How Video Will Win the War Against TV

Video is largely in demand with publishers and advertisers alike. In fact,eMarketer has predicted an 84% increase in programmatic video ad spend this year. But recent trends and persisting challenges are threatening the current ecosystem.

During a recent roundtable hosted by PluggedIn BD, experts from the worlds of publishing, advertising, and technology gathered to discuss the current size of inventory, the struggles with showing results, and how digital video stacks up against television. Here are the top four truths this roundtable revealed.

Truth 1: Content is not just an excuse to show an ad.

One of the major challenges publishers grapple with is providing enough inventory that’s of enough quality to scale a business. As Andy Regal, Global Head of Video at the Wall Street Journal, said: “We’re in the business of the slog of daily journalism, trying to gain one more viewer each day. We’re trying to drive more traffic and create enough inventory. Our challenge is the delta between videos viewed and ads served.”

Yet in many cases, when that video content is just an excuse to show an ad, we’re losing sight of the consumer. Instead of using video content to increase engagement, we’re doing something that’s ultimately just annoying the viewer for the sake of the advertiser.

At the end of the day, publishers need to drive eyeballs to high-quality content. With people chasing views as much as possible, there’s pressure on editors to make great content. And fundamentally, the goal for publishers has always been to tell the best stories. It’s also a win for advertisers: with quality content come quality audiences.

This is a rallying cry to the industry: Let’s stop creating content just for the sake of ads. We need better video. Period.

Truth 2: Interactivity is the future.

Across the web, every user has a unique experience. It’s remarkably explorable and personal. Except with video. As it stands now, a video experience remains constant no matter who presses play. This is something that’s ripe for improvement.

The folks at Interlude think they’ve seen the future. And the future is interactivity.Interlude is a platform that allows video to adapt and respond to each user, just like any other medium. It’s akin to a video game. After hundreds of campaigns for advertisers and hundreds of pieces of content in collaboration with publishers, engagement rates are over 70 percent. Because they’re creating content that’s personal and unique, Interlude is able to integrate brand messaging within video stream in a seamless way, creating an integrated native experience.

And with an interactive video, there’s an actionable event that we can measure. Which means interactivity may also help solve that problem we have with metrics.

Truth 3: The pricing model is in the wrong hands.

Right now, we’re selling online video mostly on a CPM (cost per impression), which simply doesn’t make sense. It’s not about the views; it’s about what happens next. As an industry, we need to move past old school metrics. We’ve been beholden to how agencies and advertisers want to interact, and from a transactional standpoint, it’s very difficult to shift that metric. Brands are largely in the driver’s seat.

In the rest of the advertising world, everything is performance driven. Yet we’re over here worrying about clicks while television continues to hold the big budgets. We need to come back to proving that we spent X dollars and sold X pairs of shoes. If we don’t solve the marketer’s problems, then we’re never going to get digital video to the level that it generates equal (or better) performance than TV.

As we attempt to prove the value of video in a fragmented world, we have to focus on proving success. Take Interlude for example again: With a model that charges for engagements rather than impressions, advertisers are happy to pay because they know exactly what they’re getting. So the team is able to deliver more value to the brands that are willing to take risks, while they’re able to enjoy a better model than if they were selling pre-roll with standard rates, simultaneously investing in the media by creating a differentiated product for the consumer.

It may take time for things to shift, but if we’re able to demonstrate the success of a better economic model (for everyone involved), we’ll surely start to see attention turn away from older models that are less effective (and less lucrative).

Truth 4: Video should stop trying to be TV.

Nathan Brown, formerly of Complex and The Huffington Post, reminded us: “We’re competing for eyeballs and those eyeballs want to watch great content. And TV has the biggest budgets to produce the best content.” These days, The Huffington Post is competing directly with Netflix.

While content creators are underfunded, they still have a secret weapon: data. With data about intent and purchasing, we have the ability to target so well that we blow TV out of the water.

The broadcast infrastructure has been built around linear video. If the digital world continues to push out linear experiences, we will never beat that ecosystem. So how will we win? By creating an ecosystem that leverages the capabilities of digital. This means interactivity, personalization, and targeting. Sure, we’ve made a lot of advances in the distribution of linear video, but we haven’t actually advanced the medium itself. We need to push further.

