In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, magazines are said to be refocusing on — and ramping up — video to help offset print advertising’s decline.

It’s no secret that print magazines are among the most negatively affected with the advent of social media and online publications. They are not timely enough, and there is already a ton of interesting, free content to read or watch online — not to mention a more interactive and engaging content experience.

Many publications, including the Straits Times, are investing in a video strategy.
Many publications, including the Straits Times, are investing in a video strategy.

In Hong Kong, media giant Next Digital, the publisher of Apple Daily, just sold its magazines for HK$500 million in a bid to expand online content.

In Singapore, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) saw a 45.2% drop in net profit of SG$28.9 million when compared to the same period last year. According to a press statement, SPH attributed the drop in profit to an impact of impairment charges of SG$37.8 million. This was primarily due to the magazine business, whose performance continued to deteriorate further amid unfavourable market conditions.

Globally, the likes of Condé Nast and other legacy magazine publishers are said to be redoubling their efforts in online videos after learning from their mistakes from earlier experimentations. Instead of trying to launch and maintain a centralised video hub on an owned platform, distribution is now the key focus.

Publishers are now distributing their work on platform like Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and MSN. There is a big risk involved with relying on third-party platforms, of course. They can choose to turn off the tap any time, and you have to play by the platform’s rules.

Remember the face-off between gaming company Zynga and Facebook? It didn’t end well for the former, and publishers should be rightfully worried of ending up in the same situation.

If the future lies in online video content, what content strategy should a publication pursue?

Taking a leaf from what SPH is doing. It is interesting to observe how the group is adopting different content strategies through its slew of content offerings:

  • For the flagship print newspaper the Straits Times (often referred to as the national English daily in Singapore), there is a mixed of well-produced news video with slick storyboarding, animation, and scripting. A lot of manpower and resources are clearly allocated to churn these out on a daily basis. 
  • For the online-only publication AsiaOne.com, the videos reflect a random mishmash of video content curated from newswire or from online sources. The role here is mainly centered on curation rather than creation. 
  • For the citizen journalism publication STOMP, the focus is on user-generated videos and building a robust online community. In this way, there is an ecosystem encouraging the news consumer to create and send in the news video themselves. 
  • Then, there is the experimental Stirr channel for Millennials, much like News Corp’s Internet Action Force, featuring random, nonsensical, and click-bait video content, which caters to the BuzzFeed generation. 

Frankly speaking, there is so much online video content being churned out by multiple publishers that, as a news consumer, I find myself spoiled with choices. There is no clear winning formula yet. Bear in mind that what generates the most views may not necessarily be the best for monetisation or the healthiest kind of content that adds value to people’s lives.