Editor’s Note: This is a vendor-written case study. We accept vendor-written case studies based upon their usefulness to our readers.
Taste of Home (TOH) is the sister site of AllRecipes.com, one of the Reader’s Digest Association’s lifestyle sites. As the web presence for Taste of Home magazine, the site is driven by a warm and friendly community and user submissions. The publication is a top 10 magazine owned by the Reader’s Digest Association with a circulation of 3.1 million. It was launched to invite user submissions, filter them, and publish a bimonthly magazine. Today, TOH has 34,000 recipes online.
Led by general manager Renee Jordan, the TOH site was shooting and publishing professional cooking videos each week but found itself unable to produce enough content to generate long visits or multiple return visits per week. Despite its extensive recipe collection, TOH had just 300 videos online. It was using an in-house player and serving about 500 streams a day—flat for a year.
The Special Sauce
As part of a video consultancy provided by Quantum Media Consultants of New York, TOH was introduced to the concept of video aggregation and curation. Simply put, the TOH staff could use its knowledge of cooking and food-related information to provide the “special sauce” that would separate its video from the rest of the web. After a review of vendors, Magnify.net was selected to provide the platform.
The July 10 launch date was aggressive, giving both the Magnify.net and TOH teams slightly less than 3 months to build a sophisticated integration. This included single sign-on (SSO), a completely seamless look and feel, CSS integration, XML search, and consolidated video and text on pages served by TOH.
TOH was able to create a custom, contextual video experience in which the resources of the web were sorted and organized into playlists that provided visitors with an easily navigable collection of videos.
The TOH team quickly gathered and added more than 2,358 videos, leading to about 18.64 million video-related page views. The growth in page views was tremendous, increasing by more than 360%. According to Jordan, this is a significant step in the evolution of magazine media. “This is what needs to happen in the real world of the Internet,” she says in an article posted on VideoNuze.
Here’s the data: TOH has doubled its video collection in 2 weeks, with more than 500 videos now available to visitors, and increased its video-related page views by 50%. TOH chose to build its video search, collection, and curation offering on the Magnify.net platform, a decision made after considerable research. “Aligning with Magnify.net to create a singular video space that features the best cooking and entertaining tips allows us to reach and involve our ever growing Taste of Home family in exciting new ways,” says Jordan.
So what does this mean in the real world? The questions are clear: How does this break through the monetization barrier that has bedeviled user-generated video, and does this have a real-world impact on revenues for publishers such as TOH?
Well, first of all, if you go to the TOH website and look at some of its videos, you’ll find that it has integrated a sophisticated preroll opportunity into the user experience. TOH is not only mixing pro, visitor-contributed, and collected videos but also using preroll in a way that provides a mix of easily accessible content and a scalable ad model.
The Cost of Curated Video
What the TOH team learned was that it could effect a “blended” cost of content by mixing high-quality video shot in the TOH kitchen with gathered and collected content, and then mixing in user-submitted content. Here’s the way it looks:
—Created Content: The costs include talent, set, shooting, editing, uploading, storage, and delivery.
—Collected Content: The only cost is the time staff members spend selecting video. There are no storage, hosting, or serving costs.
—Contributed Content: Users upload videos, and the staff simply approves or rejects them. The cost is minimal.
But more importantly, here’s what the mix of ad inventory looks like:
—Created Content: TOH owns 100% of the inventory. Preroll, on-page, lower-third, and pop-over ads can be used.
—Collected Content: TOH controls on-page advertising, while the sites delivering the video control preroll and lower-third ads.
—Contributed Content: TOH owns 100% of the inventory. Preroll, on-page, lower-third, and pop-over ads can be used.
So looking down the road, the economics of mixing pro video with user-contributed, pro-curated video is clear. Publishers with an active and engaged user community can increase their video page views today with collected user-generated video, and then they can build a mix of collected and contributed content as more and more creators join the site.
The result is a site that uses the natural resources of the web while maintaining a quality level that provides visitors with a trusted source for content and advertisers with a safe space to market their products and services.
Aggregation, Curation, and Media Publishing
For publishers in the magazine world, the web has always been a complex conundrum. On one hand, readers are rapidly shifting to the web; on the other, the differences between print and web have created a gulf in revenue. But video changes that, creating TV-like opportunities for magazines that are rapidly trying to look more like cable TV channels.
As web video becomes more prevalent and the volume of web video continues to accelerate, finding prefiltered and trusted sources for video is becoming critically important. YouTube alone is encoding 13 hours of video each minute. At the same time, the unity of community and content creates an opportunity to evolve video beyond search, and the TOH case is a great example of that.
For the team at Magnify.net, the experience with TOH validates some of our key assumptions about how the roles of publishers, visitors, and advertisers are evolving and becoming more integrated in the emerging world of curated content. There’s no doubt that we’ll see the speed of innovation in the curation space heat up as more publishers embrace their role as aggregators.