Demand still far outstrips supply when it comes to premium digital video. That’s a challenge for advertisers – but it’s a hell of an opportunity for publishers.
Video ad-spend was the only digital advertising segment to have consistently grown over the past year, according to some estimates, driven by an ever-increasing audience and the recognition that the return on investment for video advertising is relatively high.
So we thought we’d put together a list of considerations for publishers looking to capitalise on the strong video ad economy (at least until the bubble bursts, anyway).
Live is the new black
Live video has an initial advantage over the majority of digital video in that it is a recreation of the valuable scarcity that sees networks sell millions for the right to advertise during the superbowl. When live events draw large concurrent audiences, that’s the perfect opportunity for brands to reach an engaged audience and create an advertising experience that can live on past the event itself.
Relatedly, live events are also a means by which certain live events that would otherwise only reach a limited number of people due to the practicalities of venue etc. can reach audiences orders of magnitude larger than a stadium would allow. While that might limit the revenue generation potential of some events where ticket sales comprise the lion’s share of overall revenue, for events that are primarily around selling products demonstrated during that live experience can work exceptionally well.
Take the success of livestreaming exhibitions at fashion shows, for instance, or the brand extension Wizards of the Coast has achieved by livestreaming shows featuring their games at conventions. The latter is particularly noteworthy since WotC also sold tickets for cinemas in which the livestream was being shown.
There are absolutely some careful considerations around the use of live video; it’s not something publishers can jump into without some assessment first. When even Facebook is having a hard time corralling all the moral and practical concerns of the medium you know there are issues around the safety of live video.
Happily publishers can control the context of their live broadcasts, to provide a safe environment in which brands would be happy to advertise. Twitch, an early pioneer of live streaming and worthy beneficiary of the same, has proven that it is possible to create live advertisements that deliver upon the KPIs set by an ad partner.
And as JOE Media and a few others (primarily tech and gaming sites) have demonstrated, it’s possible to build a studio that broadcasts high-quality video to distributed audiences for a relatively small level of investment.
Plurality of form
As audiences have grown, so too have the types of video. While the variety of genres of video has of course increased (who, ten years ago, would have predicted that unboxing videos or Christian content would be among the most-watched type of digital video) so too have the forms those videos take.
We’ve already covered live video as its own form, but the trickle-down effect of consumer technology means that individual content creators can create videos like long-form Let’s Plays, 360 degree films, almost anything that the high-end studios can create.
360 video in particular is only going to grow as a segment of the digital video mix over the next few years, as consumer-level 360 camera rigs and editing tools become more widely available. Platforms are already preparing for this, with both Facebook and Vimeo announcing tools for 360 video producers over the past week.
N.B. I’m not counting true VR as ‘video’ content for the purposes of this article. Virtual reality pioneer Chris Milk has argued it is its own medium, possibly ‘the last medium’, and even as an evangelist for VR I have to acknowledge there are questions around the viability of content creation and measuring return on investment.
Agencies are integral
Related to the above point, the promulgation of different forms of video means that in many cases even the most well-funded in-house video studio won’t have the expertise to produce every type of video. While it might appear easy on the face of it to create an unboxing video, a couple of high-profile failures and the vast wealth of analysis on what makes YouTube influences successful has demonstrated it’s much harder than it looks.
Consequently many publishers are partnering up with external agencies and studios to help deliver on those endeavours. The FT’s Hidden Cities 360 video project, for instance, was delivered in concert with Visualise.
And brands and publishers looking to capitalise on a content creator who has already demonstrated that expertise by building an audience can also need halp managing those relationships. The rise and rise (and slight fall) of multi-channel networks set up specifically to do just that demonstrate that successful digital video is often a collaborative process.
Monetising video directly
As platforms realise the opportunities they have with digital video, particularly that produced by well-known and trusted brands, the means they offer publishers to monetise that video are multiplying.
As recent studios have demonstrated, the majority of revenue publishers have generated from platforms has been from video. Much of that is still from pre-roll and in-stream advertising on YouTube and other video repositories, but smaller publishers in particular are choosing to use patforms and services that allow them to monetise their audiences directly.
While YouTube Red has, by most accounts, stalled in its drive to get people to pay for subscriptions to individual channels, other platforms like Vimeo offer a 90% revenue share for creators who set up subscriptions. Meanwhile Twitch, capitalising on the direct relationship that its streamers have with audiences (an idea grabbed with both hands by both YouTube and serial idea-copycat Facebook) enables creators to monetise through donations from their users.
That’s not something that would necessarily work without the benefit of the video being live, admittedly, and many large publishers will struggle to replicate that one-on-one relationship – though some are trying.
One thing’s for sure, however, video is a favourite of digital audiences, and publishers have a great opportunity to capitalise on that if they consider where they fit within the ecosystem.