How Daily Express publisher Northern and Shell centralizes video production

Northern and Shell, publisher of the Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! magazine, has been leaning hard into video, growing its number of video specialists from four to 30 people in 18 months. It’s now publishing roughly 300 videos a day across its sites, most of them licensed, up from less than 50 last year. Now, 90 percent of articles have some form of video.

“We have three specific brands and audience segments and topics that we own,” said Rebecca Hutson, group head of video at Northern and Shell. “What we want to do with video is mimic the editorial of the sites and complement that, rather than publishing the same old video you can see on every news site. We can’t come to the party late and do the same the other news organizations are doing.”

For instance, all videos about the Dutch election have been popular on right-leaning Daily Express. This article on Geert Wilders losing the Dutch election, and what his defeat means for anti-EU populism, includes a video of Wilders commenting after his loss.

While niche political home affairs videos do well on the Express, the Daily Star has a lighter tone. Video content that does well here includes sports, true crime and CCTV footage, like this car catching fire after a high-speed car chase. OK! Magazine’s video is lifestyle- and local-celebrity-focused, like this on glamour model Danielle Lloyd’s first baby scan. As such, the three brands are distinct, and rarely, if ever, will video content appear across more than one site.

The publisher is keen to do more original video. For now, it’s doing several a week and drawing on the access it has to politicians to create longer, more evergreen content about wider political issues, rather than chasing a news story. For instance, a video on U.K. politician Douglas Carswell talking at length about his ambitions and broader political agenda, rather than tying it to whether he would become the next Speaker at the House of Commons.

“We understand things now have to be short and snacky,” said Hutson. “It would be a real validation of what we do if we could start publishing two-minute videos and people start coming to us for that.” Facebook is more of a secondary concern, not all videos are published to the social platform, and the publisher has learned that it takes more emotive videos on Facebook to get big numbers: less European politics, more babies hearing for the first time.

According to the publisher, daily video views across its brands reach nearly 4 million globally, 30 percent of this coming from the U.K., 20 percent from the U.S., a surprising number considering the U.K. brand covers a lot of local and European politics.

“It’s zeitgeisty of how important British local politics are in a global framework — but only for 47 seconds, because people want to move on,” said Simon Haynes, head of digital at the publisher. “You want to inform, educate and set the agenda within 47 seconds.”

Mostly the publisher monetizes through pre-roll on these videos, although Haynes notes there’s still 30-second pre-roll on short videos. As part of scaling its video operation, it’s been working with Iris, a content-recommendation engine that takes signals from viewer behavior to serve the next video to try and get viewers sticking around for longer.

“We choose partners on several metrics, what’s important to us is what happens after the integration, how much you are feeding the beast that is our knowledge,” said Haynes. “That’s something mar-tech doesn’t do great job of; they tell you they will solve your problem, but they don’t tell you how.”

Currently the publisher doesn’t do branded content on video, but it will likely play a bigger role.

“There’ll be another incarnation at some point,” said Haynes about the monetizing video. “You have to live in the moment because it’s a tough climate. In the U.K., it’s going to be slim pickings, so anywhere there’s more demand than supply, you’re going to gravitate toward it. That’s what video has been.”

Image: Courtesy of Alastair Rae, via Flickr.

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