Nerdist Ditches YouTube to Promote Weird Al Video

YouTube is often synonymous with video marketing. But when silly songwriter Weird Al Yankovic asked multi-platform content creator Nerdist Industries to help produce a music video for his new album release, the brand decided to go against the grain and rely on its own Web video player.

To promote his new album “Mandatory Fun,” Weird Al launched the #8videos8days project, which as the title suggests was the unveiling of eight music videos from his album in eight days. Al and his manager Jay Levey asked Nerdist if the company would be interested in producing the first video “Tacky”—a parody of Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy”—last May. Nerdist had partnered with Al in the past, including producing a YouTube series called “Face to Face with Weird Al” in 2012, and agreed to help.

“When he approached us to do a video, it was kind of a dream come true for all of us,” says Seth Laderman, SVP of content and operations for Nerdist.

But instead of promoting the video on YouTube as it had done in the past, Nerdist decided to invest in its own Web video player. So during the three to four weeks it had to make the video, the company implemented customized video technology from JW Player on its site

Nerdist’s motivations for hosting the content on its site were twofold. First, the brand wanted to drive traffic to its website. According to Laderman, the brand had finished redesigning the site just a few months prior and wanted to expose audiences to the new layout and fresh content. In addition, Nerdist wanted to migrate its more than one million YouTube subscribers back to its site and test whether its personal player could handle the sizes of its videos and traffic.

“Our bread and butter is sending everybody to our dot-com,” Laderman says. “We want people to be able to go to our dot-com and have a great experience there.”

To promote the video, Nerdist sent out a press release and asked its “friends,” including celebrities featured in the video and popular websites, to promote the video, Laderman says. The brand also sent out an email blast and posted the video to its social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Although Laderman admits that there’s no secret formula to getting consumers to share content in addition to viewing it, he says that Nerdist likes to follow these four principles: Keep it short; make it easily accessible via digital; feature people who have prominent followings; produce intriguing content that’s true to your audience.

“Content is what rules.Content is what is king,” Laderman continues. “Whether it’s funny, serious, or great special effects, that’s what people want to see. They want to see really good and really engaging content.” 

After Nerdist posted the video to its site on July 14, Laderman’s birthday, “Tacky” received more than eight million video views and 10 million page views within the first 72 hours. That’s about 275,000 hours of streaming. By the end of the week, the video earned 9.5 million video views (or 320,000 hours of streaming) and 12.5 million page views. Weird Al’s album also secured the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart and “Tacky” was the most popular by about six million views, according to Laderman.

Because the player is customizable to Nerdist’s liking, the content creator has enjoyed other benefits, as well—such as editing and uploading videos right to the player, selling ads against the clips, and tying the player into its branding. Chris Mahl, president of JW Player, says that the player also provides Nerdist with data that shows how users are interacting with it.

“We’re able to get everything out of this player that we could get on YouTube,” Laderman says, “but now we have it customized to our website and making it look like it’s our player as opposed to using YouTube’s player.”

So is this the end of Nerdist’s relationship with YouTube? Not necessarily. Although the brand plans to migrate all of its YouTube content onto JW Player and use the player for all future videos, Laderman says Nerdist will keep its YouTube channel to serve as an additional touchpoint for advertisers and consumers.

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