The cover of Elle's January issue.

Elle.com is turning to documentary-style video with the launch this week of a new series and a longer-form feature.

The move is part of a larger shift toward documentaries, as Hearst, like many companies, tries to capitalize on video, which, because it leads to increased viewer engagement and time on-site, fetches higher ad rates than other web stories.

“Much like the evolution of flat content — from aggregation to original reporting and narrative features — we are creating many types of videos and being more ambitious in the way we tell stories across Hearst Magazines Digital Media,” said Brooke Siegel, Hearst Magazines digital media’s executive director of editorial strategy. 

“We are dedicating more resources and we really want to be ambitious with how we tell stories visually. We are really committed to telling stories in an in-depth way, and looking at the discussions that affect women and affect our readers,” Elle.com site director Leah Chernikoff said.

The site is rolling out a new video series on Wednesday, “The Cost of Being a Woman.” In pieces that clock in around four to six minutes, the series will look at the financial, emotional and physical toll that common experiences take on women’s lives. The first episode looks at the costs associated with miscarriage, and features NY1 traffic reporter Jaime Stelter. Other episodes will look at a range of topics, from lugging around handbags to fertility treatments to hair removal.

“We really wanted to explore the nuance of being a woman, and looking at not just the topics that are dominating the news — and God, there are so many right now when it comes to being a woman — but thinking about women’s inner lives as well and the emotional states,” Chernikoff said. 

The short-form documentary was deliberately designed to appeal to the attention span on the Internet, but there will be longer features as well, planned to be rolled out four times a year. The first, which comes out this Friday, runs 20 minutes and features a deeper dive into the history, significance and business of braiding in America.

“When you say documentary, people think it will be a really long video, but it really can vary in length from something that’s four to six minutes, to something that will be a little longer, like 20 minutes,” Chernikoff explained. 

“Braided,” produced by Elle.com beauty director Julie Schott, came out of short, viral videos that ran on the site about hair braiding. “With the viral success of Elle.com’s video series, ‘Braid Star,’ there was a larger story to tell about what braids mean, one that couldn’t be distilled down to just a few minutes,” Schott explained. 

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