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Publishers and YouTube: Current Status and the Future





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Publishers start their own YouTube channels


When Minumsa first started YouTube in early 2019, YouTube’s influence was already at its peak, with teenagers perceiving it as synonymous with the internet, and creators being at the top of children’s future career lists. In the Korean publishing industry, the term “YouTube-seller” emerged, with books introduced on YouTube becoming bestsellers. Naturally, it became the main task of publishing marketers to find influential booktubers to advertise or endorse new books. In order to proactively respond to this environment, many large and well-funded publishers have started to launch and operate their own YouTube channels.
At this point, most publishers’ YouTube channels can be characterized by three types of content – 1) interviews with authors, 2) book trailers, and 3) educational content utilizing the content of books. These types of content were the most popular because they could be produced independently of subscriber demand and utilize the infrastructure and know-how of the publisher running the channel. However, except for a few special cases, these types of content often sit in the corner of a YouTube account, receiving fewer views than would be typical for the writer or book being featured.
In this period of investment and trial and error, Minumsa, which had gotten off to a bit of a slow start, had to make some new moves: one of them was to create videos starring its staff members, and to stop promoting the book outright.


Brand channels starring staff members


The rise of the YouTube platform has been driven by the popularity of relatable, friendly, and diverse stories created by ordinary people like you and me, rather than off-the-shelf content created by professionals. Therefore, the growth of a YouTube channel typically starts with a single person sharing personal and honest aspects of their life, creating a variety of content, and engaging with their subscribers. In the process, the creator gains influence from their subscribers based on relatability and trust.
Therefore, the most important part of planning your channel according to the YouTube rules is how you choose this particular “face” (your channel’s persona) and what you want to talk about. However, most brands approach their channel operations from the perspective of a product or service, rather than people, which makes it difficult to provide the “human connection and relatability” that subscribers expect from YouTube videos. Moreover, since each book tells a completely different story, it’s hard to maintain consistency in content if you plan videos around books. Without a trustworthy “face” and consistency, an ad-driven channel will struggle to gain subscribers in the long run, even if each video is of high quality. This is one of the biggest challenges companies face when planning their channels.
So, from the very beginning, Minumsa TV set the most important rule: “We don’t make videos just to advertise books.” Secondly, to establish the most trustworthy “face” of Minumsa TV, they conducted a kind of A/B test by uploading videos featuring some of Minumsa’s most popular writers and staff. Surprisingly, the number of views of the videos featuring ordinary people (employees) who were not well-known at all talking about jobs and daily tasks was overwhelmingly higher than the videos featuring popular writers. This kind of testing process shaped the direction of the company’s current content.


Entertainment and Liberal Arts, the Rule of 8:2


In addition to this feature of staff-led videos, one of Minumsa TV’s biggest identities is its entertainment-type content, which accounts for about 80% of the videos uploaded to the channel. With the principle of making videos that are more “entertaining” than “advertising” books, this trend was further solidified in the early days of the channel, as videos such as employees’ tips on how to get a job at a publishing house, introductions to their roles at a publishing house, and visits to book fairs became popular.
Representative series include “Editor’s Ellipsis.” “Marketer’s Living-a-full-life,” “Mun-Boxing,” and “Minumsa Life.” The videos feature a variety of entertainment-type content, including food binges from books that the editors have enjoyed reading, marketers’ recommended items for new employees, interviews with genius book designers, weekly team meetings, interviews with employees, unboxing of packages delivered to the office, and interviews with employees who have left the company. There are even quite a few videos that don’t talk about books at all. On the surface, you might ask, “Why so, while they are a publisher?” Here, the strategy is to keep the channel’s identity consistent by keeping the people making books at the center. These videos make it easy for people who aren’t immediately interested in books or reading to be drawn into the stories surrounding the books, lowering the barrier between the keywords, books, and reading.
As for the other 20% of the videos, they continue to produce videos that focus on introducing books, such as “Minuma Tells You” and “World Literature Collection World Cup.” These videos cover topics such as masterpieces and entire works by writers like Albert Camus, Osamu Dazai, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Virginia Woolf in under 10 minutes, or tournament-style book introduction battles between classic titles chosen by topic. Of course, the people delivering the information in these videos are editors publishing books in their respective fields. Whereas the previous entertainment-type content was all about unexpected fun, this type of content meets the expectations of more serious readers and is highly sought after by those who want to learn more about books.
Each content’s role can also be seen in the number of views it receives. Entertainment-type content is characterized by a high average number of views and initial reactions, resulting in a large influx of new subscribers, while liberal arts content is characterized by a steady influx of subscribers over time, rather than immediately after uploading, resulting in a solid fan base.



