How video is giving content a lift
Video is now an increasingly important part of magazine media publishing – a popular, lucrative component growing at breakneck speed. Media owners are getting in on the act, producing their own footage and reaping rewards.
We all do it. We read something online, and click on the link. Voila, video. And it isn’t going away. The trend-spotters have been banging on about video for several years. Now, the statisticians are producing the numbers to back this growing phenomenon. Media owners are in the loop, producing videos for their websites, smartphone and tablet apps, and even for their print magazines with augmented reality. But smartphones are where we like to snack on video best. Smartphones overtook tablets for online video streaming in December 2012, with usage up 86 per cent y-o-y, according to The US Digital Video Benchmark, compiled by Adobe Digital Index.
Video ads are also growing at the super speed of 43.5 per cent, according to the Pew Research Center. By 2017, eMarketer projects digital video advertising will be 15 per cent of the total digital ad market. It’s no wonder that media owners are making brisk inroads into the sector, setting up their own studios and, in some cases, their own video hubs. Condé Nast has introduced The Scene, where its online video will sit alongside partner sites like BuzzFeed and ABCNews, and Time Inc. has announced The Daily Cut, an app and website video hub.
“Condé Nast International is moving into video in all our major markets. It’s a huge opportunity,” says Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and CEO of Condé Nast International. “Changes in technology and distribution, including the growth of channels like YouTube and Vimeo, make it feasible to produce, distribute and monetise branded video content. We can run video across Condé Nast branded websites, social media, external websites and distribution channels like YouTube. Advertisers are increasing their spending in video, especially beauty companies which comprise a major advertising category for our brands. We are hiring experienced video producers and managers in all our major markets. It’s quite exciting.”
Things are pretty exciting in London too, with Dennis Publishing’s video studio producing content for its brands and other publishers. Says Pete Wootton, managing director Dennis Interactive: “Video is very important for us. We built a video team seven or eight years ago and built a video studio in London as well, with all the autocues and proper lighting. It’s a really important part of the content we produce across our portfolio of sites.”
The idea to build the studio was to make production cost effective. “But there’s also the convenience aspect,” says Wootton. “Clearly it’s cheaper than going out and renting studios, but it’s also the fact that if an opportunity arises, you can respond really quickly. If we happen to have someone in the building and want to do a quick interview, we can nip downstairs and use the facilities. Brands like Car Buyer, Auto Express and Evo really justify a lot of investment in this area, and have dedicated staff.”
Burda has also devised an effective production strategy. Says Frances Evans, director of licensing and advertising at Burda International: “Our team can produce video content in a very cost-effective way, creating a large amount of videos at one time, while maintaining a high-quality-approach. The US team has honed the systems and practices in order to bring down our costs and improve the speed and quality of output.”
“I think to do video properly,” says Philip Michaels, editor of IDG’s techhive.com, “you need to make some investment in both equipment and dedicated video personnel, camera operators, editors. To turn around videos quickly, you also need studio space and sets. Audience tolerance for a shaky, handheld video shot on a smartphone camera is lessening, in my experience. Publications that want to reap the rewards of video really have to make a dedicated effort in terms of both personnel and equipment.”
Are there any tricks of the trade to send a video viral? “Not really,” says Michaels. But, clearly, a ‘shareable’ video is one that is unique and clicks with an audience. Wootton gives an example: “One of our most popular viral videos wasn’t the best quality, but it was unique. One of the guys in our office happened to be at a car auction, and a Ferrari was going for a record £8-9m. Things just went a bit mad at this auction and he filmed it on his iPhone. He caught the atmosphere in the room and put it on the site and it did really well in terms of sharing. It’s very difficult to say at the start of a process ‘I am going to make some viral content’ – you just have to concentrate on making the best possible content and hopefully people will share it.”
Evans says: “Right now, our videos stay within our websites. They are currently not posted on YouTube. They can only be viewed when someone pays for them (exceptions are short previews), so they cannot go viral in the same way that free videos and those on YouTube can. However, we do plan to add teasers on YouTube and will be creating some shorter, unique video content that will be made available for free.
“We currently focus on generating buzz and interest by promoting the videos through our social media channels and our newsletter mailing lists as well as on BurdaStyle.com.”
Evans stresses that video content is integral to the business concept of BurdaStyle.com: “Our brand is not just a representation of the magazine, but an ecommerce proposal. We offer some excerpts of videos for free, but the focus lies on a subscription model giving consumers access to a huge archive of video content. The videos are produced in a professional video studio in the US.
