How Elite Daily is building a millennial video strategy

Elite Daily is on a familiar path for an upstart millennial publication. It has met early success with producing text articles made for social sharing, and it’s now looking to build on that with video.

The millennial-aimed publisher, which was acquired by Daily Mail’s parent company DMG Media in January, doubled its video team from eight to 16 full-time employees last month. It boasts a respectable 10 million monthly views per month on YouTube and is focusing heavily on Facebook, where it sees the majority of its traffic originate and has published some videos that crack 1 million views.

Elite Daily produces an eclectic collection of videos that it groups around franchises. “Gen Why” is devoted to comedians and YouTube stars offering takes on millennial issues, such as why staying in is the new going out and how people’s lives aren’t as great as they appear on Instagram. “Insights” is for documentary-style shorts.

Late last year, Elite Daily made “Schlep,” a skit parodying Uber where all the drivers are Jewish moms. It also produced a short documentary on Oliver Miller, a 14-year-old boy who experiences hundreds of seizures a day as the result of a brain stem injury, which won a New York regional Emmy.

“Whether it’s written sketches or talking heads, it’s all about social commentary millennials care about,” said Tyler Gildin, Elite Daily’s creative director.

The output certainly runs the gamut of “social commentary.” Elite Daily isn’t just for the earnest; it produces regular clicky fare like “Women Draw Their Perfect Penis” and “Is Shower Sex Completely Overrated?” Its one runaway hit, filed under “Insights,” was “Homeless Millennial Survives By Picking Up Women Every Night.” (The video description: “If you were homeless, could you still pick up chicks? Meet Joe, the homeless Millennial who has mastered the art of getting women to take him home with them.”)

While it does produce some documentary-style video, Elite Daily’s recent partnerships demonstrate a focus on entertainment video over hard news. It’s working with YouTube stars such as Taryn Southern and Joe Santagato, as well as young filmmakers Rory Uphold and Casey Donahue. Uphold and Donahue are each launching a new Web series through Elite Daily in the coming weeks.

The formula is working. Elite Daily’s traffic has grown steadily over the past year, from 12.3 million unique visitors in February 2014 to 29.7 million uniques in February 2015, according to comScore. The publisher now attracts 9.9 million monthly views on YouTube, where it has published 18 videos over the past three months, according to analytics platform OpenSlate. That puts it ahead of Mashable, which also relies on the YouTube video player and sees 2.8 million monthly views on the platform.

Elite Daily has also found an audience ready to watch video on Facebook, where all of its videos draw hundreds of thousands of views and a few crack the 1 million-view threshold.

The eight Elite Daily videos posted to Facebook most recently

Elite Daily is taking the BuzzFeed approach to making money off videos, for now. That means building a large viewership on platforms like YouTube and Facebook that can then be shown co-produced sponsor content. It’s a formula Jon Steinberg, CEO of Daily Mail North America, used when he was president of BuzzFeed. Take, for example, a branded video Elite Daily made for T-Mobile (about whether couples know each other’s phone number) that drew 278,000 views on YouTube and 174,000 on Facebook over 10 days, without paid promotion.

“We are using the original entertainment content to build audiences on Facebook and YouTube,” said Steinberg. “And then when we release [branded videos], there’s already an audience built in that likes content in that style. And that way, we’re able to achieve the view goals without using paid media.”

Strayer Education paid $50,000 for the “#BadBosses” video series, which promotes the school’s management institute, according to Steinberg. Steinberg guaranteed Strayer a minimum of 100,000 views on the videos, which will appear on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and emerging video platform Vessel, as well as the Elite Daily and Daily Mail sites.

“It wasn’t a huge buy, and I’m also kind of viewing it as a test launch to see how our teams collaborate,” said Karl McDonnell, CEO of Strayer. “But the Elite Daily team has beyond a proven track record for being able to create content for the millennial audience, and that really appealed to us.”

Elite Daily has a primarily millennial viewership: 71 percent of its video viewers are between 18 and 34, according to OpenSlate. That traction with Generation Y is a key reason why Daily Mail is so focused on building out the Elite Daily video operation.

Elite Daily has big ambitions for what its video can become. Elite Daily video director Weston Green mentioned streaming app Periscope, interactive video platform Interlude, and virtual reality headset Oculus Rift as “new, crazy things” he’d love to tackle down the road. But right now, he said, “we just want to make the best product possible.”

Main image via Elite Daily / YouTube

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