Taking Print to Digital: The power of video done right


The Hollywood ReporterBillboard Media Group, owner and operator of several of the leading entertainment publications for industry professionals and fans, has consistently looked to innovate around video to build and grow its audience across its portfolio of brands. We sat down with the digital teams of two of its leading properties, to learn how they are enhancing the performance of their video content via recommendations and personalization, the value of data in their programming strategy, and how they plan to continue to innovate with video in the future.

Q: In a digital ecosystem that is so fragmented, how have you managed to increase viewership and engage audiences on your properties?

A: Nathan McGowan, VP, Product, The Hollywood Reporter & Billboard.
We wanted to make sure that video was more exposed on our sites and that users really knew the extent of our library and premium content. We engaged IRIS.TV to help us provide a personalized approach to presenting videos to our users. IRIS.TV did this by powering our video players within our most popular content categories in a way that engaged consumers to watch more videos. Through increased video entry points, users rapidly began to experience the breadth and depth of our content.


Q: What was the result of increasing the entry points to video and its impact on performance?

A: Reed Kavner, Senior Product Manager, Billboard.
The ability to recommend the most relevant video from our library enables us to be more aggressive with creating video entry points while creating a more engaging experience for our audience. Our data shows that when a viewer is offered video recommendations tailored to their tastes, they’re more likely to stick around beyond the initial video, which multiplies our opportunities for monetization. Personalized video recommendations are a win for us, our audience, and our advertisers.

Reed Hallstrom, Director of Product, The Hollywood Reporter.

In addition, we utilized the integration of IRIS.TV’s dynamic preview screens that help prime the user for a continuous viewing experience. Adding the element of user feedback controls such as thumbs up/down further gives our audience control without overwhelming them with choices or interrupting the experience, and that feedback is valuable on for both parties: the user is able to optimize their recommendations, and we’re able to see what videos are prompting reactions. The majority of our video experiences are on article pages, and we’ve found that viewers start an experience with video related to the article, but ultimately explore content from our library that may be very different. This allows us to more fully utilize our deep content library, and helps our users become familiar with the diversity of our content. Even personally, our use of Iris has shown me plenty of hidden gems I would never have seen otherwise.


Q: Digital video is often characterized by the viral moment and volatility. What are you doing to engage audiences on your owned and operated sites when there is not a viral video?

A: Rena Gross, Web Producer, Billboard.
As Billboard and THR both enjoy exclusive access to the entertainment industry, Awards Season brings big tent pole events, such as The Grammys and The Billboard Music Awards, where we see significant increases in viewership. We have been looking at ways to maximize viewer engagement during those events and carry that momentum into the subsequent days and weeks. To that end, we’ve optimized our metadata structuring and tag management so that the IRIS.TV system can better find and surface content to our users. Consistency of keyword structure over quantity has proved beneficial in allowing us to maintain viewership for premium content long after it was initially published.


Q: In what other ways has data played a role in your video programming strategy?

A: Annie Howard, Digital Content Editor, The Hollywood Reporter.
Being able to understand what videos our users are most engaged with under a variety of conditions such as device and category has helped inform our editorial strategy. In addition, knowing what portions of our library are driving the most views enables us to test or validate assumptions regarding content creation or content acquisition. The data insight also enables us to a/b test and experiment with different content formats and clip lengths. With these tools, we have the ability to leverage data in ways that allow us to focus on creating the best content for our users.


Q: What can users expect to see from THR and Billboard in 2016 and beyond?

Nathan McGowan: Definitely an expanded slate of original programming. A good example is our new Billboard Charts Center series — a 10-minute show inspired by Billboard’s weekly music charts. Also, live video experiences from some of the biggest events in the entertainment world. We’re uniquely positioned to do this and give fans the access to major entertainers that they clearly want. Ultimately, creating more content across multiple categories, while measuring the popularity of it, will also allow us to make even better recommendations to our audience with a specific interest in entertainment related video.


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