A year after ceasing print, Factory Media bets on branded video

Spurred by the mounting demand for custom branded content, sports and lifestyle publisher Factory Media shuttered its print magazines last May to make a £1.1 million ($1.6 million) bet on video. A year in, that bet is paying off.

In May 2015, the publisher printed its last copies of Sidewalk, Whitelines, Surf, Onboard and a clutch of other outdoor sports titles, to go online only. Although the publisher remains small in terms of reach, (comScore counts 37,000 desktop only monthly uniques, although with mobile it could very likely be higher), it is specialized, which makes for passionate audiences which are increasingly on Facebook rather than its own site.

“The end point of media is fragmented,” said Factory Media’s publisher, Ed Marriage. “We’ve embraced Facebook, and we’re enthusiastic about our subject matter, but when we’re distributing content we make sure we’re not over-reliant on the end point.” Factory pumps out a range of video mostly across other platforms including BBC Worldwide, Instagram and YouTube, although it also features on its own sites too.

As with many publishers, on Facebook it has seen huge growth. Factory’s flagship adventure sports title Mpora (skateboarding, surfing, mountain biking) has had 52 percent increase in video views on Facebook in the last year, from 550 million to 835 million, according to Tubular labs. But video is expensive to make, so much of its video output is funded by brands, according to Marriage.

Indeed, while many publishers are scrambling to monetize video, the area of biggest growth area for Factory is in branded video. Since last year, it has increased its branded content production in the U.K. by 68 percent, according to Darryl Newton, CEO of Factory Media, although he couldn’t divulge the exact numbers.

For Factory Media, branded video has a broad meaning: It is coming up with the creative idea and then asking a brand to sponsor it. It also means responding to briefs from brands. “We regard all of that as branded content,” said Marriage. “How we win the business is all that differs, and the degree to which our publishing brands feature in the piece, the more they do, the more editorial control we have.”

“Typically, we get the most views from our social media specific videos, those that are very short, played without sound and have an emotional hook for that particular community or tribe, making them very shareable.”

For instance, The Snowboard Asylum, a retailer and longtime advertising partner with Factory, funded the video content for a 12-part straight-to-Facebook series. “We know the content our audience responds to, so we wanted to create it with them; it wasn’t complicated. It’s in our interest and the advertiser’s interest to create products that play out well.” The final installment, “How not to carry your snowboard,” has had over 750,000 views, nearly 6,000 shares and 1,600 comments.

Increasingly, since Factory’s investment in its video studio, brands are coming to use it just as a production house. Factory shot behind-the-scenes Rugby World Cup footage for telecom O2, for example, but the publisher had no hand in the distribution.

Over the last 18 months, the company has grown its video team from scratch to 10 people. Factory employs around 100 people in the U.K., a number that has remained unchanged since it ceased print, though the jobs themselves have changed.

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