By Sahil Patel
Web publishers are increasingly investing in video. Most are focused on syndicating other people’s content. A few, including Conde Nast and Complex, are deficit-financing original series.
Complex is additionally unique in that it’s been distributing original content on Complex TV, the company’s owned-and-operated video platform. Yes, Complex also syndicates content to other places, including most recently a channel on Dailymotion, but the publisher has built its video business with Complex TV first in mind.
“If you look at the fundamentals of YouTube, that business model really only works for Google and no one else,” says Complex’s GM of video Nathan Brown. “Except for the very few that break through and make some good money, the vast majority of creators and media companies only on YouTube are struggling. So we built Complex TV to be an independent standalone platform that we could build audiences around.”
Currently, Complex TV claims a video audience of 120 million uniques per month, across its own video platform and publisher network.
With that established presence off YouTube, the company is now turning its attention to the world’s largest video site. “YouTube is an important part of our strategy in terms of fishing where the fish are, and also the benefits it offers in terms of reach, extension, and search optimization,” says Brown.
But even more than that, Complex is also beginning to work with YouTube talent. The publisher just launched a series with Foamer Simpson in which he unboxes and talks about new sneakers. Simpson was already doing these videos on YouTube, where he has more than 71,000 subscribers. Seeing their popularity, and knowing that sneakers are a huge category for its audience, the publisher struck a deal with the producer to create those videos for Complex TV.
Brown says Complex is having “active conversations” with other YouTube talent to create content for Complex TV. The goal is to find producers who are “very authentic” and can do a “deep dive into the specific subcultures that we speak to,” he adds.
In return, Complex is not only providing production resources, but editorial and marketing support across the Complex network. That includes the potential for being featured in Complex’s print magazine. “It’s not just signing someone and putting them on Complex TV and seeing what happens,” says Brown. “It’s a fully-considered investment in the ecosystem.”
In this way, Complex is already pursuing a video and editorial strategy that Yahoo should mimic with its own video platform and partnerships with YouTube talent.