By Mark Kersteen - September 17th, 2014

It’s easy for a brand new company to take on a data-focused approach. At least, easier than one that’s been around for more than a century. Still, advances across marketing mean even the most successful names have to take every opportunity to stay out in front.

Condé Nast, the media company that owns such iconic brands as Vogue, GQ, Glamour and The New Yorker, launched its entertainment division in 2011. Their goal: to deliver new kinds of content based on their venerable and respected print brands.

Mei Lee is Condé Nast Entertainment’s Vice-President of Digital Marketing. She makes sure that Condé Nast’s video content is being watched and shared, and finds out who is watching and sharing it.

Listening to Your Data, Listening to Your Customer

Mei Lee Conde Nast Mei Lee, VP of Digital Marketing for Conde Nast Entertainment

“Our goal is to always look at our viewership from the perspective of their demographics, their consumption patterns, their social engagement with our content—did they share our video with their friends across the web?”

Using data to drive their entertainment has been a crucial part of their strategy since the start.

“We look at data points across thousands of videos to determine the most effective way to grow our audience and viewership.”

This can lead to some surprising findings.

“We have a show for Glamour called The Single Life. It’s a show about relationships, and Glamour is a female-oriented brand. But we’ve found some of the content we’re putting out there for Glamour has been interesting to guys as well—boyfriends, guy friends, or just guys in general. We’re seeing a really interesting, healthy mix of both genders. Those are the sorts of findings that really inform how we approach our marketing strategy across the show.”

When it comes to digital video, Mei has to approach her data differently than one might for other forms of marketing. Instead of pushing for a transaction, she has to build relationships.


“Once the traffic comes to my site, I then want to know whether those viewers actually stay and watch additional videos. Did they only watch one video and leave? It’s more valuable to have a viewer who watches multiple videos in one session, than one that only watches one and then leaves.”

Data also helps Condé Nast Entertainment target their content to strengthen viewers’ connections to their brands.

“We target people who have watched our shows within a certain timeframe on our YouTube channels. As they watch other content that’s not from Condé Nast on YouTube, I’m able to target them with a pre-roll ad to help drive them back to our channel and watch more of our shows. There’s a lot of viewership data there that we utilize to help make our marketing more relevant.”

But the information Condé Nast utilizes doesn’t just inform the marketing of their content, it also shapes the content itself.

Turning Insight Into Action

“We are an insights-driven organization. A lot of the data that marketing has access to and is responsible for surfacing to the business is used to inform our programming decisions, and our investment decisions in digital talent.”

“We have recently developed a programming scorecard method that allows us to evaluate the ROI and success of our programming by looking at metrics such as social engagement and production/marketing cost per view. Our goal is to always ensure our content delivers on our programming filters.”

The reason Mei is able to put this data to such good use is because Condé Nast Entertainment has completely bought into becoming data-driven.

“The great thing about Condé Nast Entertainment is that there is a respect for data, there is a hunger for data. We’re in such new territory, in terms of digital video. Some brands are beginning to make investments in video content. However, a lot of brands have not gotten into a regular schedule of releasing video as a content strategy. We need a lot of data to guide us and help us understand: What do viewers want? What is the programming white space?”

However, I imagine this talk of data shaping programming smacks of sacrilege to some readers. How can you capture inspiration in a spreadsheet? Are data and measurement a replacement for creativity, or a tool to help guide it?

“All those data points can help guide the creativity behind the next show. They provide backdoor rigor to the way you create programming and think about creative applications. I think it’s a really smart approach, and I don’t think a lot of people do it, to be honest.”

New Content, New Challenges

Measurement is clearly a crucial tool for Mei and for Condé Nast Entertainment. It’s the only life raft they can hold on to in this still emerging space.

“The way I think about it is this: When I worked at J. Crew, the product I had to market was a sweater. Now, the product that I have to market is a video. In some ways, I feel like what I’m doing right now is more challenging than what I did at J. Crew. As a marketer, at the end of the day, I’m asking for your time. And that’s much harder to do. Time is our most precious currency, and I think that’s way more difficult than asking you to spend fifty dollars on a sweater. You can return it if you don’t like it! But if I ask you to sit there and watch two minutes of my video, if you didn’t enjoy it, I’ll never get you back. I have a limited window to use all the information I have to get you to stay, and to get you to come back.”

The proprietary digital video space remains a mostly unexplored one, for now. While data can help guide the way, marketers and creators still face steep challenges. Video content is a new and very different product, but it’s something with which marketers are only going to need to become more confident.

Mei will be speaking about data and analytics at Incite Summit: East.

Cool headline image by Fotolia

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