Journalism, churnalism or just #bants - the rise of lad publishers

Unilad Social media week panel

The CEO of Unilad was late to the session on the rise of lad publishers at Social Media Week London - and this pretty much sums up the philosophy of the magazine as a whole.

It may not always be the first, but it wants to be the most entertaining for the Generation Y audience (those between 20-35).

And there is no doubt that Unilad, the Lad Bible and the like are sharing engaging content - I challenge you to scroll your Facebook feed and NOT see a video from one of them shared by your friends.

Jay Kotecha, digital, social and content lead at Ogilvy & Mather UK explained that these channels are so popular for three reasons:

1: They resonate with today's culture

2: They are fit for purpose and work on the platform e.g. no need to fumble for headphones to listen to video

3: They entertain!

Set up by Liam Harrington (the aforementioned CEO) in 2014 'for Generation Y, by Generation Y', Unilad has the simple goal of communicating shareable and relatable content.

Speaking at the SMW event on Friday 16 September, Harrington noted that Unilad's video team is actually larger than its editorial team - a fact that journalist Harry Wallop was keen to pick up on.

"Unilad is entertaining...but it's shit," he said, cutting straight to the point. He went on to explain that good content takes time, and this is not something that many lad publishers and other channels aren't willing to waste time on.

For him, the news brands which are adapting and performing the best are those like the Economist and Private Eye - those which provide "meaty" journalism.

Emily Gosling, writer and editor for AIGA agreed. "Without wanting to sound like a crotchety nana...I hate the word 'content'. A lot of sites rely on re-purposing news. No-one makes the distinction of who did the hard work."

And such is the rise of churnalism - with pre-packaged press releases and news agency articles mass published.

That is not to say that all churnalism is bad: after all, Unilad and Lad Bible's clickbait headlines, videos of dogs eating watermelon and cheeky nature have steadily been amassing followers and page views.

Harrington estimated the most popular post of the year so far - a video of a father and son playing Pie Face - has had 190m views.

He suggests it's all about getting social engagement and making sure if performs best. The correct thumbnail, headline and caption is very important for this, helping to grab the public's interest instantly.

So, what can journalists and publishers learn from the success of lad publishers?

The main takeaway is to create good, shareable content that people can relate to. While 45-60 seconds seems to be the "golden length" for a video, if it;s good content, it doesn't matter how long it is.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've a video of a cat dressed as a pirate to watch...

Ishbel Macleod is PR & Social Media Consultant at Equator and HootSuite Ambassador.

@Ishbel_Macleod

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