What the gaming industry can learn from digital publishers

Gabby Fernie

Mobile Marketing talks to Patrik Wilkens, VP of Operations at TheSoul Publishing. One of the world’s most prolific and popular online media companies, TheSoul Publishing has over 644m unique views each month and has broken the one billion subscriber record on Facebook and YouTube combined.

Mobile Marketing: What are the similarities between digital publishing and the gaming industry? 

Patrik Wilkens: In terms of what we've seen of games and what we’ve seen of social media, there’s a definite overlap. You see gaming companies providing these massive multiplayer online environments, which other digital-first companies produce content for. So you have concerts happening in Fortnite for example, you have video viewings in some of the other MMO areas and it makes a lot of sense as our target audience is the same. The goal is the same.

When we look at TheSoul Publishing, in the United States we have a 70 per cent market share of the female audience between the ages of 18- 34. Gaming is trying to aggressively move into the same market, so again I think there’s quite a lot of learning opportunities that gaming companies can take from us. 

MM: So gaming is no longer seen as a male-dominated environment? 

PW: One of the trends in gaming is to be more inclusive to the female audience, something that many digital-first companies have already achieved. Much of our content is very inclusive of all the different genders,  so we're not focusing on a male experience as some of the gaming companies might have been doing in the past. Digital media is a step forward. At TheSoul Publishing we have the channels Slick Slime Sam, Bright Side, 123 GO, and La La Life which we have a largely female demographic for. It's always a good thing to be as open as possible to every demographic and geographic in this way.

MM: How important is 'fandom' to game developers and content publishers when developing a lasting franchise? 

PW: The new definition of fandom would be retention - people sticking to a particular brand or sticking to a particular channel over a period of time, as opposed to jumping between the next trend or the next fad. So when you talk about keeping users or keeping fans within your ecosystem I think one thing that is important for every kind of company is to be able to offer tailor-made experiences across the different demographics and geographics.

At TheSoul Publishing we have over 71 different nationalities all contributing to the creation of our videos. It's also important to keep the user in different mediums. We're not just on YouTube; we're on Facebook, Snapchat, and Tik Tok, we have owned and operated websites. We are in China and on some of the social media platforms there. I think the point is, once the user identifies that you deliver added value to their lives, they should be able to engage with you on as many different platforms as possible with catered content. I'm not just talking about taking a game and porting it to another medium. I'm talking about tailor-made experiences, and that's something that TheSoul has been focusing on for many years and has been successful with.

MM: What can platforms do to improve or build on their current user experiences when engaging with video content? 

PW: I think it's super important to listen to users and utilise the feedback that you have in order to improve your content. Then again, in regards to catering to a relatively wide audience, I think that positive content is incredibly important. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw that users interacting with positive content have a high engagement rate, have a higher retention rate. That's one thing that I really hope to see more on the internet - engaging, uplifting, value-added content. 

MM: Shareability and virality are key KPIs for game developers and digital publishers. Can you explain how something goes viral? 

PW: It's a question that's being discussed a lot. For us at TheSoul Publishing, we manage to be close to a one to four ratio from idea to an overall successful product. We're doing that by following internal best practices and guidelines, so most of the time we're starting with YouTube first and we're doing a number of experiments. Once those experiments show the necessary key performance indicators that are pointing in the right direction, we're adding more languages, we're adding more platforms. We really cater towards the platform, so we make videos, we make the same scene with multiple different devices, and multiple different aspect ratios to just be sure that whenever a user engages with content from TheSoul Publishing that it is a native experience on the relevant platform.

Yes, with over a billion followers on social media and over 500 unique videos that we launch every month, we do have a set of experiences that we can build upon that maybe makes it a bit easier for us to identify trends faster. But again, once we do, we go all in. That's when you see that a product like 123 GO for example, that hasn't really been around more than two years, increasing from a small idea to one of the biggest channels on social media. 

MM: Although you don't publish any gaming content, your brand channels really seem to attract gaming enthusiasts. 

PW: We do and I love that you used the term gaming enthusiasts. When I was young, a 'gamer' was seen as the nerdy guy sitting in the basement playing something like Call of Duty. This has really developed into gaming enthusiasts. You don't have to be a pro-footballer to enjoy watching football, right?  

I would assume that every one of our channels has a fair amount of gaming enthusiasts watching, but we also have a number of dedicated channels. For example, Stickman is one of those channels, we have La La Life games where we're looking into some of the most popular games to date and do crossover content. We see that for a channel that is a bit on the mid-level in terms of viewership compared to our other channels, the amount of views that those videos garner is just disproportionately high. We've seen recently that gaming-related content on social media also has one of the highest engagement and follower rates. So yes, it's certainly an area that we are creating content for and that will grow over the next months and years.