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DIGITAL DAYS: “How can a publishing company like Condé Nast be successful in digital video?” Fred Santarpia asked.
Santarpia is the chief digital officer of Condé Nast Entertainment, and his division set out to answer that question Wednesday afternoon with a 30-minute-plus presentation to advertisers as part of the NewFronts, where media companies showcase their digital video programming to advertisers much the same way television networks present at the annual Upfronts.
By the end of the year, three more Condé brands than previously revealed will have their own digital video channels — Teen Vogue, epicurious.com and style.com, part of Fairchild Fashion Media, owner of WWD.
Video channels revolving around GQ and Glamour went live in early March, and Vogue and Wired will launch next, on May 8 and May 15, respectively. Vanity Fair’s channel will make its premiere in June.
Several media companies — AOL, Microsoft, Disney, Google — are presenting at the NewFronts this week, though The Wall Street Journal, which presented Monday, and Condé are the only print-based publishers to do so.
The Journal’s series make use of the paper’s staff — one of them, WSJ Sports, will feature occasional updates from columnist Jason Gay while Washington bureau chief Gerald Seib and David Wessel, of the column Capital, get their own buddy show, “Seib & Wessel,” parsing political news.
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Condé’s presentation was the most prominent outreach and pitch to the larger ad community since the entertainment division was created in 2011 following significant financial investment in hires and development to get it off the ground.
The first two channels, GQ and Glamour, had the backing of sponsors Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Mondelez International, and Unilever. Lou Cona, newly named president and chief revenue officer of the Condé Media Group, said sponsors bought on the digital video network as part of their existing relationship with the publisher and before they had gotten a preview of any of CNE’s programming. They bought what’s called “a share of voice,” Cona said, or in other words, a percentage of the overall inventory available across a particular channel. Now that it’s been a little more than a year, CNE had a proper slate of programming that includes some 30 video Web series, including some that are scripted, to show other advertisers.
Dawn Ostroff, CNE president, told advertisers the network will “one day look like today’s cable channels.” Sitting before her at the event hall 583 Park Avenue were Condé’s best-known editors and publishers, including Anna Wintour, Graydon Carter and Cindi Leive, as well as Condé president Bob Sauerberg.
GQ and Glamour launched with a handful of series each and will introduce new ones later this year, including, on Glamour, “Style to Kill,” a competition series that pits stylists against one another, and “The Single Life,” a scripted series whose title sums up its premise. New series from GQ include a “Trend Report” and “Casualties of the Gridiron,” a documentary series about professional athletes’ injuries.
Pursuing a model that TV executives will recognize, digital channels are trying to mint new digital stars. Condé’s entries include editors like Hamish Bowles, Vogue’s international editor at large, who’ll be hosting the Web series, “Vintage Bowles” — it follows the editor as he trawls for vintage clothing — and Glamour’s Leive, who’ll have a camera crew with her for “Fashion Week Ride-Along.” Vogue’s digital channel, to debut shortly after the Costume Institute Gala on Monday, will in all feature ten non-scripted Web series, including behind the scenes footage of events like the Met Ball; a cooking series with the model Elettra Wiedemann; a documentary-style chronicle of designers competing for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund — it is called “The Fund” — and “Vogue Jeanius,” a series on denim trends. Programming on Wired includes “Codefellas,” an animated scripted series and “The Window,” about engineering stories. Carter teased Vanity’s Fair’s channel in a video message, but did not reveal any details.
Santarpia and Ostroff did not spell out specific audience figures for the two video channels up. So what would advertisers get out of their media buys? Santarpia promised wide distribution for the Web series — in addition to YouTube, Condé announced new syndication deals with AOL, Yahoo, Twitter, Grab Media and Daily Motion. Santarpia also said that CNE is investing money in marketing the new channels.
“We’re matching our investment in production dollar for dollar with direct paid marketing to build adoption and audience for our channels,” he said.
Cona said the initial four sponsors have commitments through the end of the year, and more sponsors may step up as the other channels come online. Sales will continue to be handled by his media group for the foreseeable future, although individual publishers are involved in closing the deals, he said.