Case Study – Escapist Magazine / Zero Punctuation: Building Popularity By Teaming Up With An Exceptional Content Creator

I’ll be honest before going into this – I’m a fan of both The Escapist and Zero Punctuation. Yahtzee consistently makes me laugh, and even though I dig computer and electronic games, he has cross-genre appeal to anyone who enjoys a sharp wit, unique sense of humor and plenty of originality – not purely gaming fans.

So let’s backup for a minute. Some of you read that first graph and know exactly what I’m talking about (and you’re probably Digg users). Others of you probably are a bit lost. Let’s step back and explain.

What Is Zero Punctuation?
From Escapist Magazine:

“Zero Punctuation is The Escapist’s groundbreaking video review series starring Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw. Every Wednesday Zero Punctuation picks apart the games so you don’t have to. Called “hilariously cutting … first legitimate breakout hit from the gaming community in recent memory” by Boing Boing, see why reviewers love it and developers fear it.”

That’s the basic breakdown, but it would become much clearer if you just watched an episode. You’re probably familiar with the Super Mario Brothers series so check out Yahtzee’s review of the Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii (extremely NSFW).  Go watch it, I’ll wait.

Hilarious, original, fast paced, and fun – he’s got undeniable wit.

Yahtzee was creating gaming reviews previously just for fun and posting them to the web. The Escapist took notice of his original, witty, and extremely catchy videos on YouTube and knew they had to have him. Here’s a quick 30 seconds by Yahtzee which explains:

[youtube ZOBTN67K0Zw]

An Instant Social Media Cult-Classic
It was an extremely smart move for The Escapist, as the series has exploded in popularity. It’s one of the only video series where there’s a race every Wednesday between Digg users to see who can submit it first, at which point it is a guaranteed first-pager with hundreds of comments.

Have a look at 31 episodes that easily made page 1 of Digg.

Zero Punctuation has undeniably helped The Escapist make a consistent, strong climb in traffic numbers, subscribers, and overall loyalty. The content on the site was always good, and Yahtzee was a perfect fit with his distinct style of game review. His stuff may or may not vibe with you, however he is speaking to a niche: gamers and fans of unique web videos (it’s actually a pretty big niche).

Ars Technica has a post on the trouble with exclusive video on the web, but I would tend to disagree. Even if a few people steal the content, most of us are aware its tied to The Escapist, and the online publication is experiencing huge bumps in numbers due to social media. The drawbacks can’t possibly outweigh the traffic, interest and loyalty created.

A Huge Opportunity For Online Publications
Creating a series of ultra-popular videos and releasing them at regularly scheduled times is a powerful traffic driver for magazine-style sites or blogs in any niche. Yahtzee’s videos are no doubt edgy, however that’s part of his style and allure. The safe choice on the web can never cut through the clutter and create this kind of massive following.

The Escapist saw a big opportunity with the content already being created by Yahtzee on his own. There are people out there on YouTube and other video sharing sites creating content in your niche. If that content is good, those people may already have a strong following (or could easily have one with some marketing) and could prove an asset to your site if you’re willing to court them.

If you do bring on a popular, independent content creator onto your team keep this in mind: to edit them or restrain them in any way will both upset that content creator and destroy that content’s appeal. It’s also a good way to lose that person quickly.

Bringing an incredibly remarkable and unique personality such as Yahtzee onto your team and allowing them creative freedom is a great strategy for a content-based site to build their brand and permeate social media.

Further Reading:
NBC 11 In California Experiences The Digg Effect

Social Media And Artists: A Natural Fit

Internet Marketer Moment Of Zen Video