New York magazine gets serious about video, especially on Facebook

New York magazine has seen the power of Facebook video and is going all in.

New York Media, which owns New York magazine as well as websites Vulture, The Cut, Grub Street and Science of Us, plans to produce a lot more video going forward — with a focus on distributing the content on social platforms.

“Until the past few months, I admit to being a video skeptic in terms of how to do video — especially on a site that is not known for video — in a way that works as a business,” said Michael Silberman, general manager of digital at New York Media. But video is quickly becoming a top priority at most digital media operations, particularly as Facebook has prioritized video within its news feed algorithm, and it was time to see how the format could work for New York Media’s digital properties, he added.

New York Media will create content for all of its Web properties. And while YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and even its own websites figure into the distribution strategy, growing an audience on Facebook is top priority.

The decision to focus on Facebook was driven by the fact that it’s quickly grown as a video platform — up to 500 million viewers per day. Tests ran last summer by New York Media with video series including “Vulture Remixes” and a “Science of Us” animated explainer series performed well on Facebook. When these videos took off on Facebook, they helped triple and quadruple the reach of the Facebook pages where the video was published, according to Silberman. New York Media has 2.9 million Facebook followers across pages for New York magazine, Vulture, The Cut and Grub Street.

Programming for the breakneck speed of the news feed, New York Media is initially foregoing serialized programming; instead, it will focus on reacting to breaking news and other trending topics. “The folks that were having success were following a news-driven model, creating as many videos as possible, as inexpensively as possible, and that pointed us toward a video strategy that could work for us,” said Silberman.

Leading all this will be Matt Johnston, a Business Insider and TV veteran hired by New York Media as its executive producer of video. Johnston is building New York Media’s first dedicated video team, with plans to hire three or four full-time producers in the coming weeks.

His focus is on hiring producers who can work fast — not necessarily platform-specific specialists. “When you look at what’s shared — there are a few nuts and bolts [to making a successful Facebook video] — but those are things that any smart producer can learn very quickly,” said Johnston. Each producer will be responsible for creating multiple videos per day.

While Facebook is the primary focus, New York Media also wants people to watch video on its websites. Its news-driven content strategy will shape how video will be presented on the sites. For instance, while visitors might have a dedicated video page they can go to, the focus will be on seeding video posts alongside articles on the homepage or news feed.

Growing an audience for video on its websites is important because that’s where the company hopes to generate ad revenue.

“It’d be nice to generate a few million views per month on our websites and monetize that with an ad demand that we know is waiting and pent up,” said Silberman. “But we need to build the audience and expectation [for video] first.”