In the vibrant, competitive realm of online media, GBH is revolutionizing its way of doing business to connect with Millennials and Generation Z.
As GBH moves beyond broadcast and draws in a younger, online audience, the old rules simply don’t apply.
“Television is very straightforward — we broadcast a program, and people either watch or don’t watch,” says Hillary Wells, executive producer at GBH.
“On channels like YouTube, an extremely sophisticated algorithm is in play, and you have much less control,” she says. “How the algorithm ‘values’ your content in relationship to existing offerings is essentially what determines failure or success.”
That difference is revolutionizing the way GBH makes decisions about topics to feature and audiences to reach, says Wells. The creation of the new YouTube series, Career Hacks, for viewers in their late teens and 20s, is a case in point.
During the initial pilot phase, the production team turned to the research to understand what topics were of interest to those viewers and where public media could fill an unmet need.
“Once we identified career advice as our focus, we sought input from content advisors and the target audience to develop our format and approach. We not only wanted to develop a high-quality series, we needed to learn as much as we could about the algorithm,” says Wells. “How could we best position the series for success?”
They found that recent high school and college graduates were seeking information on how to job hunt, comply with Zoom etiquette, communicate with the boss and deal with rejection and burnout — all from a remote location.
“There was a lot of information out there, but it was very dated, didn’t speak specifically to the immediate issues COVID has presented and was produced in a way that resonates with older adults — not twenty-somethings,” says Wells.
Career Hacks took a different approach. Now in its first season, it delivers instantly engaging, short, to-the-point episodes containing light-hearted but content-rich interviews with experts. A key element, Wells says, was the selection of a relatable, influential host — someone who already had a loyal following and could deliver viewers.
They found just that in Camille Johnson, a recent college graduate and emerging YouTube influencer who built her reputation on OffbeatLook, a beauty and lifestyle channel that has almost 400,000 subscribers.
“While her particular YouTube niche didn’t completely align with our series, she had her own career journey to offer — making mistakes, learning and eventually becoming an influencer,” says Wells.
“The material interests her authentically, and she is learning right along with her viewers — key attributes the target audience indicated they wanted in a host.”
Wells says she is pleased about how the YouTube channel is performing right out of the gate and by how seamlessly the production adapted to remote production during the pandemic.
“We have had a very positive reaction to the series and are currently seeking funding to both expand it and to leverage the format and approach for future projects,” says Wells.