News UK is the latest publisher to narrow its focus on YouTube as a destination for its original video content.
The Sunday Times Style, the beauty and fashion vertical from The Times and Sunday Times, has commissioned four YouTube series to drive advertising revenue, either through featuring brand products, series sponsorship or wider branded content campaigns across News UK’s other channels.
Two series have already released one episode each, “Wardrobe Mistress,” which covers how to achieve specific looks like dressing for a wedding, and “We Tried It,” where members of the Style team try out hyped beauty regimes and products.
This is part of News UK’s goal to maximize existing verticals within the wider business — for instance, its football fantasy brand Dream Team and sports radio brand TalkSport — and invest in more editorial franchises. It’s leading with Style as its prime sub-brand vehicle for video, given luxury and fashion is a less risky place for brand advertisers than news. As such, Style has driven a lot of News UK’s branded content video revenue over the last two years.
“In the branded content space, it’s a good sell to have distinct verticals and sub-brands,” said Derek Brown, head of video at News UK. “YouTube is in its second coming; it’s an accepted place to consume video and [is] about to experience a really important decade of growth for publishers. It’s been the most resilient video platform so far.”
Style will air six episodes for “Wardrobe Mistress” and 10 episodes for “We Tried It.” A core production team of three people will work on Style’s new series in addition to members from the Style team. In terms of brands, so far “We Tried It” has produced one video with hair-care brand Toni & Guy for its shampoo and conditioner mask.
“Product features written in The Sunday Times Style will often sell out,” said Tom Miller, digital editorial director at The Sunday Times. “We want to build on that credibility and help shift products through video.”
Style has been a boon for News UK’s branded content revenues. Roughly six months ago, Style overtook Dream Team for having worked with the highest volume of advertisers for branded content campaigns, with clients including Calvin Klein, MAC, Estée Lauder and Nars. News UK has sold editorial videos on Style for the last two years on its video hub Style Play and through its earlier video series, “Beauty Boss,” which has aired 50 episodes and run over 10 branded content campaigns. In 2018, revenue for branded content from Style videos was four times bigger than the previous year, according to the publisher, although it was unable to share specific figures. Revenue from all branded content video across News UK trebled last year, compared to 2017.
Previously, News UK overlooked YouTube as a platform in favor of Facebook for its scale or focused on driving people back to its own platforms where it can control the audience relationship and monetize via ads and subscriptions. In September 2017, the publisher launched Style Play, a video hub for The Sunday Times Style in front of the paywall to attract ad budgets from luxury brands keen to sponsor premium video.
But driving people to Style Play has its challenges, and YouTube has an enticing reach of 2 billion monthly viewers. Also, Style Play videos tend to be more broad in focus, while the YouTube series focus on how-to videos and tutorials, videos that YouTube is awash with. In the U.K. alone, beauty and fashion creators drove 2.1 billion views on YouTube last year, according to Tubular Labs data.
Growing audiences on YouTube takes patience, but the pay-off is that audiences tend to be more loyal and monetization typically more stable. However, Style is not after scale. Currently, The Sunday Times Style page on YouTube has under 1,000 subscribers and has only been running for around eight months, although most of its growth has been since mid-April when it only had 200 subscribers, according to SocialBlade.
News UK is also drawing on The Fifth, News UK’s influencer agency, which is working with Style to launch two YouTube series this year focused on design, “Let’s Take This Outside” and “White Spaces.”
Beyond Style, News UK is also looking at other verticals where it can grow YouTube original series where brands can integrate or sponsor the content. Dream Team has 260,200 subscribers on YouTube and will launch another three series built for the platform this year. Sports radio station TalkSport, which has 717,00 YouTube subscribers, will also launch another three YouTube series this year.
“As a company, we have probably neglected YouTube in the last decade,” said Brown. “There was a view that we probably shouldn’t be doing stuff there, that is now changing. We’re realizing it’s an important part of our overall digital arsenal.”