Scripps Networks Interactive’s Recipe For Platform-Specific Content

Vikki-Neil-Scripps-Networks-InteractiveWhen publishing content via social media, the biggest hits don’t always follow conventional wisdom.

One of Scripps Networks Interactive’s most popular videos on social media featured best practices for storing fresh vegetables, according to Vikki Neil, the company’s SVP and GM of digital. Counterintuitively, the video performed much better on its HGTV channel than on the Food Network.

“That challenges conventional thinking,” Neil said. “What takes off and goes viral is not always what you would anticipate.”

However, the video did possess one feature commonly found in popular Facebook videos: “Something that is a surprise, delight or slightly different way of doing something will do well in Facebook social video,” she said.

As new platforms emerge, Scripps is among the first to test them. The Food Network, for example, partnered with the newly launched Snapchat Discover last year.

Part cable company, part digital company, Scripps leverages its huge test kitchens and content production capabilities to create custom social content for each platform.

And while digital contributes only a small portion of revenue to Scripps’ vast cable business, Scripps benefits from its TV talent appearing in Facebook Live and Snapchat videos. It has also become a destination for content, such as recipes from Food Network chefs.

Neil, who runs the digital content, brand and product teams, including sponsored content, talked to AdExchanger about how Scripps Networks is tackling the platformization of content. 

AdExchanger: In Q2, Scripps digital businesses contributed $28 million to a $702 million advertising business. What’s it like working within a much larger cable business?

VIKKI NEIL: We are a content company that clearly has expertise in video, but we make sure we don’t just take linear content and put it on a digital platform. That doesn’t really work. But we have this physical space – [like] the Food Network kitchens – and we leverage that to create recipes, shoot videos and photos and put the content up on our social platforms. We do a lot of in-house production on a daily basis.

Where does social media fit into Scripps’ overall strategy?

Food as a whole is on fire and has been for years. We are watching this phenomenon of food meeting a newer and younger millennial audience. What is happening in the social footprint with food is a huge opportunity for us, and we are taking a long view.

We are trying to think about the natural touch points for a customer, how we can create the right experience by customer and give people what they expect in each platform. How do we create continuity for people who are picking up their kids and taking five minutes to look at a social video, or are in the store with a specific purchase intent about what ingredient to buy?

Social food videos with an overhead shot and step-by-step instructions have skyrocketed in popularity recently. How are you anticipating and responding to content trends like this?

We call them “hands and pans” videos. We have a very large social footprint and an audience that expects food content from us, so we were well positioned to participate. Since December, we have grown very aggressively and we are in the top three or four social video providers on Facebook. Our audience was not just watching those videos but commenting on them, offering opinions on how they would change it.

What have you learned so far about Facebook Live?

With Live, it’s about capturing someone in that movement, and how to hold their attention. We have seen our talent play a much larger factor in being able to build a large audience. Bobby Flay just did a great Facebook Live for us. Or, it’s being able to provide access to something they don’t normally see. That can be a look inside something they don’t normally see, like to see what they are prepping in the Food Network kitchens or behind the scenes of a big TV show.

Food Network was an early partner in Snapchat Discover. What content performs well there?

Snapchat skews younger and is a bit more irreverent. Crafts inspired by food do really well, and we are looking at talent that may not be on our TV platforms. But one of our most popular people on Snapchat is Alton Brown. He’s not 19, he’s not 25, but that younger audience responds extremely well to him. Conventional wisdom with Snapchat would be that the younger the talent, the better, but that’s not always the case.

Discover moved from a channel-based format to a more curated content selection. That change seemed a bit reminiscent of Facebook’s algorithm changes. How did it affect you? 

We’ve actually been really pleased. It’s exposed more people to the content we have on Snapchat. We want our content to be as discoverable as possible, and these are important places and channels for us to watch.

Digital upstarts like BuzzFeed Tasty and Tastemade encroach on other, more established digital publishers. Since they have different resources than a public company like Scripps, is that unfair competition?

It can be really challenging. But it’s in our DNA to pivot and pivot quickly. When we look at Tasty and Tastemade, within 90 days we came in and started to participate. At some point, “hands and pans” videos will not be the “in” thing. What happens then for the other companies?

For us, we are still food specialists. We have this huge, well-curated recipe database and huge TV brand and talent. That allows us to be more selective about where it is right to participate. Our brand dominates. It’s the long game for us.

When a shopper looks up a recipe in a store, that moment is incredibly valuable to an advertiser. How are you thinking about that from a content perspective?

We are very aware of purchase intent. People want to know where to buy things, whether that is on HGTV or Food Network. People also want to get information quickly and have the page load quickly, which are things we are thoughtful about. We have an app that plays into peoples’ desire to get information quickly and pay close attention to Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles.

What is Scripps’ platform philosophy?

Our goal is always to ensure our content is as discoverable as possible for consumers every time they think about food, home and travel. You want the best-of-breed content experiences that are highly monetizable. If you capture those two things, it helps you determine what’s important and where you want to be.

 

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