Video and the men’s market: natural allies


One of the great booms of the internet has been the rise of video. There are now a staggering 1 billion unique views of YouTube a month, with more than 72 hours of video Imagebeing uploaded a minute. 4 billion hours of video are now watched on YouTube alone[1].

And that is just on YouTube. IGN Entertainment records almost 35 million + views in video each month alone – with content ranging from simple video reviews, to conversations about games, to demos and interviews with leading developers[2]. It knows what it’s audience wants to see, and uses video to augment that experience – the majority of print content has an accompanying video piece.

It’s a slick operation. All of these videos are generally (unless it is a particularly compelling piece of content) under ten minutes long. And if you look into reports, it is a male dominated market: a study done in 2009 picked up on the fact that 77% of users are in the under-35 market, while 60% of users are male[3].

For men, then, video is the superior medium of engagement. It explains why porn smashed the men’s market so effectively (you can see my post on this on the attached footnote)[4]. And increasingly, companies are recognizing the effectiveness turning their magazine and media brands into channels of their own.

Conde Nast, for example, is making big moves into the content game: their new entertainment president (Dawn Ostroff) is focusing on building content across platforms to turn them into broad offerings – notably talking branded web series as one major output of their efforts[5].

And both IGN Entertainment and Conde Nast aren’t the only ones. Brightcove has built a platform specifically to help sell video advertising for publishers – a move that highlights the moves that Hearst, Time and others have begun to make toward the video age[6]. Video is quickly becoming the medium of choice to complement and expand a content offering.

All of this points to a merger between the traditional ‘TV’ channels and the publishers. And with advances in technology rapidly smashing the cost of broadcast quality production and distribution, it only becomes a matter of time before these organizations come into direct competition.

In some cases, they already have: Amazon (the noted book publisher) recently made the move to launch a series of pilots that indicate their move into video, film and TV streaming[7]. Instead of the traditional focus group pilot launch, however, they have built a different model: use data to inform their response on the investment into a TV show[8].

That is a radically different approach to the traditional channel, and one which relies on a couple of factors. Firstly, they aren’t restricted in terms of geographical viewership – in fact, digital means geography is largely no object. These days, you can launch a web series that can be viewed in England, Australia and the US and group it around an interest instead.

In essence, video and content is no longer constrained by channel. And so instead of focusing on ‘how can we hit as many people in this area as possible’ (see shows like the news, which reports on such an array of topics there has to be some wastage), you now have the ability to work out how many people exist around an interest group/market, and can you build a product around them.

The men’s market will find this key. Having the ability to build around male interests, whether that be sport, or something else, will be a real trait in the future, and producing the kinds of video content that reaches into those interests will be crucial. Look at the ongoing success of shows like Top Gear, any number of spy shows (Burn Notice for example) and even watching the cricket for good examples.

Men are always looking for the next gripping piece of ongoing content to latch onto. That used to be the weekly FHM, with a series of lewd jokes and other bawdy articles. These days, though, expect the next big men’s site to be one packed with video content, integrating in great digital journalism.

Here are some hypotheticals:

  • Esquire TV: all around cool guy routines, upmarket. A show about stockbrokers (think a Suits style show) combined with articles about their style guides, how to get ahead against your boss.
  • FHM TV: a jackass style show, replete with best office pranks (and video of) and articles about flirting with that hot girl (you can see a video of guys taking a crack at a hot girl, even if fictional, being cool here).
  • Men’s Health TV: workout routines for your morning run, articles on health and fitness, best songs to listen to whilst you work out.

You can see all these types of products working: and what’s more, you know that the media companies themselves will drive that discovery process far more efficiently than companies like Google (YouTube) and Vimeo ever could. They’ll be able to use the data and insights, combined with storytelling, to facilitate the process of discovery across these platforms.

And discovery will be key: producing those TV shows so men are relying and trusting you to provide them with their content, rather than them doing the legwork.

