How does a traditional print media empire stand out digitally in today’s age of social media and over the top (OTT) services?
Michael Klein, executive vice president of programming and content strategy for Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE), has spent the last three years trying to figure out exactly that. He shared some of the insights he has gained during a visit to our class, Expanded Cinema: New Media, Movies and Beyond.
His division, which focuses on the development and production of digital video, works with all 18 of Condé Nast’s brands. As a traditional media outlet, Klein’s content has to stand out in people’s minds while competing against the multitude of user-generated content and other digital video that have saturated the market.
“There is a way of producing to a digital audience that is very critical,” Klein says. As the digital audience has been conditioned to quickly identify if a video is authentic, Klein must focus on telling “real personal stories.”
This can be seen in Vogue’s online web series, 73 Questions.
The idea started as a traditional interview with Sarah Jessica Parker, but Klein was more interested in capturing her real, authentic self that is reflected in her social media presence. So in the video, she speaks directly to the viewer, rapidly answering candid questions about her life.
In addition to the development of this more veracious style of filmmaking, digital media functions on the basis of peer-to-peer networks. By embracing peer-to-peer, Klein can rely on his viewers to propagate CNE videos through social media shares, comments and likes.
There is also a longer tail to digital video than there is to traditional broadcast media. A mass media market’s success depends on amassing a few lucrative blockbusters (the head), whereas in a digital environment, success depends on amassing impressions across an array of niches, (the long tail.) A large number of disruptive digital ventures exemplify the long tail process such as Amazon, Netflix and YouTube.
But how do these videos get the views they need to become profitable? Klein taps into social phenomenon that people will want to share. In his talk he referred to the onslaught of catcalling videos and articles that recently swept through all of our Facebook and twitter feeds.
Once the subject went viral Klein knew he had to do something to capitalize on it. His team created the video Dads React to Their Daughters Getting Catcalled for The Scene. After subsequently being picked up by Buzzfeed and going viral, The Scene followed up with Sons React to Their Moms Getting Catcalled.
Building a new audience also depends on how you work with other social media platforms to promote your programming. Because of the rise of platforms like Snapchat and Periscope, Klein’s division plays with the idea of creating content for vertical videos. Klein went on to explain the heart and formula of his programming which they call “Mood States.”
It’s “not about the mood your in,” but “the mood you want to be in.” To escape, create, connect, inspire and be smarter are the 5 reasons or mood states that people will embrace and lead them to share video online. These mood states create the key to a successful digital video, creating significant audience engagement.
Condé Nast Entertainment is a successful example of a print-era company adapting to its digital environment. Instead of rejecting or denying the rise of digital media, Conde Nast is transforming itself.
It is not trying to change the environment. Instead it reshapes itself to fit the environment.
Asia Hunt is a student in the NYU/Tisch Undergraduate Film and TV Department from the class of 2017.