Let’s Talk Video

I’ve been working on various video strategies over the last year and had the opportunity to speak with some key media folk from organisations large and small. Here are a few threads that have been commonplace amongst publishers…

Engagement is high, or is it?

If you ask most publishers, they’ll tell you that video does well for them — high engagement, and high revenue. However Younger Adults prefer to get their news in text, not video and video news isn’t growing as fast as you think.

Personally I am a believer in video, in the right setting for the right audience. We all consume information differently and video is a good way to capture attention and increase stickiness on site.

So what is video engagement? There isn’t an industry standard for measurement although arguably the two main variables to use are time and impact. Some media organisations use video starts, although the wide use of autoplay makes this unreliable. We also don’t know how much of the video is in display, as was highlighted last year with the Facebook controversy. So for now we settle for total minutes watched. Hopefully we’ll start seeing more (consistent and reliable) data around video soon.

Editorial teams are experimenting with formats

Video production is a specialist skill set. I’ve seen great series shot on iPhones, and as the technology gets better we’re seeing more video production. However we’re still seeing that video is often an afterthought to a story added to articles only where there is a string visual component to the story. It’s taking time for the skill set to expand to the toolkit of the average journalist (don’t forget they now have a number of platforms to contend with). Most organizations have specific video producers although some now have more of a cross publishing video hub allowing format to be considered early on.

In the last year we’ve seen organizations experimenting with vertical formats. It makes sense as the audience consumes more and more through mobile devices. Practically speaking the major organisations that have played with vertical tell me that it’s generally edited from other video with some additional B roll type footage shot at the time, rather than standalone production focused on vertical.

Video on social platforms is of course a necessity for brand presence. Videos are given more attention on Facebook, but haven’t been monetized until mid roll came in earlier this year. These video are short and almost always have closed captions so that they can be played silently as users have the sound off.

Livestreaming is certainly increasing, with particular thanks to Facebook who are able to give publishers a large audience. Live gives an unprecedented way to interact with the audience, but is still very much in experimental phase. There is much, much more that can be done with this medium and although it doesn’t seem high on publishers agendas I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops and think it will become a staple.

360 video fascinates me. The New York Times have committed to publishing one piece per day and are leading the pack with their ‘Daily 360’. Someone senior in that department told me that it’s been a good way for journalists to experiment. It’s a new medium that a few mistakes can be afforded in but by taking the time now, they’ll be best in class as appropriate stories crop up. This medium is the gateway to VR and AR and is the only medium that can actually put the audience in the situation. Once the hardware side has been figured out, 360 is very, very exciting for journalists.

Ad teams love video

CPMs have typically been high for a number of years and whilst programatic is thought to be driving prices down, I struggle to find industry evidence (see below). For most publishers programatic is used for back fill and just a small percentage of revenue comes from YouTube and either way, prices seem to be holding overall. And ad teams love this.

However I have yet to meet anyone outside the commercial department that loves preroll. It feels like a necessary evil to get to the content you want. I see people hover over the ‘skip ad’ whenever it appears. Some start ups as trying to crack this by allowing users to pay to skip ad but this hasn’t been adopted widely.

Midroll has been introduced by Facebook, and it appears on Reuters TV, which is likely to prove profitable but again the consumer experience isn’t great. Tedious as best, irritating at worst which isn’t good for audience, publisher or advertiser.

Given that pre roll isn’t loved by either editorial or audiences and its likely that brands will need to get more creative at getting audience attention. (Side note here: one set of ads that audiences seem to love are from the super bowl. Simply Google ‘superbowl ad’ and you’ll see that a number of sites do well at pulling these into playlists). Sponsored content is perhaps filling the gap, executed well by sites such as Tasty by Buzzfeed, but then we get into the transparency issue which is a whole post to itself coming soon.