because of poor user experiences on the net, are preventing some ads from being seen at all. So how does a publisher combat these problems?
We can start with gaining consumer TRUST. The more a reader trusts your content the more valuable it becomes.
Variety has done an outstanding job of cultivating trust from our readers. In our reader survey last year the #1 adjective that they attributed to Variety was TRUST. And we have maintained that trust by reporting real news that is important to our industry. #Truthtelling in Hollywood. And to give you a little insight into who these readers are, they are among the most influential and affluent in the world. Creators of popular culture as well as passionate enthusiasts.
The entertainment and media industries rely on us to provide award-winning breaking news coverage, insightful deep-dive think pieces, must-read feature spotlights and top analysis of entertainment’s most prominent players. In 2019 we will be adding a new product, the Variety Intelligence Platform, a subscription offering of data and research that will include white papers, newsletters, and video.
Our commitment to excellence has been recognized by winning such awards as the LA Press Club Luminary Award for Career Achievement to co-editors–in-chief Claudia Eller and Andrew Wallenstein. Best website, best entertainment news publication…..
As well as nominations for Webby Awards, our custom content studio and our cutting edge covers. Plus we have one two Emmys for our series on PBS, Actors on Actors.
And we developed product so that we could take a robust 360 product suite to market that includes…. We don’t take a silo approach we leveraging synergies across all of these units, working hand in hand. We have done a great job diversifying the brand.
To combat programmatic advertising we created an in-house dedicated team devoted to producing custom storytelling for brands. Custom content is the antithesis to the automated buy. Because it is so specialized we can charge premium pricing and maintain decent margins. This strategy has contributed to the growth of our print and digital business.
When brands produce content, it reads like marketing. When agencies produce content, it reads like advertising. When publishers produce content, it reads like content. Which could be the reason why Premium Branded Content will be a $20 Billion Market by 2021. As you can see the top 100 publishers globally will make up 50% of the market. Those top 100 generated $3 Billion in 2017 and will generate $10 Billion by 2021.
The Variety Content Studio consists of writers, producers and marketers who can create video, articles, custom sections of the magazine, photography and social posts for our advertisers. We are finding that readers don’t necessarily distinguish between editorial and branded content – they simply want great content and we make certain that the quality of what we produce in the Variety Content Studio is equal to our editorial content. However It is important that we distinguish that which is branded, custom or advertorial from our editorial content and all branded content is noted as such. This goes back to maintaining the trust of our readers. Additionally Variety produces approximately 70 events including B2B thought-leadership summits throughout the year. While we will continue to produce established celebrity-driven events such as our Power of Women luncheons, Power of Young Hollywood, Emmy Celebration, Variety Screening Series, our two-time Emmy winning series Actors on Actors, to name a few, we are moving in a new direction of creating curated specialized experiences for our partners. For example we have interview studios at the major film festivals like Sundance and Toronto. At Toronto this year we produced a private dinner for Chanel honoring Kiera Knightly and the women filmmakers in the festival. We also threw at party for AT&T for the cast & crew of “Widows’. Because of our position of prominence in the industry we are capable of driving unique experiences for brands.
The great news about this new revenue stream is that Custom Content performs. The conversion rate is more than double the average CTR for display. The average reading time for branded content was 73 secs in 2017. Custom Content creates high engagement –mobile engagement has exceeded desktop in time spent averaging 79 secs. And the average person reads 74% of a branded article and 55% finish the article. Great stats.
Here is an example of branded content in print and digital that we produced for Sony TV in the first phase of Emmy consideration for “The Good Doctor”. We created an 8 page print insert and built a hub to house the content online. The content is then distributed, pushed out across our social media of 4.8MM followers. The content received 12MM impressions over two weeks and received 30K engagements including likes, shares, comments.
I’d like to now show you a sample of what we created in the studio for Lionsgate’s Tribeca Shortlist streaming service. We partnered with Lionsgate to create a 25 part service with talent discussing their favorite must-watch movies on Tribeca Shortlist. Part of producing the series of course involved booking the talent and fortunately we have great relationships with publicists that we were able to leverage. Let’s take a look at Kristin Chenoweth.
As a great tie in to our thought leadership summits, we can produce white papers for the B2B community such as this one we did for Treasure Data. The papers can be blown into the magazine, housed on Variety.com and pushed out on social media and distributed at our summits.
In addition to the branded video our editorial video is one of our most visible initiatives right now. Because we are a premium content brand, our programmatic pre-roll video commands higher pricing than average video placements. We expect to have a 100% lift on pre-roll revenue in 2019 through our efforts to create more video content.
We’ve recently launched a daily news video series, Daily Variety, 1 clip approximately 3 minutes in length M-F that delves into the biggest news stories in the business of entertainment. The video is shot either in LA with our co-EIC Andrew Wallenstein or in NY with our esteemed journalist Elizabeth Wagmeister. We anticipate this will be a popular sponsorship for FYC award season campaigns. Let’s play a clip….