In short: video is going to be big business for the men’s market. It will be a way to reinvigorate the product back around interests in a compelling and interesting way: and will almost certainly see publishers attacking the mass-market television studios in the not-so-distant future.


Did pornography kill the mens magazine?

One of the great media explosions in the 90s was the rise of the ‘lad mag’. Published monthly, these were titles like FHM, Ralph and People. They attracted a young, often slightly adolescent male looking for laughs, entertainment and a bit of excitement in their lives.

But in the late 2000s, the market seemed to die. Ralph went out of business in 2010, and FHM followed shortly after[1]. It was a massive change, and a shock to the system of the market. Suddenly, magazines were considered endangered species.

But why?

One of the first things to consider about these types of magazines is the person reading them. In late 2007, one of the biggest things to rise was Facebook. Growing massively, it represented a massive increase in the amount of funny, snackable content that was the staple of the male lifestyle brand.

Other websites grew to accommodate, and more importantly integrate into these networks. They were more convenient and attractive for people to consume entertainment through, simply by nature of the medium. It was instant, quick and selective: all attractive attributes for readers. Not to mention, virtually free.

One of the biggest challenges of social, though, is that it is exactly that: social. That means a hesitancy to share scantily clad photos of women for men. If you’re a bloke, you don’t want the girls in your network to see you’re a fan of that type of thing. And why would you?

Of course the other phenomena was the extra-ordinary growth of porn[2]. Increasingly, in order for men to get their daily experience of women, they turned to the readily available and generally free internet to sate their needs. And it blew away probably the most ubiquitous factor uniting the media consumption of men.

My theory is that this phenomena led to a change in the psychology of ‘lads’ entertainment – you either went down the full smut route or scaled up. The market didn’t disappear. The landscape simply changed.

In this period, though, we saw lad mags do very little to attempt to compete. Launching websites and focusing completely on providing more of the same content, only in digital, did very little to recognize how social and digital actually shifted the terms of content consumption[3].

Not only that, barely any of them realized that their content model needed to change. Sex suddenly changed from being the selling point of these magazines, to their weakest link – because sex was no longer an engaging point through the magazine medium.

Hearst, for example, recognized this, taking the Esquire magazine rapidly upmarket and recognizing the need for a shift in their content models early. And clearly it is working: these are the magazines seeing strong growth in the digital era[4].

Instead of targeting the men’s market though the unifying force of sex, they instead focus on what men want to be – creating an aspirational model based on interests and different examples of lifestyle.

Take two quite separate publications: Esquire and Mens Health. Both are relatively successful examples of magazines that still exist in the post-lad mag era. Esquire ( is a magazine and media brand which exemplifies the upmarket man – who is suave, engaged and knows what he wants.

He represents the lifestyle of ambition, and wants the best: in style, politics, entertainment, food and drink, with the occasional beautiful woman validating this opinion. What doesn’t he want? Tits, booze and footy being thrown at him. Even though he may still like these things, they don’t represent the interests that he feels he should have.

Men’s Health again is similar. I very much doubt the majority of men who read that are satisfied with their current weight, or their current physique. But what does the magazine do? Gives them a clear paragon, interest group and lifestyle to define themselves too. And it is one which taps clearly into some general interests men hold: food, women, sex – but all in a way which defines itself into a lifestyle and revolves around a core interest: health.

And what is clear is that the lad mag had a great market for selling this lifestyle: sex. But with the abundance of freer and racier content offered through the anonymous web of the internet, this smashed apart the traditional core content offering of the lad mag. And they did very little to adapt their content models.  

Now, instead, the winning formula has changed. Digital models and print models need to revolve around creating a compelling portal for men to engage with: and this is typically based on theming it around a core interest. That can be health. That can be cars. That can be travel. But it must engage those core sensibilities that drive the male market.

Why not sex you ask? Well, advertisers always were slightly on edge about providing strong revenue to a sex based product. At best, it is a tenuous link. At worst, in the modern day, you’re selling an inferior product – ultimately, when it comes to sex, porn is a better service than a lad’s mag, and consumers know it.

