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Meredith’s video push centers on diversity and diversification

June 24, 2021 | By Esther Kezia Thorpe – Independent Media Reporter @EstherKeziaT

As the publishing industry seeks stability in the wake of the pandemic, Meredith Corp is making video an increasingly important part of its long-term content strategy.

Meredith’s newly-appointed Chief Digital Content Officer Amanda Dameron is leading an expansion of the publisher’s video portfolio. The most recent launch is a new Food & Wine show, “Pastries with Paola”.

The series, which stars celebrated pastry chef Paola Velez, debuts with 13 episodes. The videos focus on how to make easy desserts like empanadas and chocolate cake. They also celebrate Paola’s Dominican heritage and culinary traditions.

Collaborating with diverse talent is a vital part of Dameron’s vision for video at Meredith, “as represented by Paola’s show, and every show that we have in development. We are interested in telling stories that are uplifting, that are optimistic…and are told in an inclusive way, in a multicultural way, in a way that truly embraces the world as it is,” she said. “We take tremendous responsibility in that.”

Video as a vehicle for expansion

Long gone are the days of a simple printable recipe card. Increasingly, audiences turn to their social media feeds for food inspiration and helpful information.

Dameron believes that video as a format is more important than ever before. “Rising generations are looking for content that shows them how to do something correctly, how to break down the steps,” she explained. More than that, she sees video as a conversation between content creators and the audience. At Meredith, the tone is informal and intimate, and allows for feedback, especially when distributed via social media.

“When you couple that with a platform in which it’s easy for the audience to share their insight, their questions, and to be able to use that insight to refine the series itself, there is no format better made for that than video,” she emphasized. 

However, Food & Wine’s video strategy is not limited to short-form on social media platforms. The video team is experimenting with producing content in a range of styles and lengths, from short how-to’s to longer, documentary-style pieces.

In fact, the brand was recently nominated for an ASME award for “Tasting Home”. The three-part video series follows Chef Kwame Onwuachi who traces his culinary roots by travelling to Trinidad, Jamaica, Louisiana, and Texas.

“We’ve been really gratified to see that our audience responds very passionately to the series that we present, no matter what the format,” Dameron said.

It’s not just video length that varies. In response to evolving viewing habits, many of Meredith’s videos are now produced for both traditional landscape viewing and portrait mobile phone viewing. This means that video content has to be carefully planned for both orientations from the outset.

“We have a lot of different versions of a hero asset or video, and we have to apply a high level of rigor to the way that shots are composed,” Dameron outlined. “You have to be mindful of it every moment of shooting the video itself. Having both landscape and vertical perspectives gives the ability to create the best possible viewing experience, no matter where the audience chooses to find us.”

Active engagement for success

For Dameron, the key success metric for Meredith’s videos are views. However, she also takes a close interest in watch time and active engagement. In particular, she uses these as a way to improve programming.

“I’m really interested in a deeper engagement that shows when we are circulating stories and series. What is the audience saying to us? And more importantly, what is the audience asking us?” she explained. This can often be quite a time-consuming, manual process, but Dameron believes it pays off in terms of quality.

“Comments, questions, those active points of engagement, these are things I’m always looking for. When that symbiotic relationship that exists between audience and content creator happens, you start to see content become better.”

“You must be in the plumbing of it all if you are to understand how to really harness your opportunities in the best way possible and to be able to do so with a quickness and a confidence.” 

It’s clear that a multiplatform approach is key to the future of Meredith’s content strategy. Dameron’s role sits centrally at Meredith, and she is planning further video expansion across other brands in Meredith’s portfolio. However, although her position working across brands allows her to apply a framework and resources across titles, she is also keen to emphasize that each video strategy has to be as unique as the brand.

“That centralized approach allows us to have a framework that is strong, but flexible. But that being said, it’s really important to emphasize that each particular brand is at the helm of its own creative manifestation in video.”

A flexible, evergreen future

As Dameron gets her feet under the table at Meredith, she is planning to expand the company’s pool of evergreen video content. The goal is to realize longer-term value. “We’re also very interested in developing a long-form video strategy; one which really focuses on the lifetime value of the video library,” she said. 

Crucially, this will involve building flexibility into the process, and anticipating how the videos will be used in the future. From being able to shoot for multiple orientations to distributing across social and OTT, careful planning from the outset is essential.

“We want to give ourselves the flexibility to create content and programming across every distribution channel and every screen that exists here today, or is yet to be built tomorrow,” she explained. “If you have a rigor and a framework for assembling the strongest video library you can, then you’re unfettered in the future from distributing it however you wish.”

Diversity of on-screen talent is firmly on Meredith’s agenda. But to ensure it makes the most of that investment for the future, it is also firmly focused on building a diversified video portfolio that is future-proofed both in format and content. 

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