Creating breakthrough content in the age of video can be challenging.
When thousands of videos are uploaded across social video platforms every millisecond, how do you cut through the noise? And how are you supposed to grow your audience without killer content?
Ian Edgar knows how to do both. As the VP of Creative Strategy and Video Programming at Condé Nast Entertainment, Edgar is in the content strategy trenches every day, working hard to make the media giant’s videos some of the most-watched and unforgettable in the world.
His efforts have helped Condé Nast’s YouTube channels — which include well-known properties like Wired, Vogue, and GQ — grow to 39M+ subscribers and earn 11B views each month.
Tubular hosted a webinar with Edgar to find out why Condé Nast’s content strategy is so effective and how you can apply the company’s best practices to your own.
Letting the Creative Process Guide You
One of Conde Nast’s core content strategies is actually quite foundational. Instead of focusing on algorithms, Edgar says the media giant’s goal is to scale via the creative process.
“The approach we take is to create new frequencies and jagged elements, looking to get the scale not through gaming the system or tweaking some set of algorithmic best practices, but really through believing in the creative,” the VP noted in a recent webinar with Tubular.
In simpler terms, Edgar aims to make successful content good and make good content successful. He and his team work to make original videos that are not only shareable, but also substantial and worthwhile. This trust in creative is what he believes has driven Condé Nast’s success.
But what does “success” mean in terms of strategy? Condé Nast has some theories about that, too.
Defining Success Based on Core Principles
Edgar says that while hit rate and other factors tie into what makes successful content for the legacy publisher-turned-digital-creator, unsuccessful videos also feed into creative development.
“It’s easy to see [which] videos have been successful, so we should make more, but how many of those types of videos were unsuccessful?” Edgar explained. “That’s a really important thing to understand when reading the data.”
Condé Nast also determines success by separating its content into a 3-tiered programming funnel, which includes:
- videos that will draw viewers in (the discovery level)
- videos that will make them stay (the decision level)
- videos that consistently deliver harder-hitting facts and reporting (the core level)
“Understanding where an idea is going to sit within these buckets is very important, and we see different benchmarks for success [across them],” Edgar noted. “You don’t have as high view expectations on your core content, but because you don’t have such high expectations, you have space to really build a voice.”
Focusing on the Four Tenets of Content Strategy
Edgar and his team have been able to build Condé Nast’s voice so powerfully over the last few years across all its digital properties because four basic tenets drive its video content strategy.
For starters, Edgar and his team make sure every video has clarity. Not only do the visual elements need to look cohesive (i.e. a clear thumbnail with no extra elements), but the message of the clip needs to be understood.
Next up is structure, which Edgar notes is key for retention. “If people don’t understand what’s about to happen, then they’re more likely to drop off,” he explained.
Insights are the inherent value and takeaways each video should give to viewers. Instead of making box-ticking content, publishers should be “seeking to deliver unexpected, delightful, and edifying value.”
The final tenet is elevations, where Edgar and his team want to make videos that stand out (which goes back to the company’s “new frequencies” approach). “When you’ve got so much content to choose from, it’s just a wall of noise,” he said. “Making a new frequency sings out like tapping a glass in a crowded room.”
Overall, Edgar believes the first two tenets convey simplicity that draws viewers in. The second two tenets of complexity make them stay, like, share, and subscribe, the actions every digital publisher craves from their audience.
Using Data to Discover Audience Desires
This day and age, everyone has access to data. But Edgar says analysis and synthesis of data are vital components of the video content strategy process which ultimately helps you better understand what your audience wants.
“Reading between the lines in the data, and then creating stories around that, can then tee up creatives to make great decisions that lead them to success,” he explained.
Using data in the right way helps Condé Nast find patterns and key insights into audience preferences. For example, Edgar notes his team will look at similarities, commonalities, or recurring themes between the tone and theme of successful videos across its different channels.
If many clips could be described as “tip-packed” or “exuberant” or even “confident,” for example, Edgar says you can start to understand these “clusters of concepts” the more you look at the data.
“That’s the real pattern recognition. You can do that at the level of a topic, or at the level of ‘why do humans like stuff,” Edgar explained. “That’s what makes this endlessly exciting.”
Aiming for Repeatable Success
Condé Nast’s approach to video creation is clearly a winning formula. Content strategists, if you’re struggling to understand your audiences and develop content they can’t help but watch, you should take Edgar’s teachings to heart.
After all, across all its verticals, Condé Nast is seeing massive growth and is constantly landing on the Tubular leaderboards. “(Wired doesn’t) happen to be the #1 science and tech channel; it’s really a function of us applying these concepts,” Edgar said. “What we’re learning about attention is fundamental,”
Ready to see other ways you can emulate Condé Nast’s success through data?