You can measure the distinct ages of the internet like they were geological eras, with portals, search and social comparable to the paleozoic, mesozoic and cenozoic eras. Each birthed its own unique life forms that could only have flourished due to the conditions of that era, and which either had to evolve to survive in the next period, or became extinct.
So if publishers have lived (or not…) through the various ages of portals, search and social, what comes next? For JOE Media, the UK-based publisher with the ambition to become the first truly premium digital men’s publisher, the next era is that of socially distributed video, as its CEO Will Hayward explains:
“We’re very excited to be playing a big part in how we can reimagine TV-like programming for the social web. We launched a football show about three months ago that we now broadcast every Friday. We’re getting millions of views on a week to week basis and really enjoying just learning as much as we can about how we can create premium video, longer form video but built for sharing and built for Facebook.”
All indications demonstrate that as the cost of producing video falls and the cost of actually consuming it falls people will consume an increasing amount of digital video. The Online Video Forecasts claim that just over half (52.7 percent) of all video was consumed on mobile devices in 2016, while Ooyala’s Global Video Index demonstrated that over 50 percent of all video plays in Q3 2016 were on mobile devices, passing the halfway mark for the first time ever. Hayward explains why that confluence of factors is ushering in the age of socially distributed video:
“At every iteration of digital there has been the opportunity to scale businesses very quickly so in the era of portals we had AOL and Yahoo build in a relatively short period of time and became huge, very important businesses.
“During the era of search we had Google and the web pivoted around search and we had about.com and the Huffington Post that were kind of built off the back of search. In the first generation of social we had brands like BuzzFeed built that are heavily optimised for social and I think we are right at the beginning of socially distributed video.”
The syntax of social video
While Hayward is the first to admit that nobody quite knows what that socially distributed video will look like, whether there were be grammatical rules for a successful social video campaign. He notes that while the larger linear television companies like Sky and Channel 4 in have the expertise in producing video for that medium, that doesn’t necessarily translate to expertise in social video. However he believes that JOE Media’s experimentation with the medium enables them to be at the forefront, to ride the wave in increased social video consumption.
Hayward argues that while the precise form of socially distributed video is up for grabs, there are verticals and genres that are universally popular on existing mediums, and will be on social video as well:
“Certain things are cross-platform, like there are football shows for the radio, there are football shows for TV, there are football articles, there are football podcasts. There will be a football show on social.
“The details are the interesting thing. We are learning a huge amount on a week to week basis about how we can make the show better, how we can retain the audience for a longer period of time, how can we encourage them to share it, how can we reach a wider audience, what is it that consumers enjoy or don’t enjoy.”
Building a brand on social
Given all the recent questions around Facebook’s usurpation of the reputation of media brands who publish to it, Hayward was optimistic about the practicalities of building a brand purely on social media, stating that it’s typically the legacy publishers who have a hard time replicating their success in print online: “there’s criticism of social but I think it’s quite often driven by people who wished the world still looked like it did 30 years ago”.
He argues that there is a niche for a premium men’s brand on social, something that first between the print-supported men’s brands like “GQ and Esquire, Attitude even, that are strong, content-driven, good journalism” and the social aggregators like UniLad and LADBible. Establishing that brand, he says, requires a recognition of what make good content on social platforms:
“I think our marketing is our content. How we inform people who we are and what we stand for is what we put out there every day. So I think more than ever you have to be really focused on sure you have consistency in what you distribute which is why we do not rate many of the articles that some other publishers in this space do write. I think it’s as much about what you don’t do as what you do.”
Will Hayward will be speaking on social video and building a digital brand at Digital Media Strategies ’17 this February in London. For more information or to book your place, follow this link.