In five years time Facebook “will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video,” Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s Vice President, EMEA speaking in June 2016.
The media industry is at a tipping point with online news video. The received wisdom is that media outlets need it to survive. At the beginning of 2016, 79 percent of senior media executives said they would be investing more in online news video this year.
Essentially it’s where the money and marketing investments are. This is being fueled by comments such as the one above by Facebook’s head in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Nicola Mendelsohn. Facebook increasingly dominates online news video and is becoming more powerful all the time.
We all know the statistics about the importance of digital video
But here lies the problem. There is a big divide between the success of online news video, uploaded off-site to social platforms and linked video, hosted on news sites and apps.
The latest research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, shows a far lower than expected uptake of video on news sites. In his latest – Future of Online News Video report, Nic Newman found
“….the growth around online video news seems to be largely driven by technology, platforms, and publishers rather than by strong consumer demand. Website users in particular remain resistant to online video news..”
“Meanwhile, off-site news video consumption is growing fast……… Some individual viral videos …. have had 75–100 million views, far more than they could ever have expected using their own websites.”
This has serious implications and poses a very real quandary for publishers. Upload natively to social platforms and reach massive audiences,ceding control of your content and with it much of the analytics and data surrounding it, or maintain control, upload to your news site and lose out on the potential audience.
The stakes are huge and clearly dividing the new and the old. The legacy publishers and broadcasters are unwilling to lose their websites. While the likes of AJ+, Vox, Vocativ and in the most extreme case, NowThisNews, have embraced social platforms fully.
At the launch of the report in June, Christian Bennet, Global Head of Video and Audio for the Guardian warned:
“NowThisNews is taking one hell of a bet on Facebook monetising video – don’t get rid of your website just yet.”
Which of course is just what NowThisNews has done. They are gambling on making money from their vast audience. They claim to be getting a billion video views a month. With these sort of numbers, it surely must be possible to make money. With the rise of Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover, Twitter Moment and Google’s AMP of course it is – isn’t it?
The big problem is that no one has conclusively proved this yet.
It’s clear the more traditional pre-roll and banner ads are failing, they act as a barrier. More than a third of people, in the RISJ study, said they were put off from watching online video because of the ads. If you combine this with the rise of ad-blocking and the future is bleak.
Native advertising and sponsored content
This is where native advertising and sponsored or branded content comes in. There is hope and a lot of very interesting work being done here. As Philip Trippenbach from Edelman puts it.
“There’s only one answer to this: don’t interrupt the content they’re consuming with ads. Create the content they want to consume.”
The Washington Post, New York Times and NowThisNews are leading the way. They are eschewing the traditional adverts that don’t work – and producing native, digital videos that do. The most powerful example of native advertising I’ve seen recently is the “Let’s Open Our World” campaign for the travel firm Momondo. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking and storytelling.
People are watching it in their millions by choice – not because they are forced to. It is the future. This is clearly an untested landscape. Publishers and news organisations are waiting to see how Instant Articles, Discover, Moments and AMP work out. They – and the increase in native advertising will play a vital role in the development of online news video over the coming months and years.
However the issues of control remain a very serious concern. Any change in algorithm – like the move by Facebook to favour family and friends over news organisations could have very serious consequences. As with so many articles about online news video and making it pay, I’m afraid there is a certain the “truth remains to be seen” element to this piece.
But I do believe there is a clear case that a new form of native, digital advertising for native online news video – is a far better bet than old fashioned, analogue adverts adapted and squeezed into the digital world. Let’s see how it works out.