The future of the men’s lifestyle media market is in capturing their interests. Whether that be sport, cars, travel, style – the reality is the modern media company will be able to capture these interests and generate a lifestyle out of them. As a product, this will give an aspirational lifestyle that captures their core drivers, and more importantly, one that can easily cross borders.


Can syndication make niche media profitable?

One of the indisputable truths of the digital age is that it has fragmented the media landscape[1]. There certainly are big draw cards in media still, based on big audience products: (News), (AOL) and Netflix being prime examples of companies thriving in the digital space.

What is evident from the digital age, however, is that people seem to love niche products. Websites like the satirical AFL site ‘The Daily Maggot’[2], run by a Melbourne entrepreneur, sees over 30,000 hits per month in unique viewers.

Other, similar niche products exist. Take Private Media Partners in Australia, who run a series of niche, politically orientated digital properties[3]. As products, they represent very niche groups of people. As a group, they hold around 1 million monthly and unique viewers.

As a company they have not managed to scale their business. What they have proved is a demand for smaller, niche products. The question that remains is how do you turn this model into a profitable business?

Well, the answer lies in an old trick from traditional media, particularly television: syndication. It is something which the modern media world hasn’t ticked onto to take small, niche sites, and scale their behind the scenes cost model.

Take two websites: one is a women’s fitness site, one is a women’s food site. The syndication opportunities there are endless. You could take nutrition content and cycle it through, or you could take fitness regimes that complemented your food intake. Building a content plan that works for both of these properties in conjunction is key to aggregating the audiences of both, without forcing them into a property they don’t identify with.

This may be a more obvious example above, but for media companies looking to exploit the niche markets, this surely is the model they must take. Rather than working out how to model niche sites into mass sites in the consumer facing model, digital instead offers the opportunity to forge the economy of scale behind the scenes.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon brought on by the ease of access within the digital world. And it is a skill that old media companies will understand, and be able to do well.

Why not aggregate into one big site, you ask? Well in some cases that would work, and will provide enough for your audience to not disengage them through irrelevant content. But for sites where relevance is increasingly crucial, building the syndication links between your properties will be important to driving profits and margins that otherwise wouldn’t exist.


How ‘Generation N’ can put profit back into newspapers

Colin Morrison hits the nail on the head – content portals to be the future of media for the Digital Generation.

Flashes & Flames

It’s been just like the old days in Britain this week. There’s been fierce coverage for and against Margaret Thatcher. And sell-out newspapers reporting her life and death. Fittingly, UK daily sales peaked 24 years ago when Thatcher became Prime Minister. But it’s been downhill ever since.

The problem is that a fixation with the advertising-subsidised past is obstructing fundamental change. How else can you explain the 450,000 of “bulk copies” distributed in January by UK national dailies to hotels, airlines and railways? It’s all about hyping circulations for the “benefit” of advertisers but the obsession with sales figures is holding newspapers back. And some of the worst offenders are strong brands which are already filling the revenue gap.

The UK’s Financial Times is the world champion at increasing its cover price: up from £1 to £2.50 in six years after a four-year standstill. It has thus been able to generate…

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It’s time for the media business to leverage free content

One of the big challenges for media in the 21st century is the abundance of free content that the internet throws up. It smashes apart the previously subscription driven models, forcing publishers to rethink how they create value outside of providing content for their audiences.

For many, this has involved expanding on their core offerings to provide multi-channels solutions. Take, for instance, one of my favorite companies: ShortList Media[1]. ShortList provides EDMs, web, tablet and print content to an upwardly mobile audience.

But as the value of content diminishes, so to must media companies recognize this. One of the best examples I have seen is Australian company ‘The Roar’[2]. The Roar focuses on providing sports opinion, rather than news, and boasts around 500,000 viewers each month.

The best part about the model, though, is their content model. The Roar has recognized that some of the best submissions come from fans, and as such, fan edited content is an essential part of their model. Fans are happy to provide content as it gives them an official platform for their voice to be heard on. This gives them the legitimacy to have their opinion heard, which is something they place a value on (and hence are happy to donate their time towards).

