Time Inc.’s Real Simple has upped its focus on video with the recent hire of video director Brian Madigan. After working as a photo director at Buzzfeed, Madigan returned to his former employer Real Simple in May to lead the magazine’s video strategy and take its practical, how-to content to new heights. Madigan says that his focus will be on improving user experience and creating video that is optimized for specific social platforms and mobile devices.
Madigan is also excited to expand the types of videos Real Simple creates. While instructional videos remain incredibly popular with the Real Simple audience, Madigan thinks there is an opportunity to share more personal stories of busy women that are relatable to Real Simple readers. “Our users are eager for more thoughtful, solution-based content Real Simple is known for, but we also intend to offer up content that is surprising and exciting. Video is the perfect medium in which to experiment and have fun,” says Madigan.
In the following interview, Madigan shares his vision for the future of Real Simple and offers advice for publishers looking to improve how they create and distribute digital video.
Why did Real Simple create this director of video position and what are your responsibilities in this role?
Video content is something both our readers and advertisers have been clamoring for so it was only natural to bring someone on to focus on it. I’m going to be looking at how we can expand on the great work Real Simple is already doing in video, as well as create new franchises and series. I’ll be coordinating with our sister publications to share ideas and resources, and I’ll be working with our product team to make sure the viewer’s experience is seamless and enjoyable. I’ll also work with our marketing team to help monetize the content.
What are you bringing from your experience at Buzzfeed that you’re excited to apply at Real Simple?
More than anything, what I took from my time at BuzzFeed were insights into the values, interests, and viewing habits of millennials. BuzzFeed’s analytics taught me how audiences split between one social platform and another, as well as how to optimize across various platforms and devices.
How will Real Simple‘s video strategy evolve over the next few years?
I think technology and viewer’s interests change too quickly to ever settle into one way of doing things for too long. We’re going to have to pay attention to the changing landscape, and be nimble enough to move within it.
We are going to increase the number of instructional videos we know our readers love — how-to videos are some of our top performers — as well as branch out into new areas of storytelling. Real Simple is a service magazine at heart, but we have a long history of giving voice to the day-to-day challenges and experiences of busy women and I’m really excited to bring those stories to video.
How are you creating video for platforms like social and mobile? What advice do you have for publishers looking to attract viewers on these platforms?
The audience on each platform is as unique as the platform itself. You’re not going to get very far if all you do is take a three-minute video and edit it into different run times and aspect ratios, then push it out to all of the various social media platforms. Certain platforms are great for expanding the reach of your content and engaging with viewers, others might be better suited as areas to experiment in a kind of testing ground for new ideas. Other publishers should be aware of this and really think about why they want to be on a platform. They should spend time getting to know the platform’s audience (what do they like, how do they communicate, what do they expect, and what do they hate), and decide for themselves why one might be appropriate and another not.
Do you plan to increase Real Simple‘s video production over the next few years?
I like to think big. Time Inc. has offered us an amazing amount of resources so as we test new franchises and see successes, I expect us to be able to scale up very quickly.
What excites you most about the future of digital video?
At the moment, anything is possible. Advances in streaming and mobile technology have created a new space for anyone to build in. Our users are eager for more thoughtful, solution-based content Real Simple is known for, but we also intend to offer up content that is surprising and exciting. Video is the perfect medium in which to experiment and have fun.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.