A number of big print publishers have ventured onto YouTube, with mixed success. So when Mental Floss, a tiny trivia magazine put out by Dennis Publishing, decided to extend its brand to online video, it hoped to beat the odds by partnering with John and Hank Green, whose YouTube shows, Crash Course and Sci Show and the popular Vlog Brothers channel, have amassed over 300 million views. The Green brothers will be in charge of much of the production of the Mental Floss channel, which features rapid-fire trivia "megalists" (50 things you didn't know about the presidents, etc.) and quiz show-style videos.
"The partnership alleviates a lot of the financial stresses," Mental Floss founder Will Pearson said. "Our investment now is more in the time and the resources, and it's a huge help having them come in and fund the production of the show."
Print brands' digital video efforts have had varying degrees of success. Hearst's Hello Style channel, rolled out last April, is now up to over 85,000 subscribers and nearly 12 million video views. Meredith's Digs hasn't fared as well, with 32,000 subscribers and less than 2 million views. However, others like Vice Magazine have been able to transition to the YouTube audience. Vice Media's channel has over 1.1 million subscribers, and its top 21 videos have all raked in over 1 million views. In its first two days, the Mental Floss channel had already collected nearly 43,000 subscribers and 110,000 video views.
Getting views is no guarantee of financial success. Big-name YouTube publishers like Machinima and even Vice are looking for alternative methods of revenue including subscription-based services and getting advertisers to sponsor the videos before they air.
Pearson said he expected Mental Floss to seek in-video sponsorship opportunities as an alternate source of revenue, but that for now, the main focus is on growing its audience. "Working sponsors into the videos will become a way bigger part of what we're doing," he said, adding that "We need to experiment with it before we lock into something super-specific."