This Is Vice Media’s Successful APAC Video Strategy

By Linda Freund · March 20, 2020

This Is Vice Media’s Successful APAC Video Strategy

It can be challenging for any global media company to expand their digital video efforts into the APAC region. Content creators are charging headfirst into a diverse set of countries with countless platform preferences, passions, and, even, colloquialisms. Topic choice alone can be daunting.

Where some see a challenge, Vice Media’s APAC team sees an opportunity. The number of digital viewers in Asia Pacific, in general, has more than tripled in the past four years. This may not come as a surprise as over 60% of the world’s young people, between ages 15 to 24, live in Asia Pacific, reports the UN.

“What’s really exciting about this region is how many different forms, places, and formats storytelling can take,” said Myki Slonim, President of Vice Digital, APAC.

Slonim’s team is creating breakthrough and effective content that is clearly resonating with APAC audiences. Vice Media entered Australia in 2003. Today, it reaches 76% of Australian males between the ages of 18-24, according to Tubular data.

In the past 90 days, Vice Australia’s Facebook channel secured 69.5M views and 455K engagements. Vice’s other target regions, from India to Singapore, are following a similar growth trajectory. Vice Asia secured almost 21.9M cross-platform views and 340K engagements in the past 90 days.

Tubular hosted a webinar with Slonim to uncover how Vice APAC’s content strategy is engaging new audiences and how content creators can adopt this for their own digital video efforts.

Follow the Data And Your Gut

Vice APAC dispatches online video teams to Singapore, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, and Australia to capture the youth pulse.

Developing programming for such a vast region is “a real mix of trying to understand the numbers as well as your good old-fashioned gut,” Slonim noted in the webinar.

To succeed in this end, Vice APAC has created a video cocktail that’s:

  • experimental and taps into youth cultural trends
  • strategized market-by-market based on regional audience and viewing habits
  • local first, but has a global appeal

And to prove their content’s value, Slonim goes beyond views and shows advertisers more transparent regional audience reach metrics.

Are you taking notes yet? Let’s break down the details and some simple action steps.

Think Locally, Act Globally

One of Vice APAC’s core content strategies is to unearth stories that “feel authentically local but go global at the same time,” Slonim said.

“When trying to tell those stories we want to open the aperture a bit. Tell those local stories but make sure that they ascend borders.”

Vice APAC does this by following local trends and finding connective threads. “Dominant trends out of the youth space are going to come out of this part of the world. We find those voices and trends and help tell those stories from a global point of view,” Slonim said.

Many young people are looking to social videos for critical information on issues that impact their lives. “How many young people went to the polls for the first time this year? Think about that,” Slonim said.

And although there is no such thing as Asian youth, there are themes that tie young people together across the region. Vice Media’s Tubular performance data sheds light on them.

They include:

  • LGBTQ and human rights
  • rap and hip-hop culture
  • sexual and gender discrimination
  • access to education
  • cultural slices of life (that reflect an APAC region’s unique mix of old customs with the modern world)

Practically speaking, this takes on multiple forms in video output, from live Hong Kong protest coverage and documentaries on LGBTQ discrimination in Asia and child marriage in India, to a 360-degree YouTube video of Singapore’s skate parks.

Hip-hop is also unifying young communities across Asia. Vice APAC responded this year with a multi-part doc series that looks at the link between hip-hop and socioeconomic inequality.

It featured India’s underground gully rap scene, Australia’s OneFour drill crew direct from Western Sydney’s suburban “war zone,” and Thailand rappers on their lives in Bangkok’s slums.

“That’s become an interesting series for us and we are finding audiences into that scene not just around this region but around the world,” Slonim said.

Finally, Vice APAC secured editorial partnerships with local media players and the Jakarta Post to optimize its reporting in Indonesia. The result: a hard-hitting documentary on efforts to coverup sexual assault on Indonesian university campuses.

A look at Vice Asia’s top 10 most-engaged videos from 2019 provides further examples of data-proven APAC content themes.

The most engaging topics included: controversial marriages (#1 and #5), alternative culture from rap to biker gangs (#6, #7, #9, and #10), and youth-steered debates on politics (#3). Plus, a look at fascinating cultural trends from hallucinatory honey in Nepal to trucker art in India (#2 and #4).

This Is Vice Media's Successful APAC Video Strategy
(Vice Asia’s most-engaged videos across all platforms from 2019. Source: Tubular Labs)

Who Else is Your Audience Watching?

Vice’s APAC team uses Tubular’s data tools to assess their growth in the region.

“It’s important to have a third party metric that enables the marketplace to understand the market and the strengths of different publishers. I think it’s a good thing for the entire marketplace,” said Slonim.

A key way for publishers like Vice to gauge the strength of different publishers, specifically their competitors, is to get a sense of what else their audience is watching. This can help them drill down on market viewing habits and which creators they are competing with for a viewer’s limited time.

In the case of Vice Asia, Tubular data shows overlap with Australia’s The Feed SBS, a news, current events, and satire series. In this case, Vice Asia’s viewers are 333x more likely to watch this creator than the average person.

