While the Upfronts were the talk of the town, we’re very focused on how digital publishers have quietly been shaking up the digital video landscape in 2019.
While the pivot to video seemingly failed (thanks in large part to good old Zukerburg), digital publishers have slowly been fighting back...and 2019 might just be the best year yet when it comes to digital video.
Here are some of the top video headlines from digital publishers that you should keep an eye on.
1. BuzzFeed’s video strategy moves to more TV-like digital shows tied to verticals
Is long-form video content the future?
Many digital publishers are beginning to think so -- with publishers partnering with other brands and platforms to get the distribution they need.
Long-form video content opens up opportunities including:
More Ad Placement Opportunities - From pre-rolls to ad-insertion opportunities, longer content simply means more advertising opportunities.
Strategic Brand Partnerships - Beyond basic ad-insertion, long-form video content opens the doors for creative partnerships between brands like LADBible and Smirnoff.
Distribution Opportunities - You’re only going to get onto HBO or Hulu if you have longer form video content. Period.
Beyond the monetization opportunities, long-form video has incredibly high retention rates with Buzzfeed reporting a 78% viewthrough and average five episodes per viewer of their most popular Youtube series.
If you aren’t already diving into long-form video content, you could be behind the curve...Okay, you are behind the curve.
However, one trick some digital publishers are using is to simply lengthen their current content -- meaning a typical 3 minute video might extend to 7 or 8 minutes. You’ll see this little hack come into play in a big way in a few…
2. HBO Returns To News Docuseries ‘Axios’ With Second Season & Four Specials
Axios wasn’t the first to ink a contract with a traditional media network, and they definitely won’t be the last.
What’s interesting about Axios is that they really exploded onto the scene thanks to these big partnerships. In their first season of the show, their guests included President Donald Trump, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Some big names from a relatively new and small media company.
So what can other digital publishers learn from this move?
See our first headline…
3. Vox Media’s entertainment studio aims for 12 series for TV, streaming platforms in 2019
On February 21, 2018, it was reported that Vox Media would lay off around 50 people, particularly surrounding video production. CEO Jim Bankoff stated previously that the company planned to exit native video for Facebook due to "unreliable monetization and promotion".
Which… is yet another sign for the quick death of Facebook Watch and the rise of long-form video content in strategic partnership with broadcasters and platforms.
Current partnered content includes “Explained” on Netflix, which was recently renewed for a second season, “American Style” on CNN, and “RetroTech” and “Show Me the Evidence” for YouTube.
Chrissy Teigan and David Chang are also working with Vox Entertainment for cooking shows, exclusively on Hulu.
So rather than publishers syndicating their existing content, they’re looking for strategic partnerships and distribution deals...Which is smart -- especially if you already have the production studios needed to make the magic happen.
4. Vice Tries to Turn the Page by Making Content for Others
Am I the only one who gets Vox and Vice confused?
Because it really looks like they’re pulling from the same playbook.
“We were seen as a redheaded stepchild,” Mr. Gabai said, “if our existence was acknowledged at all.”
Danny Gabai, now Head of Vice Studios, opened up this New York Times article highlighting digital publisher’s disdain for traditional.
With the entrance of Nancy Dubuc last year, the former frat house is turning a page as it looks to...create long-form video content.
Vice now has over 60 series in production, including the scripted “Gangs of London,” a big-budget action drama commissioned by HBO’s Cinemax and Sky, the British pay-television service.
They also the rights to a soon-to-be released film about to Amazon for a whopping $14 million...so, if you’ve learned anything from these headlines, 2019 is all about long-form video content in partnership with media behemoths like Hulu and HBO.
5. Hearst UK doubles video team to focus on original series
While everyone cut their video teams in 2018 due to poor monetization and oversaturation, Hearst is doubling down on their video strategy in 2019.
According to Hearst, on-site pre-roll revenue grew 1000 percent in 2018, albeit from a small base, thanks to the publisher’s focus on creating more video.
This quote was pulled from this piece, and most digital publishers can relate:
“Like a lot of publishers, Hearst transitioned from emphasizing fast video fodder for platforms before dialing up more on-site originals last year, partly after Facebook’s algorithm dented views, forcing publishers to re-assess their strategy.”
So now that we fired everyone on our video teams...it’s time to think about restructuring and understanding who should be at the video operations table.
My mind was blown when I read this piece…
First -- who the heck though that Architectural Digest would ever be a thing? Let alone, who thought it would become a cornerstone for Conde Nast’s video strategy?
Another one of Conde Nast’s properties, Bon Appétit, saw subscribers triple in the past year to 3.7 million.
Remember my little tidbit about simply increasing the length of existing programming? It’s the backbone of Architectural Digest's success with videos now running six to ten minutes when just a year ago they typically ran from one to three.
If you thought Youtube was dead...think again.
7. Group Nine Media Prez On BuzzFeed Merger Rumors, And Why Social Distribution Isn’t Dead
From earlier talks about Group Nine Media merging with Refinery29 to this piece on merging with Buzzfeed, one thing is pretty clear: Group Nine is as big of a heavy-hitter as its much older counterparts.
If other headlines were about content creation (long-form + partnered), this one is all about video distribution -- something Group Nine has nailed.
“We are monetizing over 20 platforms. We have “InstaChef” launching its second season on Amazon Prime Video, as well as “Really Dough,” a pizza show. The Dodo has been exploring some distribution through TikTok, and looking at programming specifically for that. We’ve been programming on for IGTV. We have content distributed on Pluto TV and Roku.”
And, if you ask them, social distribution isn’t dead, as a majority of their viewership is still from these platforms. It’s all about going where your audience is, and Group Nine has done a great job guiding their viewers from social to their sites and to longer-form content on OTT platforms.
8. Quibi ramps up search for daily video programming
We couldn’t have a digital publisher headlines piece without mentioning the already infamous Quibi.
They’ve already raised $1 billion...and are looking for another.
Spearheaded by Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Quibi, which stands for “quick bite”, has been making headlines since they came onto the seen last year.
However...they still don’t have a platform.
But they do have the backing of giant media companies including Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, MGM Studios, Alibaba Group, and more.
So why, as a digital publisher, should you care?
Because they’ve either been in talks with you...or your competitors.
Their executive team has met with popular digital publishers including Insider Inc., Group Nine Media, Refinery29 and iHeartMedia, sources have said.
And they’re on the hunt for “daily essential content that’s lower cost but at a higher frequency”...Which sounds a whole lot like what Facebook Live and Watch pushed for from these digital media darlings..which lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of layoffs when things didn’t exactly pan out…
So, while we might get a bit of flack for saying this, we definitely wouldn’t put all our eggs in the Quibi basket.
What Do These Digital Video Headlines Mean for Digital Publishers?
Overall, things are looking up - which is huge when you consider the disastrous peril digital video was in just last year. Digital publishers are finding ways to lengthen the shelf life of their video content while monetizing beyond traditional advertising revenue -- and that’s a win/win for everyone.