When Shaquille O'Neal retweeted the Beef History episode pertaining to his beef with David Robinson with 'good job', Jiazhen Zhang and his team at SB Nation were pleasantly surprised because they definitely did not expect such a success right off the bat. Beef History is catching tons of attention that none of the team members at SB Nation has ever imagined. The award-winning documentary series came to huge success and led the number of subscribers on their Youtube Channel from 100K to 1 million.
Beef History stemmed from a change in strategy which prioritized telling a deep and meaningful story that took place in the sports realm rather than simply chasing what happened yesterday during the games. The team thus brainstormed together and came up with a whole bunch of ideas which eventually led to the birth of Beef History.
"When I first joined the team in 2017, we were still in the process of finding and establishing an identity, a unique voice that attracts and resonates with our audience," Zhang shares, "We didn't want to copy what other platforms were already doing so we tried to do some longer forms of docu-series that primarily focused on telling a good story with great impact, and it worked."
It's not hard to tell that the insights generated by the team have proven to be remarkably effective. Time proved that spending time on creating more perspicacious and profound content is exactly what the fans want. Despite some episodes being hours long, the videos are still generating millions of views as well as a great retention rate.
One year after Beef History reached a stable audience base, Zhang and the team believed it was the right timing to take some real challenges and make the series more visible to the public. Spearheaded by Zhang, Beef History entered the 2021 Webbys Awards and ultimately defeated several other strong competitors, winning the People's Voice Winner under the Sports Video Category. Secret Base, the Youtube Channel of SB Nation, has won the Viddy Award as the platinum winner in Non-broadcast, Sports Category thanks to the success of Beef History.
"The Webby Award is a very prestigious award for online media. It is challenging because we had to go through three rounds of selections conducted by both the judges and the audience. Even for the final round, we had five or six competitors but we did defeat all of them and won the prize, which is something that I'm really proud of," Zhang stated.
Zhang is in charge of editing and putting together all the video clips to complete the episodes, including all the visual effects after the producers finish writing the script. Video production is what he is passionate about and something that he has been devoting himself to for over five years since he has chosen to join the industry.
Each episode in Beef History has different main characters and resources, resulting in the frequent requirement for fresh ideas and creation both visually and ideologically, which can get Zhang paranoid at times. The team doesn't want to repeat the same stories. Nor do they want their subscribers to experience visual fatigue so there always needs to be something new. A few slight changes in the presentation of video identity while preserving the general story-telling routine is what Zhang finds a little intimidating but enjoyable at work.