Condé Nast Also Betting on Virtual Reality
“We made a decision to not do what everybody else is doing,” Condé Nast video head Dawn Ostroff said, of the glitzy publisher’s video strategy, as she started her NewFronts presentation. Still, the event contained many of the buzzwords that attendees have already become familiar to hearing, from virtual reality to social platforms to millennials. (For Condé Nast, that would be “cultured millennials,” which it defined as young people with a job.)
Condé Nast, which publishes luxe titles such as Vanity Fair and Vogue offered a sneak peak of a previously announced six-episode VR series in development that’s due out in September, called “Invisible.” Condé Nast is joining the ranks of publishers, like Times, that are pumping money into VR and its more accessible cousin, 360-degree video, based on the belief that advertisers are ready to get on board. “Clearly, VR is going to be a big part of our studio going forward,” said Ostroff.
Condé Nast Entertainment and virtual reality company Jaunt will collaborate with 30 Ninjas production company to produce Invisible, an episodic action-adventure series in virtual reality and the first of its kind, according to the companies.
Invisible is billed to be a six-part serialized show about a New York City family, the Ashlands, who possess superpowers passed down through generations, and whose secret powers are about to be exposed. The episodes will be directed by Jerome Sable and Michael Litwak, along with Doug Liman, who runs the 30 Ninjas production company making Invisible along with producer Julina Tatlock. The series was designed for immersive virtual reality, according to Jaunt Studios President Cliff Plumer.
Even though Condé Nast’s message to ad buyers remains focused on the premium quality of its video content, from feature films to social clips, it’s increasingly recognizing the fact that it needs to distribute those videos wherever people may see them, which today often means their social feeds.
In cognizance of this, sales head Lisa Valentino proclaimed that Condé Nast’s video would “transcend all screens,” with new video ad products designed to work on all platforms and that it would “lean heavily” into social, commerce and influencers. The company announced that its videos now exist on 50-plus platforms, including Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.
However, the demand to create and distribute videos on social platforms has been frustrating for publishers who are restricted by the same platforms with respect to the ability to sell advertising against their content. This is especially relevant for a company such as Condé Nast, which is known go all out in terms of expenses when it comes to content production.
That is probably the reason that Condé Nast isn’t giving up on The Scene, the hub it launched two years ago to serve as a repository for its videos. The strategy behind The Scene has been a head-scratcher to some, considering people seem to have already settled into video viewing habits on other platforms like YouTube and Facebook. The company announced that it was rebooting The Scene, concentrating on mobile users, as well as launching a companion iTunes app for heavy video viewers.
The pattern of traffic to The Scene can’t make Condé Nast happy; it had 5.7 million unique visitors in March, down 30 percent from one year ago and from a peak of more than 13 million in November of 2014, according to comScore. The good news though, is that Condé Nast can keep all the revenue it makes there, whereas, as one publisher groused, “I haven’t made any money” on Facebook.