Rashida Jeeva has been with Huffington Post Canada since launch in 2011. With a background in journalism, and experience working at some of the top online news sites in the country, she knows a thing or two about storytelling. Now, she leads content for AOL Canada, where she heads up an award-winning team of content creators.
This year, the company is betting big on video, aggressively growing their original video business by working to accelerate video views and driving new user behaviours. In the last year alone, AOL Canada has seen a 53 percent growth year-over-year in total video views, prompting additional investment in video, including a new in-house video studio and the launch of seven original, made-in-Canada video productions.
“At both AOL Canada and Huffington Post Canada, we’ve adopted a 50/50 strategy,” Jeeva explains. “Video must make up half of our content programming.”
AOL is betting it has the secret formula to help partners unlock the creative potential of video storytelling – supported by its programmatic services naturally. And the numbers seem to prove them right: According to comScore, AOL Canada’s videos had 9.6 million unique views in August, with 266.4 million total views.
So how has AOL managed to be so successful in video? For Jeeva, success from both a publisher and platform perspective starts with quality content. She breaks down what makes a video a winner for AOL.ca and Huffington Post Canada.
AOL’s new video studio uses the same social media strategies the Huffington Post team employs daily to create evergreen viral content. Because social has been a part of Huffpost’s DNA from the beginning, all the video content out of the new studio must have that share-ability factor.
“When we look at the content, we try to ask ourselves, is this something we would share on our personal social feeds,” Jeeva says. “Our approach is very social. It needs to be compelling enough that viewers will want to engage, click and share. Engagement is always the end goal.”
Just like any news outlet, AOL’s video content needs to be timely. The new studio gives them the ability to do on-the-spot video production, editing, in-studio interviews, and even live digital streaming. For example, throughout TIFF, the studio played host to a who’s who of Hollywood celebrities, hosting Huff Post Live interviews from the Toronto studio.
Jeeva also believes content must be authentic. Sometimes, the need for authenticity can even outweigh polish, she explains.
“Sometimes we will release raw video, usually around something timely and newsworthy. We check for accuracy and put it out there, knowing we’ll have the luxury of time to add detail and context later. Content has to be authentic, and sometimes that immediacy helps it to resonate with viewers.”
Authenticity also extends to the seven new mid-to-large scale video series AOL Canada is launching. Each of the Canadian Originals series focus on real Canadian stories, from We Salute You, a celebration of veterans, to Apparently, a realistic look at the lives of modern parents.
“Response by sponsors was tremendous,” Jeeva said. “We presented the concepts and had immediate interest on what else we had in the pipeline, and each of those concepts was driven by our content team.”
As a publisher and a platform, AOL is constantly measuring and tracking content performance.
“The tools we use in the newsroom are the same tools we use for custom content partners,” Jeeva said. “We get real-time data on how content is performing, and we apply those learnings, like when certain types of content get more views, and on what platforms. We’ll even AB test headlines and break out by audience segments to better tweak performance.”
Rashida Jeeva is head of content AOL Canada and GM Huffington Post Canada