“Video makes up probably at least 30 per cent of the content we produce for Burda Style in the USA. Even for items that aren’t focused on video, such as our web seminars and our online courses, we still find a way to incorporate video into them. A lot of our readers, members, and online visitors like to learn visually, and video is the perfect way to do that, especially with such a technically focused, hands-on subject as sewing.”
Michaels agrees: “Increasingly, video is a very important part of our strategy, allowing us to reach a new audience and also differentiate what we do from our competitors. In the consumer technology market that we cover, it’s particularly important to be able to demonstrate how a product works and to do it in a lively way. Video helps us do that in a way that a text article simply can’t.”
It’s also boosting the bottom-line, according to Wootton: “Video works for us in several ways. Firstly, it makes our sites more engaging, it increases dwell time and attracts additional advertising. Adding all that up it’s worth about £2m in additional revenue that we make because of video content. It’s a combination of appearing on our site and selling advertising around it and also other things like YouTube. We have roughly eight million views per-month across our brands on YouTube, and two million on our sites, so that’s about 10 million views per month.
“On YouTube, that’s a huge outreach programme of getting people to be engaged with our brands and we hope that turns into referrals back to our site and maybe subscriptions. It’s a really important part of the creative content that we do for advertisers – native advertising or content marketing. We make a lot of money from brands. We’ve just done a big campaign with VW, for example, with videos very much at the heart of it”.
“We strongly believe that video is a valuable service for our customers,” says Evans. “So we certainly don’t offer video content only for the sake of SEO-optimisation. Our Burda Style team is thoughtful and careful about how and what we produce. We choose video topics that our readers are already searching for; we write web copy and marketing copy that will also catch their searches. Our web development team optimises the back-end details in order to ensure people find us.
“Our videos obviously do help generate traffic because we post teasers on social media (YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) with the precise purpose of driving the viewer/user back to our site,” says Evans.
But it’s not all about generating traffic – video is a destination in its own right. IDG, features video on all its sites – Macworld, PCWorld, TechHive – but Michaels says it’s short-sighted to view video solely as a traffic generator. “I’d say it’s better to think of it as a way to get information to people who might not otherwise want to read a story. It helps build an audience and it helps establish a unique editorial voice.”
There are clear other advantages too. Like Dennis, IDG finds video effective in advertising: “Though I’m entirely concerned with editorial matters, there’s certainly an advertising component to videos that’s hard to overlook. Between pre-roll and sponsorship opportunities, there are ways to bolster advertising with video content that traditional articles don’t allow,” says Michaels.
Burda uses it as a visual aid, among other things. “It allows skills to be put into a context that can’t be done by an image or text alone,” says Evans. “It also allows the user to zoom, watch, pause, and re-watch the content until they feel they have mastered it. There is also more personality in the video since an expert is guiding the user in a more approachable manner.”
For Burdastyle.com video is a key component in creating course content. “We tailor our choice of medium to their feedback, as well as to their purchasing and searching trends. We also tailor the medium itself to the skill or to the content, e.g. if we need to explain something very detailed and small, we would opt for providing a zoomed-in, high-quality image or video. Our strategy is to always provide the user with a variety of media options to show them how to accomplish a specific skill so they feel they have accomplished success within the hobby they are so passionate about.”
“Video is certainly increasing in importance,” says Wootton. “If you go back seven or eight years, we had one videographer. Now we have six. And we use freelancers on top of that. We’ve definitely got more professional, too. However, it is still not as important as the written word. The written word still provides the vast majority of our turnover – it’s a complementary product.”
Pete Wootton, managing director, Dennis Interactive, UK
“We employ six full time videographers – they are camera people, directors and editors. So they have a lot of advice about how we set up the cameras in the first place and what would make a good series of shots. They also specialise – someone specialises in screen graphics, for example. In addition, we employ one full-time journalist who covers our motoring sites. All he does is video work now. And we try and get people who are knowledgeable about their subject involved, rather than full-time presenters.
“The journalists are on camera. We learned early on which journalists to use by doing screen tests. It’s quite exciting doing video. A lot of people like doing it. But there are a lot of really good journalists who are just not good on camera. Some people are naturals, some aren’t. It’s partly experience, but there’s also an innate ability. We invest in people and give them training. But there are some people, no matter how much training they have, are never going to look comfortable on camera. It’s often not the most experienced journalists who make the best video presenters; more likely a genial person who seems natural and comfortable. And we spend time with those people getting them better.
“The studio is really paying for itself. But it’s only part of the work we do. We’re out and about filming cars, testing on racetracks and on the road.
