‘Pick your spots’: How IAC’s Investopedia is looking to scale its video output

Even a smaller publisher best known for investing advice and finance education can’t escape the call of the video gold rush.

In January, IAC-owned Investopedia hired CNN veteran Caleb Silver as its first vp of content to focus on video. Silver’s team of three produces roughly 300 videos per quarter. Investopedia’s goal is to launch a studio that can create and distribute videos at scale.

“Video is going to be big on the internet one day,” Silver joked, stating the obvious. “For Investopedia, which is well-established as an educational platform for investors and others to learn about business, it’s a natural extension for what we can and should do.”

Investopedia’s bread and butter is quick definitions of finance and business terms, which it has converted into video. Beyond explainer videos, the publisher has developed original videos about various investors and areas of the finance world. For instance, two new series, “Influence” and “Favorite Terms,” ask top investors and business executives about the people who have influenced them the most and their favorite financial terms. The upcoming “Wealth Transfer” will delve into the subject of transferring wealth to one’s children.

These series don’t only expand Investopedia’s scope beyond service content; they also are cheap to produce. If Investopedia attends a conference, it can book several interviews with top investors and business executives. It’s a big reason why the publisher is eschewing hard news, Silver said.

“You have to pick your spots; you can’t be everything to all people,” said Silver. “Rarely will we do something where we spend a lot of money and time on just one video. It’s not going to be enough for a publisher of our size. So we have to focus on covering the most ground possible while maintaining a higher quality at a price point where it can bring in a good return.”

The publisher is helped by the fact that video — while still incredibly difficult to scale — has become cheaper to produce. “The cost of entry to making web videos that people would want to watch is far lower than the cost of making traditional TV that people would want to watch,” said Dan Cryan, senior director of broadband media at IHS Technology. “It’s become a continuum of content, from PewDiePie on one end to ‘Game of Thrones’ on the other. If you match the right content to the right audience, you can do well.”

Investopedia’s decision appears to be working out. The publisher’s website, which had 9 million unique visitors in the U.S. in May, did 4.8 million domestic video views the same month, according to comScore. Overall, Investopedia is getting 2 million video views per week on its website, which has helped grow overall revenue by 40 percent in the first quarter of 2016 and opening new doors with advertisers, the company said. (Silver didn’t share Investopedia’s total revenue number.)

Investopedia first publishes its videos on its website, where they’re monetized with pre-rolls. But the publisher sees Facebook and YouTube as promotional channels, using them to distribute its videos a few hours after they go up on the site. Bigger publishers have wholeheartedly adopted social distribution, but Investopedia believes its website is still the best place to monetize the content, Silver said.

“I’m more concerned with people knowing that Investopedia is doing this,” said Silver. “That’s more important than trying to game the distribution system.”

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