The next time someone on your content team jokingly (or perhaps seriously) suggests “we just need a puppy in the video” consider this: educational videos on YouTube earn 4x the views of animal videos.
It’s a testament to the fact that education and learning is a huge part of what people are looking for online. Whether its answers to a specific question (how to...) or entertaining - and sometimes obscure - learning topics (what is the Fermi Paradox?), there are over 500 million views of educational content on YouTube every day.
Like many content creators, we often receive briefs to create something that will entertain and/or inspire the viewer, and there is still a large need for that type of content. But when consumers are asked what kind of content they find most valuable, we see that there is a larger demand for informational and educational content than there is for entertainment and inspiration alone.
Inform, educate, entertain or inspire?
“Consumers find content that “informs” (40%) and “educates” (28%) to be the most valuable. Only 17% say content that “entertains” is the most valuable and 11% say content that “inspires” is the most valuable”
Instructional How-To Content
Of course, there are huge organic search opportunities that lie within educational content, particularly around the “how to ___” types of searches. Many brands have capitalized on this by creating instructional content targeted to popular searches that naturally involve their brand.
REI has an ongoing series of How To videos on their YouTube channel that cover popular outdoor sport topics like “how to pack a backpack”, “how to use a compass”, or “how to carve a ski”.
A great tool for brands to turn to when concepting this type of content is Google Trends which allows you to access Google search data and filter by specific topics. In the screenshot below, you’ll see a Trends dashboard for the topic “How-to” filtered to show YouTube search data for the category Skiing and Snowboarding. Exploring the rising and top trends queries can provide some interesting insight into what people are searching for in relation to a specific topic.
And this style of informative content is not limited to the video space either. In fact perhaps one of the oldest examples of informative content marketing is John Deer’s “The Furrow” magazine, which goes back over 120 years, as explained in this great Content Marketing Institute video.
A similar, more contemporary and digital version of this concept is the Salomon Mountain Academy - a subscription based series of online backcountry education courses for skiers and snowboarders to learn about backcountry travel, snow safety and other important topics.
Another area of educational content where we see growth and opportunity lies in the mix of education and entertainment content - dubbed “edu-tainment”. While there are certainly times that some of us turn to the digital screen to turn off our brains in front of hours of Friends reruns on Netflix, entertainment can also be an educational experience as demonstrated by the popularity of traditional nature and science programs like Planet Earth or MythBusters.
YouTube is the new frontier of this type of edu-tainment content, picking up where traditional television couldn’t - in the most niche categories. One of the beauties of YouTube is that there’s a dedicated community of creators and subscribers for almost any topic imaginable, from the mainstream to the most obscure.
Independent creator channels like Nerdwriter1 provide “weekly video essays” in an explainer format around art, film and music that routinely receive over a million views from dedicated subscribers.
On the science and philosophy side of things, the channel Kurzgesagt (German for “In a Nutshell”) provides fascinatingly simple animated explanations of complex topics like genetic engineering, origins of human life, and overpopulation. WIth almost 5.5m subscribers and some of their videos hitting upwards of 10m views, In a Nutshell clearly shows there is demand for edu-tainment content around even the most complex and obscure topics.
On the more commercial side of things, news site Vox Media has built a heavily subscribed-to YouTube channel from explainer videos, again covering a wide range of topics including news, politics, art, music, and science. Interestingly, Vox has begun to offer this signature content format to brands through their Explainer Studio, as shown in this partnership with Spotify explaining how their Discover Weekly playlists are created.
In the outdoor space, we’re also seeing unique formats of explainer content that take viewers behind the scenes to explain topics like the technology involved in ski and snowboard film making, the challenges that a surfer faces catching a wave, or the physics of jumping a 72’ canyon gap on a mountain bike.
What the success of content from Nerdwriter1, In a Nutshell and Vox goes to show is that educational, informational content doesn’t have to sacrifice entertainment and inspiration value - in fact, there seems to be a sweet spot for content that lies somewhere in between educational, entertaining, and inspirational.
For brands, this provides an opportunity to play a useful role in consumers' lives, while also offering an incredibly targeted way to reach niche audiences that can otherwise be hard to find in concentrated channels.