“We outsource our production facilities and our staff to other publishers and companies. We think we are very good at providing value for money. If you go to an agency in London and try and hire a video team they will easily charge you £50,000 or £60,000 without breaking a sweat. But we know publishers aren’t made of money, so we make sure it’s good quality at the right price.
Elizabeth Heichler, video VP/editorial director, IDG News Service, USA
“The IDG News Service is a centralised editorial resource serving all IDG titles worldwide, with an emphasis on providing 24-hour breaking news coverage of the technology industry from our bureaus in Asia, Europe and North America.
“About eight years ago, we started talking about the feasibility of adding video content to our offerings, and how to do that within the resources already available to us. We started by purchasing three “pro-sumer” video cameras, and putting them in the hands of the correspondents most interested in developing video-journalism skills. We also bought low-end editing software, which was replaced fairly soon with more capable video editing tools (we now use Adobe Premiere and associated tools). At that time, finding the people willing and able to be pioneers within our organisation was key, because there can be a steep learning curve to video production and it was important to have people who were committed to learning to shoot, edit, and tell stories in this medium, and to be flexible in their approach as journalists, willing to do extra work on a story.
“Those were also, in 2006, early days for video on tech news sites and we did a lot of experimentation to find what worked, what didn’t, what resonated with our audience. Certainly the bar has gotten a lot higher in terms of production values for online video. Fortunately our skill level and capabilities have grown up as well so the content we’re creating looks pretty good these days. We have updated our equipment quite a lot over the past six years so that we’re able to capture high quality video and audio.
“After about a year or two of bootstrapping the video operation without dedicated staff, I had an open reporter position and decided to instead hire a full-time video journalist. We brought on someone who was a fairly recent journalism school graduate who had demonstrated skill in shooting, editing, and writing for video. We have since expanded and have added another video journalist to the team. We produce on average about eight to ten videos per week. These include reports on breaking news, as well as more ‘evergreen’ content.
“Because we’re in the technology space there are a lot of new devices of which we can do quick hands-on reviews; we’re also trying to do more “how to” kinds of videos as these are very popular with our audience. We’ve also found that it helps enormously to attract viewers if you tie video to text stories, so both of our video journalists will typically write a story to go along with a video they’ve produced. For the newsier reports, there’s already a story to embed the video in.
“We also encourage our reporters in the field to shoot video with small, very portable cameras or even smartphones. We have them send that content to one of our two video specialists who have the skill to quickly edit it into a nice-looking report.”
THE SERVICE PROVIDER
Ollie James, SVP client services, Coull, UK
“Video is an incredibly important and valuable part of a publisher’s digital content mix, both as a way of engaging audiences and driving revenue. Consumers have become content snackers, hungry for information but short on time. As a medium, video gives publishers a way to inform or entertain their audience in that short amount of time. If a picture’s worth a 1,000 words, how many is a video worth? Video delivers a lot without asking much of the viewer.
“Consumers expect video content these days. If a digital publisher hasn’t incorporated it into their mix, it’s inevitable they will lose traffic to those with a richer, more dynamic content experience. That’s not to say that video on its own is the panacea for the challenges facing digital publishers, but it is certainly a very important part of any digital strategy in 2014.
“A key advantage of publisher video content is that it opens the door to a number of lucrative revenue streams. And at a time when traditional online advertising formats are seeing CPMs drop through the floor, online video is the format seeing year-on- year growth. Publishers can look at interstitial advertising (pre, mid and post-roll video) and in-video advertising. Brands and advertisers want to be where an audience is most engaged, and they’ll pay for the privilege. These days that means video.
“The great thing about video is that it travels well across different devices, consumption rates on mobile and tablet devices are seeing rapid growth and now you’ve got connected devices like gaming consoles being used as more of an all-round media centre than pure gaming machines. Video is also one of the most shared formats on social media networks, so for digital publishers looking to capitalise on the extended reach social media offers, video is the way forward.
“Producing high-quality video content on a regular basis isn’t cheap, but it is an investment that pays off, engaging existing and new audiences alike. The interesting thing is that the smarter digital publishers are taking advantage of new video formats such as Vine and Instagram for Video to create short, snappy and highly engaging videos that audiences really enjoy. These videos are cheap to make (all you need is a phone), and perfectly complement longer, more polished video content as part of a video mix.
“The trend really is just towards more video. We’re at a point now where the old barriers have been knocked away. There’s high-speed mobile-internet, cheap data plans and smartphones and tablets are all great displays for viewing video. From a publishers’ perspective the focus for the last couple of years has been on developing a mobile-first strategy, video is a big part of that now.”