Reader’s Digest Gets Creative with Social Video

Reader’s Digest is one of the most recognizable lifestyle content publishers, and they’re still educating their audience on health, science, travel, and food after 100 years. The challenge facing this established brand today is bringing their content to a digital audience on social media in a consumable, shareable format. We recently spoke to two folks who are heading up Reader’s Digest’s expansion of social video – Associate Video Producer Adeline Kofronova, and Jeremy Greenfield, Senior Editor, New Product Development.  Read on to learn how they bring relatable lifestyle video content to their audience.

The team creates about 40 pieces of video content every month for both their proprietary site and social media. They also distribute and syndicate video content to other partners.

Reader’s Digest is master of the listicle video. Their bread-and-butter, 60-second-video model is easily digested by social media viewers. It helps that their trove of magazine and web stories can easily be converted to video, as it’s also a common format for their written content. Of course, not every article will work as a video.

“There’s an art and a science to how we choose which videos to make,” says Jeremy.  “We want to make sure we can make good videos that our readers will watch, so we create a list of articles that are prioritized for video production based on search traffic, social interest, and interest from our various content partners.

We pay very close attention to how all our content across all our platforms performs… If a piece of content does really well on social, even if it’s not a video, that’s a pretty good indicator that the Reader’s Digest core audience will love a video on it.”

It may seem like a simple format, but the creators mix it up by combining different text styles with intricate text timing to keep the video captivating. No two videos look the same, but consistency within a single video is key –  and Adeline uses text styles to help with that.

How do they make a simple listicle video stand out on social? Adeline says she always prefers using moving footage over stills when available. She sticks to big, bold text that often takes up the whole screen, keeping mobile viewers in mind.

How the text plays over the images and videos in the story is equally important. The style of the text is “always based on the footage,” says Adeline.  “If [the footage] is on the darker side, I use white text. If it’s too busy, I use text boxes and other features (like text shadow) to make the text stand out. Lots of styles come from me trying to make the text more interesting visually.”

Adeline also employs strategies like breaking down important terms letter-by-letter to emphasize their importance, as well as mixing animations and fonts.

With Adeline handling the bulk of the lift on the creative side, the editing and refining process goes through at least four more people before being published and distributed.

Each video is created twice – once in a horizontal format for the Reader’s Digest site and Youtube, and another in square for social platforms including Facebook. Jeremy stresses the importance of being flexible when it comes to the types of videos that perform best on social.

“Right now, square videos tend to perform better on social,” says Jeremy. “If that changes, so will we.”

Reader’s Digest has found the most success on Facebook when combining square videos with relatable, meme-style content that’s also taken off on Instagram (“that feeling when”), as well as tips videos (such as “TIps on Planning your next vacation”).

Just as important as views and engagement are to measuring the success of a video, so is honoring what the iconic Reader’s Digest brand stands for.

“We think about success of the video itself in three ways,” says Jeremy. “First, are people watching the videos? We measure that in video plays. Second, are they liking the videos? We measure that in the percentage of the videos that they finish. If they don’t like them, they won’t continue watching them, as short as they are. We’ve made multiple versions of the same video to figure out how to make things that people want to watch until the end. And, third, are we making things that we like, that we’re proud of, and that help build our brand? Our best videos are shared with huge audiences who watch them all the way through and are special in that Reader’s Digest way. The audience trusts our content, so we try to ensure that the videos respect that trust.”

Many other publishers and media companies – both well-established and start-ups – are also working on social video strategies. Reader’s Digest in-depth approach, built on creativity careful attention paid to their audiences, is an informative look at one publisher’s path to success with social video.


Video creation isn’t available through mobile

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