By Sahil Patel
When it comes to online video, is 2013 the year of the publisher? Who knows. Ask any five people in the industry who this year belongs to, and they’d probably give you five different answers. Such is the industry we work in.
But it can’t be denied that it seems like this year publishers of all types have embraced original online video. Headlined by Conde Nast’s decision to launch a digital video network around its magazine brands, and further evidenced by increased video output from the likes of The New York Times, Vox Media, and The Huffington Post, a lot of people are doing a lot of interesting things with video. But when you’re primarily known for text-based content, how can you expand to video without screwing up?
That was the theme of an Advertising Week panel* moderated by VideoInk founder Jocelyn Johnson, and featuring Ran Harnevo (SVP of video, AOL), Rebecca Howard (GM of video, NY Times), Whitney Howard (SVP of business development and strategy, Conde Nast Entertainment), Steve Rosenbaum (director, Magnify Media), and Erick Schonfeld (co-founder, TouchCast).
In what was a pretty wide-ranging conversation, here are some notable quotes from the panelists.
When Video Meets Editorial
Ran Harnevo: “YouTube and Vimeo are search engines more than programmed experiences.”
Whitney Howard: “The programming we are producing is intended to be consistent with the magazine brand it’s intended for, but we are not directly tying videos to articles you read the magazines.”
Rebecca Howard: “We are looking at print and video being integrated… We also feel it’s important to produce standalone videos, which can tell their own stories.” In some cases, her team might even look to build series from some of these standalone videos.
Whitney Howard: “We do in-book promotions for our digital video content, and we are seeing fans move over from print to digital to watch them. We are also bringing in new, younger fans based on the content we’re producing,” which often features YouTube stars and other social media celebrities.
Publishers Embracing Video
Steve Rosenbaum: “Until fairly recently, most companies that had destination sites secretly believed if their videos went somewhere else, that place was stealing the audience. It’s the Disneyland model, sell you everything inside of a walled garden. That doesn’t work online. Audiences are going to be where they are going to be, and you have to meet them there. Some will come and find your content on your site, but others will find it elsewhere.”
Harnevo: “We uploaded all AOL content on to YouTube. We are in a world where the biggest competitors are platforms, but you have to distribute to that platform as well.”
Whitney Howard: “YouTube is the de-facto search engine for video on the web. So obviously it’s an important distribution point for us. Though, because we sell our own ads on YouTube, we don’t run into an issue of a lesser ad experience hurting our brand.”
Harnevo: “One of the nicest things about curation is that when you have a good distribution platform, you get enough data to then begin producing your own stuff. Netflix proved that beyond doubt. Sites that are not curating content, don’t look at video as their future.”
Whitney Howard: “This is a launch year for us, so we’re more focused on our own originals at the moment. Curation is something we’re looking at for 2014.”
Rosenbaum: “Most consumers actually don’t want more video. They want less. They want what they want, and packaged in the right way. That’s why YouTube is kind of a puzzle.”
Harnevo: “Curation is theft when the monetization does not include the creator.”
Erick Schonfeld: “If I see an ad that’s relevant to the content and there is an action I can take, and I am in the market for that product, then I am much more likely to click on that instead of just a general website around a brand.”
Harnevo: When it comes to defining engagement of content, “I think it depends on the screen. Our videos are being seen on four different types of screens. On tablets, it’s a very lean-forward viewing experience. On connected TVs, it’s more of a traditional viewing experience. So on mobile, metrics like click-through rates matter, while on connected TVs I think the only way to define engagement is time spent.”
Schonfeld: “There is a hope that [online] video will finally behave like TV and then brand advertising will thrive. Maybe the answer is that the web should keep doing what it does well, and keep using action-oriented advertising around video.”
Harnevo: “I think the opportunity is in convincing the TV ad industry that we hav ebetter tools, better targeting, and good content. To do that, I think we will have to take one step backwards before moving forward. We were the first publisher to adopt [online] GRPs. We adopted it because there are 10,000 TV buyers across the country. Educating them at scale about engagement is not going to work in phase one. I think you will see more 15-second and 30-second [ads] in phase one. Once advertisers get used to [online], then I think you will even seem them asking for what’s next.”
* Shout-out to the genius who thought it was a good idea to set up an area in the back of the hall/room for people to talk and hangout WHILE panels were going on. Not distracting at all.