Stop making TV on YouTube and other misconceptions of content development

Since the launch of our notification dashboard SmartOcto we have had the privilege to work with a large number of highly respected editorial teams within the Netherlands and Belgium.

They let us in, in their search to create engaging content, connect with their multiple audiences and select the best fit of channels. We help them to work on their signature content to get the most out of their storytelling strategy. That’s exciting and always satisfying. It even fulfills us with pride!

But I’m not writing this blogpost to thank the openness of all these editors and content creators. No, I’m writing this because we see an organic and tenacious error taking place in content development and distribution. I like to call this the misconception of content development. Media companies (TV, magazines, newspaper etc.) all have the same tendency to develop content for their most valuable channel. An editor working for a newspaper will write an article for that purpose and a director working for a TV-show is busy making a television program. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being very good at your job and creating the best final product, whether it’s a newspaper article or a tv-show. The problem arises when the final product is chopped in little pieces and is distributed to all sorts of channels in an amputated fashion.

Your audience on YouTube is not a bit interested in a cut-up version of your TV-show and Facebook-visitors expect something else on their timeline than the re-post of a headline straight from your newspaper article.

You don’t want second hand content on your most relevant channel. So stop cutting up your TV-programs in various snippets and put it on YouTube as if it was primarily developed for that channel. Your audience will not like that ! They will turn away from you, unsubscribe and disappear after letting you know that they despise your presence. It will leave you with a so called Coldplay-feeling: You’ve tried your best but you don’t succeed and even worse, instead of building an engaged audience on your preferred channel you’ll be left with Waldorf & Statler horror https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpYEJx7PkWE . Not good.

So what should I do? I can hear you think. 
Here’s the solution:

  1. Accept and recognize that every channel has it own characteristics
  2. Accept that every channel has it’s own specific audience
  3. Channels have their own house rules — make sure you understand them and live by it
  4. Channel data on how your audience is engaging with (your) content helps to decide if at all and how to be present on these channels yourself
  5. Experiment and learn from being present on these channels and create a specific channel signature

If you incorporate these rules within your content development flow you will learn that ‘raw content’ should be created and the final customization takes place with channel data.

In a visualization I’ve made, it looks like this:

A good example of this, is the way the VRT makes news on Instagram with https://www.instagram.com/mnmbe/?hl=en. They get access to the tv-rushes and start making news-items that fit the channel.

So I believe you should look at your content as a semi-finished product. The channel characteristics and the way your audience engages with content on the channel will determine the way your content should look. Hence, you will even create new content formats by working this way. You’ll build specific and loyal audiences. And with an open mind and experimental gut you’ll be the first to relevantly react to the new SnapChat or create a smart brand extension with the booming Triller vids. And if you decide not to play ball, I honestly believe you’ll be a marginal player within the next 5 to 10 years.

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