More importantly, the costs for The Roar of content are virtually nothing. Editing, sure, and subbing. But the journalist cost? Virtually nil.

The Roar recognizes, as any good publisher, that this cannot exist in absentia of any legitimized content from ‘expert’ columnists, and still go down this path. But by embracing the UGC [user generated content] model, they smash apart some of their content costs associated with the journalism model.

For big media, this is a great way to ensure your content is relevant whilst diminishing your cost of publishing. It creates a strong, two- way conversation with your readers that you know remains relevant. As a model, it provides one of the best ways for media businesses to leverage the diminishing value of content in the digital age.

Any good media business is going to have content-curation as a core part of its business. The Roar is showing the way in how media can increasingly embrace new content production models to fuel growth and reduce costs, all whilst keeping their great content relevant.



Why media should get on and create retail advertising solutions….

The power of advertising has driven the success of media for years and years. The ability to place your product into a target audience has been, well, a billion dollar industry over the past century or so, and until very recently, was a booming industry.

Now, with the full face of media fragmentation shattering audiences and a complete revolution in the nature of (paid-for) content, we’re seeing declining advertising revenues and a shift in the engagement strategies of media-marketers.

One of the big winners out of all of this has been in the content marketing space[1]. Brands are increasingly recognizing that they can enter the publishing game, and do it well. In the age of free content, this is an increasingly valuable skillset.

But why should publishers get into retail as well? What benefits are there to flipping the content marketing model the other way around?

Well, for one, audiences will prefer you for it. Ultimately, your audience cares as much about convenience these days as it does the content it is looking at. Take mobile. What good publisher doesn’t have mobile apps delivering content these days?

The reason for that is to facilitate a convenient user experience. And for more and more people, this concept expands to the types of services their media products provide. A buying service, increasingly, will become a massive part of this, making the user experience a far more convenient process.

For advertisers, it makes sense. They only pay for what they are selling through your platform, and essential media brands become the shop fronts of the digital age. After all, people don’t want to limit themselves to single brands – rather they want to be exposed to a variety of brands which meld with their lifestyle view (don’t be surprised if you see someone content marketing joint ventures in 2013).

The risk of this is publishers are taking on product risk – as such, they’ll be reliant on funneling resources of this type to the bigger brands, rather than relying on launch products. The result? You’ll get a few media brands that become experts in matching experimental products to their audiences (ie they take a risk for greater revenue share on smaller, untested brands).

All in all, publishers need to embrace the technology offered in the media space. Merging and offering platforms to provide a shopfronted in a fragmented media landscape makes sense: for audiences, for advertisers and for publishers.


[Short Rant] Is Vine too disruptive?

When Vine[1] was first announced, I got excited. Finally, a product which provided those lovable, short “GIF” style videos on a social media platform. In a word; awesome.

But the more I think about it, the more I dislike the platform. Video and social media is always an odd mix – look at your own social media feed. I’m willing to bet there are a few videos mixed in there, but you will probably only look at one or two.


Because social media is largely based on the scrolling platform. With social media, your data is constantly being thrown at you, you are constantly moving through sources of information, and always gaining a broader, overall social insight. It’s a platform which discourages more than a three sentence update.

Both Twitter and Facebook know this – Facebook, with its ‘continue reading’ feature for long updates, Twitter with a character limit. And both tend to leave video just sitting there – avoiding actively pushing the content out.

The most interesting thing about this, however, is with Vine. Twitter have almost thought that they can find the happy medium between the disruptive nature of video on social media, and the clear and present emotional tone it can convey. They’re banking on it not being disruptive enough that it allows you to still watch.

Having used Vine, though, I’m not convinced. There isn’t enough video to truly tell a story – and to truly tell a succinct story, you’ll need more video. Slightly ironically, a picture here does not paint a thousand words.

Twitter have banked a lot on Vine, and I hope it goes well for them. My gut feel, though, is this is just a little too disruptive for the format.