Another way we are growing video revenue is by working with partners. We collaborated FB to create more consumer-facing content. Our first effort “Brush with Fame’ features a celebrity telling us about how they met another famous person they admired. The second, “That’s Life” is a day in the life of a star. Let’s take a look at a bit of the episode with Brad Goreski and Lea Michele.
When we shoot celebrity covers we also shoot a video series called “Variety Uncovered” a fun interview with 8-10 questions which has a sponsorship package attached and is pushed out on social media. Here’s an example with our 2018 Hitmaker honoree Kendrick Lamarr.
Our red carpet coverage is very popular. We are able to sell our social coverage around big events like the Emmys, Oscars and Golden Globes. Marc Malkin has joined us as senior events and lifestyle editor. He oversees all of Variety’s events coverage, and covers the carpets at all of the industry’s major awards shows and film festivals. A familiar fixture on Hollywood’s red carpets, Malkin served as a correspondent and the managing editor for film for E! News for over a decade, earning two Emmy nominations during his tenure. So again readers trust Marc.
Another trend in building a brand and growing revenue in publishing is social media.
I re-joined Variety at the end of 2015 when we had a following of 1.9MM. We focused our efforts on growing that audience resulting in a 147% lift to 4.7MM to date. Our number 1 platform is Twitter followed by FB. We hired a social media editor this year who is really focusing her efforts on Instagram as that platform fits nicely with our events strategy and of course advertisers love Instagram. We also utilize LinkedIn and our summit partners get great engagement on that platform.
Variety’s social strategy is “Tell It and Sell It”. With a goal of always building audience and traffic. -Original content is king - The best way to establish credibility and get RT'd/followed by influencers is creating original content - breaking news, asking provocative questions, producing unique videos or photos (visuals). The best of which expands on user 'familiarity’. 3 important qualities to build a reputation are trust, likeability and familiarity. We give preference to things and people we are familiar with. -Visuals are key - it's the first thing users see. Not the headline, not the hashtags, not the emojis, the visuals. Social media is all about familiarity, if they don't comprehend at least a part of your story, then it's unlikely to 'sell' or 'click.’ Speed - Be fast - We're competing with over 200 entertainment publishers worldwide, many of whom are writing the same 'Roseanne is cancelled' headline. But if do it first, or second or third, there's a strong possibility that readers and influencers will start sharing your breaking news headline first. -Brevity is rewarded. Get to the point (copy). You don't need to tell the whole story, that's what the article/video is for. -Timing - max engagement when you're hitting all the key time zones - Engage, engage, engage – of course! -Pay attention to analytics/trends. You think you know everything but you won't know until you look at the numbers. And Variety isn't beholden to data, if that were the case we'd call ourselves The Kardashians. We focus on the business of entertainment, but often, there is a correlation between engagement and business. So pay attention to the data, both internal and external (Twitter analytics).
Engage, engage, engage - Duh
Brevity is rewarded. Get to the point (copy). You don't need to tell the whole story, that's what the article/video is for.
Like many publications we sell client supplied posts especially during the FYC season. We can also boost great reviews or articles to remind voters about a particular film.
Here is how we use social media as a distribution platform for branded content. We created a series of videos about the art of sound that we pushed out on social media and also gave to the client to use themselves.
We connect brands to our events and summits and as part of the event sponsorship they receive social posts. Here are some examples of celebrities engaging with our brand. The first is our Path to Parity event about ending gender bias that we did last week with one of our keynotes Mila Kunis. The event was held at the Jeremy Hotel sponsored by Karma Automotive Our Power of Women event is presented by Lifetime twice a year once in NY and once in LA and here we have Viola Davis and her husband at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles. Shuttstock is our partner for our partner for our Actors on Actors Tv series that airs on PBS and they are tagged in all of the video that we push out from the series.
One of the advantages of working at such an iconic brand is that we don’t ever need to hire influencers or celebrities – they come to us. We honored Zendaya at our Power of Young Hollywood event and she happily posted a photo from the event and tagged us which received 764,000 likes. Priyanka Chopra was at our Sundance studio and reposted our post which received over 1MM likes. Taylor Swift posted our review of her tour on her Instagram Story – with 108MM followers that type of engagement bring Variety new followers and fans. So you can see why we don’t have to pay influencers.
So to summarize the global trends that are building our audience and are revenue streams are quality journalism, video, social and custom content. Before I close I would like to play a short clip from our Power of Women luncheon, presented by Lifetime. This week is our LA event. The luncheon celebrates A talent for their philanthropic efforts. And now let’s look a the clip.
Thank you for spending time with me today. Here is my contact information, follow me on social media but more importantly read Variety and follow Variety!