With entertainment being split between so many screens, it can be tough for daytime TV shows to translate online. But “The Wendy Williams Show” has figured out an ingenious way to move their content online: a YouTube-only after show.
“Wendy” is second in YouTube views and subscribers only to social media juggernaut “Ellen,” and all other daytime contenders trail behind those shows’ stats.
You might think “Wendy” has been so successful online because its producers saturate every platform with content, like “Ellen” does.
But in fact, the show’s secret has more to do with refusal.
Wendy Williams herself is totally uninterested in tech, she told me recently when we talked about her digital strategy. So her producers don’t try to force her to be interested in Twitter, Instagram, Vine, or any other medium.
Instead, they just continue shooting her after she’s done shooting her regular show.
A producer named Tristan Zimmerman then edits the footage into an after-show feature, and posts it to YouTube a couple hours after Williams’ show airs. And nine hours later, he uploads “Hot Topics,” Williams’ most popular segment, to YouTube.
Here’s why this is such a genius move:
Hosting videos on YouTube is free.
And it’s much easier than running an independent website to host video content would be. It also makes videos a lot more share-able. Fans can easily post their favourite videos on Facebook or Twitter, furthering the show’s reach.
The show makes money from fans flocking to watch Williams’ YouTube channel.
Thanks to YouTube’s partner program, “Wendy” isn’t just saving money by using YouTube — it’s turning a profit. Zimmerman declined to give me specifics on how much cash comes from the YouTube presence, but said it “definitely impacts the show’s bottom line.”
Using YouTube allows new fans all over the world to discover “Wendy.”
The videos — especially the “Hot Topics” — populate the recommendations of YouTube users who might not even be aware of Williams. This has gotten her new fans all over the world. Williams’ employees get recognised in the street now because so many people watch them on the after-show.
“In season one or season two, someone from Saudi Arabia might not have known of Wendy Williams,” Zimmerman said. Now, people from Europe, the Middle East, South America and beyond are popping up in the audience of the show when they come to visit New York City.
So what’s on the after-show?
The after-show functions as “the closest thing Wendy Williams will ever have to a reality show,” Zimmerman told me.
On each segment, you can see Williams changing her shoes, heading to her dressing room, sitting on her couch. She answers questions sent in by viewers. She talks about what’s been bugging her lately.
Zimmerman then edits it into a show and posts it online by the afternoon, and the views pour in. Each video gets around 50,000 views or more within a day or two, with some getting closer to 100,000 views.
Then, at 9 p.m. each night, Zimmerman uploads the Hot Topics video. Hot Topics is the show’s most popular segment, and it has major legs online. Fans are so impatient to watch the segment, they tweet at Zimmerman if he hasn’t put it up yet.
Williams’ most popular “Hot Topics” video on Beyoncé’s thigh gap has more than 4 million views.
And although Williams’ online popularity rivals that of a social-media-savvy teenaged YouTube or Vine star, she’s not putting a ton of thought into her social presence.
“Wendy has never sent an email in her life,” Zimmerman told me. “The after-show came out of that need [to connect with fans on social media]. She’s open to having that sort of conversation and connection with her audience, but she’s not going to be sitting on her phone tweeting in 140 characters.”
This is partially because Williams, whom Tristan referred to as “lightning in a bottle,” can’t always limit herself to 140 characters. It’s also because “you need to see her and hear her,” he said. “It’s so much a part of who she is.”
And keeping Williams in the format that’s most natural to her — talking about pop culture and her life — has been incredibly successful for her team. Zimmerman’s editing and his behind-the-scenes presence contribute to feelings of authenticity.
“I’ve worked with her for seven years,” he said. “Part of my job is to know her voice. I have Wendy Williams in my head.”
Williams has actually tried platforms like Twitter and Instagram in the past, but it didn’t last. She now sends tweets to Zimmerman and doesn’t send them herself. Even though she doesn’t personally post to Twitter, her account has over a million followers.
“I know I could have more followers if I sent Tristan more pictures, but I don’t want you to see me in the grocery store,” she said. “I used to take pictures of stuff I was making for dinner, only to be disrespected by people saying, ‘That looks nasty, what is that?’ Meanwhile I spent all day making a roast with potatoes and string beans.”
So the after-show is her “number-one presence on social media,” she said.
“It’s not scripted, it’s just me talking,” she said. “I’m very comfortable with myself.”
She limits herself to reading five comments per video, although once in a while, she said, “I’ll slip and read more and get my feelings hurt and think about it all day because I’m only human.”
I mentioned to Williams that there are a lot of YouTube stars out there, like Grace Helbig or Jenna Marbles, who make a living by talking into a camera and posting the results on YouTube, just like Williams’ after-show. Usually, when YouTube stars are asked what the secret is to having a successful online presence, they say it’s as simple as “being yourself.”
I asked Williams whether she believed that was the secret.
“There’s an art to being yourself,” she said. “I’m a professional talker and through the years, it just comes natural. You know what to reveal and what not to reveal.”
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