Vice Asia’s viewers also show an affinity for Asian Boss, a startup video portal that seeks out authentic perspectives on cultural news. Vice Asia’s viewers are 120X more likely to watch this creator too.

In this case, knowing this Vice’s APAC team can look at these publishers’ data insights to further drive their understanding of their target audiences.

Experiment with Regional Platforms and Formats

Distribution can make or break your impact in an APAC region. Knowing each target country’s platform preference and being prominent in those spaces is important.

In Asia Pacific, “YouTube is still incredibly important,” Slonim said. Tubular data supports his claim. YouTube views in Asia Pacific grew 45% from the first half of2018 (H1 2018) vs. the first half of 2019 (H1 2019), according to Tubular’s 2019 State of Online Video Report (SOOV).

“You take a market like India. YouTube is the internet for young people. That’s how young people access the internet on mobile phones.” India alone has 600M people under the age of 34, Slonim said.

In addition, Vice APAC’s team is constantly researching emerging platforms. When investigating, it looks into audience growth and potential monetization of these platforms, plus any referral traffic it generates.

TikTok, for example, is the real focal point for experimentation in Asia, Slonim explained. Vice has seen strong TikTok success on its Indonesia vertical as it explores ways to approach that platform differently.

This means going beyond the standard song-and-dance TikTok persona but still creating something endemic to the short-form style. To do this Slonim is all about “handing the keys to the youngest people in the office.”

That’s how Vice APAC discovered the DIY genre potential of the TikTok platform. One of our team members “took a pair of flip flops and turned it into high heels and that went bananas,” Slonim said.


You’ve been ##swallowed ##foryou ##foryourpage ##viceindonesia

♬ Mission Impossible Theme (Movie Trailer Mix) – Dominik Hauser

Will this type of viral success translate into other APAC verticals? “What resonates in one market doesn’t necessarily resonate in another, but we’re very much sharing and learning culture here in the region and internationally,” Slonim added.

Nurture Local Talent and Leverage UGC

“User-generated content is really interesting to us,” said Vice APAC’s Slonim. In this new era, the power of one influencer uploading content online can be unstoppable.

Slonim pointed out Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. “One idea by a 16-year-old schoolgirl can travel the breadth of the world and end up with tens of millions of people hitting the street for climate strikes.”

This is why Vice APAC makes a point to find and nurture these young voices. In Singapore, for example, Vice recently hosted a young creator summit in which it invited 30 up and coming local influencers to do video production workshops.

“This helped to find new voices and expanded our contributor network,” said Slonim.

Identifying a social media influencer that’s the best fit for a media partnership can be tricky, but when they’re matched well, video content soars. How do you discover these up-and-coming voices?

One way is via Tubular’s DealMaker, which showcases the data performance of thousands of influencers that have officially partnered with brands via a sponsored video campaign.

Another is to follow Ayzenberg Group’s blueprint. The advertising agency uses Tubular’s Audience Also Watches feature to look at the overlaps between an influencer’s audience and a brands’ or media creators’ viewership.

Read more on Ayzenberg’s influencer marketing strategy here.

Find Your Singular, Authentic Voice

Every global content creator should be asking these questions:

  • What’s your brand?
  • What issues do you stand for?
  • How are you giving your audience something they can’t get anywhere else in this part of the world?

Vice APAC’sanswers: “We’re all about telling deeply human stories, authenticity and wanting to take our audience with us and feel like they’re part of the story,” said Slonim.

This goes beyond the topic or themes. Packaging is important, too.

“The more you polish a video,” Slonim said, “the more you end up watering it down.”

Authenticity goes out the door. Vice APAC works to keep things as honest and in-the-moment as possible.

Win Over Brands The Vice APAC Way

Vice APAC’s brand partners routinely ask for content with impact. Brands want to partner with a media company that will reach their target audiences in a meaningful way. This is measured most through engagements, including comments, likes, and shares.

“Engagement is really the core metric we’re working on and what our partners are focused on as well,” said Slonim.

Vice APAC uses engagement metrics as well as audience profiles to develop a data story for prospective brand partners. For example, when Tubular data revealed that Vice is reaching 76% of Australian males between the ages of 18-24, Slonim seized on that instantly.

Slonim explained these were meaningful numbers he could present to advertisers to show his penetration in key markets. He recounted a story of his sales team at an all-agency presentation.

“Everyone was listening with a stoneface. As soon as we put that slide up [about Australia], suddenly the pens came out. That shows the power of a simple, objective metric like that,” Slonim said.

Bringing Vice APAC’s Playbook Home

Vice’s approach to video creation is clearly resonating in the APAC market. Content strategists, if you’re struggling to make a splash globally and to drive content that appeals to local audiences, you should keep Vice’s approach in mind.

The media company has seen massive growth in the coveted youth demographic and its verticals consistently tops leaderboards.

Vice APAC’s final takeaway: content isn’t the end-all. Your team’s attitude is important, too. Optimism is everything in this new global video era.

“Instead of thinking of a broken world we’re trying to fix, it’s actually a complicated new world with opportunities.” – Slonim

Online video is where Slonim said Vice is “helping young people navigate that world, find the new voices that come up with the next ideas, and threading new parts of culture.”

Want to learn more ways to match Vice APAC’s success through data?

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