Thumbnail of videos uploaded on Minumsa TV (click on each image to go to the video)



Lessons learned from running a YouTube channel


By running a YouTube channel, the faces of the people that were hidden behind the book or brand logo began to be known to the world, breaking away from the traditional marketing method of communicating with readers only through the “message” or “writer” of the book. And the subscribers of the channel, who are directly or indirectly involved in the process of creating the book or service, are not only introduced to various books through the channel, but ultimately experience the lifestyle of people working with books.
Over the past five years, Minumsa has released more than 570 videos and amassed 180,000 channel subscribers. While some of this is directly attributable to increased bookstore sales of the books featured on the channel, the number of subscribers to Minumsa’s paid membership has increased by more than 40% over the course of its operation, and the time it took to gather subscribers has decreased by ⅓. The interesting part is that the list of books selected by paid subscribers (paid members of the Minumsa book club get to choose three of Minumsa’s books), which has remained roughly the same over the past decade, has diversified to include books featured on YouTube. The fact that the channel has created a small world where readers brought in through the channel can continue to use Minumsa’s services to read, and the diversification of the types of books that are recognized by readers is an important point, and I believe that this trend will strengthen as the channel’s influence grows.
And finally, another asset Minumsa gained from running a YouTube channel are the editors and marketers from the brand that grew up with the channel. As of 2023, nearly 40 of our employees - almost 40% of our total staff - appeared on YouTube during the year to talk about the books or services they were working on and to share some of the work they were doing. Aside from the company’s own channel, these individuals have been promoting their books and work both inside and outside of the publishing industry, publishing, broadcasting, writing for publications, and posting on platforms.


Limitations and challenges


But, obviously, the sustainability of employee-led YouTube channels remains a limitation. How to keep employees who have grown into influencers and manage burnout will become more important issues in the future. In addition, how to refine and maintain the direction of the channel’s influence in a rapidly changing media environment is also one of the concerns of the channel entering its 5th year.
Since launching our YouTube channel, there have been a lot of questions from publishers about how to run a YouTube channel and whether or not they should. However, the question remains - is it right or possible for all brands, especially publishers in different situations, to run a YouTube channel? In the case of Minumsa, the company was able to get to this point due to a combination of factors, including the management’s determination not to produce videos aimed at short-term results or direct book introductions and sales, a production environment where young and talented PDs can showcase their planning and skills without censorship, and, most importantly, a company culture that encourages and supports employees who are willing to appear.


New challenges and the future


The crisis of text-based books as a product, and the influence of YouTube channels with images and videos as weapons, are perhaps similar all over the world. Despite the analysis that the rise of video consumption has led to the decline of text consumption, or perhaps because of it, publishers in Korea and abroad are willing to jump into the world of YouTube and TikTok and try different things to promote books again. This is why I continue to root for more diversified, fun, and unexpected initiatives. I look forward to uploading videos of meeting “book makers” in other countries to Minumsa TV someday.



Written by Cho Ah-Ran (Team Leader, Content Planning Team at Marketing Department, Minumsa)



Cho Ah-Ran (Team Leader, Content Planning Team at Marketing Department, Minumsa)

#Publisher#YouTube#Brand#Minumsa TV
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