Condé Nast Entertainment Says It’s All About Digital Video

Exec Whitney Hill talks new business


WhoWhitney Hill

Age 36

New gig svp, business development and strategy, Condé Nast Entertainment

Old gig svp, strategic partnerships and global digital business, Sony Music Entertainment

What does the new job entail?

First, establish delivery for our upcoming pipeline of digital video. We just launched channels for Glamour and GQ. … The strategy is to syndicate that content to many other platforms—mobile, gaming, distribution networks. We really want to meet the fans of our brands where they want to consume our content. There are places like Roku that show great growth. Any that show great demographics or reach, we’re engaged in that conversation.

Who is watching Condé Nast’s video now?

It’s existing fans of the brand and subscribers on the YouTube channel. Because the experience is so new, we’re iterating based on the feedback. One of the shows we’ve gotten some good feedback on is Why Do Guys. … It’s two women solving some of the mysteries of why guys do some of the things they do. They go to a bar and ask guys about their hygiene, the way they react to women.

There already are some very popular shows on YouTube with huge audiences. Do first movers have a big advantage?

It’s still really early. There’s a wide range of content on YouTube. The sheer volume of content that’s uploaded every day, it’s enormous. But getting it in front of the right audience is going to be critical.

Other programmers are looking to subscription revenue and advertising integrations. Are those viable options for Condé Nast Entertainment?

Right now we are focusing on content that’s ad-supported and free to viewers. Part of my new role, beyond striking the right distribution deals, is thinking about where we go beyond ad-supported.

What was life at Sony like?

It was a good run. I saw an interesting shift—a digital business dominated by the digital singles and iTunes to a world where iTunes is still a huge player but is complemented by viable new business models, including subscription services, ad-supported services and the live experience itself.

What does music’s experience bode for publishing?

It’s promising. There was a long period where CD sales were falling off a cliff, and digital was growing but not at the same rate CD sales were declining. That caused great concern. I think the diversification of music models shows publishing can hope for the same.

You call yourself a music nerd; what does that mean?

It means I’m at a concert three nights a week and I’m constantly listening to new music and following what’s on the scene.

What are you into now?

The three I’m most excited about now are Kurt Vile’s new record; Phosphorescent has a new record I’m really loving; and as a self-respecting women, I’d be remiss not to throw Justin Timberlake in there. I grew up in South Carolina and my mom always had Kenny Rogers and Anne Murray on. That combined with playing classical piano made me this weird hybrid that’s me today.

What’s the culture like at the new place?

The Ping-Pong table’s on the way, but it feels very much like a startup. Fred Santarpia, our chief digital officer, has put together a really great team. Everybody is keenly focused on our vision, and yes, there are beanbag chairs. My favorite part is the Wall of Style—a fabulous outfit and Polaroid will put you on the Wall of Style. Sometimes self-promotion comes into play.