The panel entitled, "Content vs. Community – Which is King?" featured Newspepper's Hermione Way as moderator (she did a stellar job), Twitter's Brand Program Manager, Ryan Lee; YouTube's Global Creator Development and Management Lead, Bing Chen; Vice's Global Marketing Director, Jonathan Hunt; and VP of Brand Strategy, Brendan Gahan. They discussed an argument that is circular in nature. You can't get a community without great content, and you can't get great content to succeed without a community.
Hermione Way led off with an example of what might spark such a debate as "Content Vs. Community." She brought up ShayCarl, one of the most popular YouTubers going right now. She talked about how she loves his videos, as many people do, but remarked that "he is the worst editor in the world," and videos are shot with his iPhone.
What her illustration points out is it reduces the importance of content in this meaningful way: it doesn't have to look polished or amazing to get people to like it. ShayCarl found an amazing community who liked his stuff and that's why he has a channel with over a million subscribers.
Many of the panel's questions and answers are paraphrased and edited:
Way asks, "What makes a hit?"
Brendan Gahan: It's great if you can create a viral hit, but I think it's important to build a subscriber base, a community you can tap into on every video you release.
Jonathan Hunt: Content and community aren't mutually exclusive. You need to have a community to consume your content, but you also need a story to tell.
Ryan Lee: Creating content and throwing it up on every site possible and hoping it gets seen isn't going to work. For instance, things that work on Vine, don't work on YouTube. And Instagram (15 seconds) and Vine (6 seconds) may not seem too different from each other, but brands are using them both in different ways.
Bing Chen: Personality trumps production value in so many ways on YouTube. Hermione brought up ShayCarl. While his videos aren't anything you would see in a movie theater, people are attracted to his authenticity and personality compensate. In some ways, that's even more important than production value. That also brings up Jenna Marbles, who makes videos that look like they come off a webcam. Today's audience, whatever you want to call them, "Millennials," Gen Y, Gen C….these under-35-year-olds demand a level of personality and authenticity that other industries don't provide.
Way: How much of content is community?
Gahan: With 100 hours being uploaded to YouTube every minute, you have to find a way to stand out. So investing in your fan base is important.
Lee: People like ShayCarl and Philip DeFranco release content on a regular schedule and that's how they got so many subscribers. You see some of these viral hits where someone got millions of views…their video has millions of views but they don't have that many subscribers. These guys have invested in their audiences with regular content and that's paid off.
Hunt: When we got to YouTube, there were some sort of "rules" to follow, and when we first put them up, they failed miserably because they weren't authentic. Then we started uploading these videos we shot like 5 years ago on a shaky HD handycam and we started reaching a new audience that had never heard of Vice before and we started getting millions of views.
After a lot of related discussion about building an online community, Chen adds: This is less a hit-driven industry and more of an engagement-driven industry.
I like this quote mainly because "hits," just as Ryan Lee alluded to, are fleeting. You can't really create mega-hits over and over. But you can churn out content that people like on a regular schedule and develop a sustainable job that pays the bills.
Gahan: It's kind of like a Moneyball approach. You want to hit a bunch of singles. Consistency is key.
It's at this point each of the panelists are asked what they do with their particular companies, and how they approach this theme. And finally, they're asked which of the two is king…and of course, it's both. You can't have one without the other.