We will never win while we’re still playing on someone else’s turf.

Roundtable Participants:

Interlude: Jim Spare, President & COOPixability:

Pixability: Art Zeidman, EVP / Chief Revenue Officer

SelectMedia: Sagi Gordon, CEO & Co-founder

StreamRail: Iri Amirav, CRO & Co-founder

ConvertMedia: Yoav Naveh, CEO

Vox Media, Inc: Joe Alicata, VP Video Product + Revenue Product & Operations

Investopedia: Matthew Kerr, Manager Ad Operations

WSJ: Andy Regal, Global Head of Video

LittleThings: Justin Festa, VP Revenue

Nathan Brown, Video Media Executive

Anthony Risicato, Moderator

IMG_0006

The Power of the Inbox: 3 Tips for Driving Traffic with Email Marketing

Last year, the tech world took significant strides toward becoming more competitive with publishers. Apple launched Apple News and Facebook introduced Instant Pages, both in the name of a better user experience. While Instant Articles have proven to have higher engagement, they’re not great for monetization. But if you’re a publisher relying heavily on social traffic, then you’re relying heavily on Facebook. And whatever Facebook wants Facebook gets.

This is just one way to look at sourcing traffic, of course. There are three main types in total: earned, paid, and owned. Within owned, there’s the social route — but down this path, it’s becoming increasingly more important to “play ball.” Email, on the other hand, is fully owned and in our control.

Here are three important tips to consider.

  1. Strike the right balance for the right audience.

Using only completely owned media is a publisher’s dream. Our roundtable agreed that it’s a smart bet to invest in owned media. However, when you take a look at the publishing landscape at the moment, it’s pretty difficult to spin off and just do your own thing with an email campaign. People don’t want to see your content on Facebook and then see it again in their inbox. You need to keep an eye on the social conversation. This is especially important if your audience is younger. Email is definitely not the preferred method of communication for teenagers (according to statistics, only 7 percent check their inbox daily).

So it’s almost impossible to abandon one for the other. Emails will never go viral like social media content. And yet your email audience will always be more valuable, as they tend to spend more time on websites and are more likely to have opted into your content. Strike a balance by thinking about the type of content and audience, and adjust accordingly.

At the end of the day, it helps to be in as many relevant places as possible. If you want to reach someone, you have to be there first.

  1. Play around with personalization.

There are many ways to create more personalization with emails. You can alter the subject line (based on what a user has opened or engaged with in the past). And then there’s the content itself, personalized based on a user’s interests. Think of yourself as a curator of the best, most relevant content out there.

When it comes to email, the more specific you can be in terms of what’s driving people’s passions, the better. The key is matching content to user segments. As an example, for many years, the NFL had talked to people the same way across the board. Once the organization started segmenting its email list, it began seeing higher conversion. All it takes is something as simple as using an image of a Jets uniform when talking to a Jets fan. Personalization is simple but powerful. It’s all about finding a better way to maintain that consumer relationship.

  1. Tinker with timing.

Facebook and Google have shifted the way we produce content. We’ve begun looking at what’s trending in the news and writing to that. There’s been this major push toward news-centric rather than evergreen content. We’re seeing a similar trend arise with email as well, with some moving toward a triggered system. News sites in particular are sending break news emails (Mashable has done a particularly good job of this). And to help, Marketo and HubSpot have easy-to-use trigger platforms.

Frequency plays a huge role in timing as well. Obviously it first depends on what users have opted into. From there, you have to think about how to maximize results without becoming white noise. Think of CNN: If everything is “breaking news,” then why even bother, right? We’re seeing a sweet spot at 2-4 times per week.

And what about if someone does hit that unsubscribe button? Many of our experts argue for adding the option to downgrade frequency as a last-ditch attempt to stay in a user’s inbox. Even better: send a specialized email to people who haven’t opened your emails in a while with a special offer. It’s a clever way to hook them again and stop them from leaving in the future.

I’ll leave you with one last thought from our discussion: If you see no difference between people reading content via your website and in an email, then how can you make email feel more like your website experience?

What to Expect from the Year of Video

Why Israel is a Hot Spot for Startups

The Holy Grail of Cross Screen Advertising