Meredith’s Executive Director of Video Programming & Analytics on IGTV & OTT Strategy

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While many publishers remain hesitant to produce videos for Instagram’s IGTV without a formal monetization system in place, Meredith Corporation is rolling out a slate of 20 original series for the long-form, vertical video app. The media company has launched 18 series across its brands to date, generating more than 20 million views on Instagram. The remaining two shows debut in the next six weeks.

Meredith’s embrace of the fledgling video app, which is currently ad free, is part of its strategy to be an early adopter of potentially high-growth video platforms. The publisher has capitalized on its growing IGTV viewership by selling native integrations of brand partners into video content.

“We want to go in big and we want to be there when [the platforms] are launching and developing their strategies,” says David Flumenbaum, executive director of programming and analytics for Meredith Video.

Flumenbaum came to Meredith following the company’s acquisition of Time Inc., where he was executive director of digital video. He now oversees central programming, data reporting, and distribution of video for Meredith brands and leads platform partnerships.

Like Instagram, Flumenbaum says Pinterest has highly engaged users who align with Meredith’s audience in the women’s lifestyle space, and he points to the platform as another social video priority. Meredith is sharing relevant how-to video from its existing library with Pinterest to take advantage of the app’s recent redesign, which prominently features video on category landing pages.

In the following conversation, Flumenbaum shares more insights into Meredith’s social video strategy and how its brands plan to venture further into OTT and personality-driven content.

Why invest in original video series for IGTV?

People that follow Meredith properties open Instagram 30 times a day, and it’s a very passionate audience in the lifestyle space. We saw IGTV as a place where we could make an imprint and make original content for a new platform and potentially a new audience who may not have interacted with our original content elsewhere.

How does your strategy for IGTV differ from other platforms?

For one, the format is different. It’s a mid-form format where it’s all vertical. [The video] is a little rawer than the stuff we’re used to producing – we experimented with doing full iPhone production of episodes. The idea we had with our slate was to take a brand like Martha Stewart Living, which the audience is extremely passionate about and loyal to, and dig into a niche area of their content. We launched a show on Martha Stewart Living called “Frosted” which is all about icings, frostings, and glazings. It’s something a little more micro than the type of content you would see either on the website or on the YouTube channel. … Travel + Leisure has a cool show called “Locals” that takes you into a subculture of a travel destination and is something that you might not have seen a year ago on Travel + Leisure.

Where do you see the biggest growth opportunities in video?

We’re looking at YouTube as a really big opportunity for us in the next couple years. We’ve realized that’s the place where we need to be, and we need to be more robust and dynamic and interesting and exciting there. What’s happened in the last year is YouTube has become a place for series – episodic, consistent uploading of long-form content – and we are addressing that and creating new ideas for that platform in the same way that we did for IGTV. We want to be something for each platform that we’re on, and we want to be designing content for those platforms.

What are the keys to engaging your audience with longer form content?

A lot of the content that seems to do well that’s longer form is personality-driven. I think people like a consistency and knowing when an episode of a series is going to be uploaded and, depending on the platform, being alerted when that episode is distributed. They feel like they’re part of a process of the video experience and speaking to a personality that defines one of the brands they love.
One of the shows that we’re about to launch on IGTV is called “Hit or Myth.” Personalities from Real Simple magazine – two editors in this case, Betty [Gold] and Ananda [Eidelstein] – take you through an interesting egg hack, or whether you should crack an egg on your counter or on the side of a bowl. Things that you’ve heard a million times around the food space. We want to give the Real Simple audience a way to get to know the people that are creating other content they consume better.

How has data informed your strategy?

We do a lot of work crunching numbers and putting insights in front of our editorial teams and production teams. We want to make sure that the content we’re creating is resonating with our audience, and data allows us to know how we’re resonating. … We’re looking at engagement metrics like total watch time, minutes watched, and average percent watched of a certain video. We’re looking at how video leads to subscribers on channels like YouTube and shares on platforms like Facebook. We want to be more focused on the longer form game and for that we want to make sure people are sticking around to watch more of our content.

You’ve been doing live programming on PeopleTV – do you have further plans for OTT?

PeopleTV has produced 450 hours of live programming in the last year, and it’s going to continue to be a really big live OTT opportunity for us. We are launching an expanded red carpet and going deeper into royals [coverage], and we launched a Monday-Thursday daily show called “Reality Check” that aims to be the definitive check-in of everything that’s happening on reality TV.

What are your top priorities in the next 6-12 months?

For short-form video we’re looking to double-down for our [owned-and-operated] sites. We want users that come to our sites to have video be a part of their experience on every page that they see. And we want to expand into long-form content production and distribute to those environments where we want to play big in in the next couple years, which are YouTube and OTT.