Vox, which is part of Vox Media, has teamed up with Netflix to create the explainer series conveniently titled, ‘Explained.’ Each episode aims to explain a subject as thoroughly, but as quickly possible. This strategy has been a signature of the Vox YouTube channel, where the internet news site has uploaded 850 short explainer videos since 2014. In a world that is increasingly becoming ‘video first,’ Vox has become one of the biggest names in video journalism. Subjects range from politics to travel, culture to news.
If their videos have been previously been available for free on YouTube, why should they expect viewers to pay for a Netflix subscription? For starters, Vox is continuing to upload and distribute videos through YouTube. This positions the Netflix videos as an extension of the brand, rather than a replacement. In recent years, YouTube is becoming an increasingly hard place to compete, especially for an organisation like Vox that often posts videos that are not advertiser-friendly, so Vox has taken their formula to Netflix.
Airing ‘Explained’ on Netflix allows Vox greater freedom in the breadth of subjects they can tackle, due in part to the security of Netflix being a subscription-based service rather than an advertising-based service. Netflix has always been a destination for Documentaries, evidenced by the Oscar-winning film Icarus which was exclusive to the service. Vox can leverage this extra security and prestige by creating longer videos than on YouTube, mostly in the 14 to 20-minute range, which allows more nuance compared to their YouTube content. Due to the bigger budgets that Netflix will afford Vox, they have also been able to attract some big name narrators like Christian Slater, Lavar Burton, and Nick Kroll. So far the series has a broad range of subjects, from the racial wealth gaps to why extraterrestrial life has not been discovered.
It’s an example of how the way content is made is changing. Explained would be a hard sell to the traditional networks, who rely on content which is consistent; both in subject and the duration of each episode. Here are two of the biggest names in new media collaborating on a show which has a familiar format—somewhere between a YouTube essay and a more traditional documentary—yet it can be expanded and grow as they show matures.
It’s indicative of Vox’s new direction. Recently, they have moved away from social media first content. Vox is moving away from using social media for revenue and pivoting to a revenue model which they can control. As a production company producing their content for a giant media company like Netflix, they’re probably betting on the right horse. Time will tell if this new initiative works, Netflix is notoriously tight-lipped about their viewing numbers. It’s a new frontier for both companies and helps cements them as leaders in their respective fields.
You can watch new episodes of Explained every Wednesday on Netflix.