There is no disputing the power of a well-crafted and entertaining video. Many industry-leading publishers have revised their digital strategies to accommodate for a larger volume of dynamic and high-quality video content. Unfortunately, increased reliance on video has not paid off like major publishers hoped it would.
Many are beginning to realize that video was never the end-all solution to dwindling traffic and poor engagement. Many are wondering if the “pivot to video” movement was all just a waste of time.
How the Pivot to Video Movement Gained Traction
Facebook is frequently cited as the motivating force behind the “pivot to video” movement. In fact, in a recent interview with BuzzFeed News, Mark Zuckerberg announced a new “golden age of video,” claiming that, in just five years, users would share and stream video at a higher velocity. Moreover, Facebook introduced new live stream capabilities and unprecedented algorithmic changes that favor video content.
“For publishers desperate to find revenues around distributed content, the idea that the biggest player in the game was going to give video content priority was all the encouragement they needed to go all in,” said Peter Houston in What Can We Learn From Publishers’ Pivot to Video.
The “pivot to video” movement was synonymous with mass layoffs. Mashable was one of the first publishers to jump aboard. Vice Media followed with the release of more than 60 personnel in sales, branded content, editorial, and corporate positions. However, amidst the cacophony, in a stark display of preeminence, Vox Media announced that it would not prioritize video over written content.
“We do not believe video comes at the cost of our journalism or people with non-video skills,” said Publisher Melissa Bell in a memo. “Writing is a crucial component of what we want to offer our audiences — as is photography, video, sound, graphics, and illustrations.
Bell continues, citing higher advertising rates as a key motivator behind publishers’ increased focus on video content. Advertising spend on video content in the United States is expected to exceed $18 billion annually by 2020. Moreover, companies will allocate more than 50 percent of their advertising dollars on video this year.
Why the Pivot to Video Movement Failed
As video continued to gain momentum among industry-leading publishers, audiences’ appetite for video wavered and traffic continued to plummet. In fact, publishers that pivoted to video experienced a 60 percent decrease in traffic between August 2016 and August 2017.
“There are four reasons the pivot to video has failed: faulty metrics for measuring the audience; trusting other platforms, like Facebook, to do the hard work of distribution; low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content; and, ultimately, a failure to effectively turn video views into higher readership or ad dollars,” said Heidi N. Moore in The Secret Cost of Pivoting to Video.
1. Misleading Metrics: As more publishers looked to Facebook as a primary content distribution channel, the company inflated video views from 60 to 80 percent by counting 3-second views. The company apologized for the misleading metrics. Moreover, an analyst report found that Facebook’s metrics may still be broken. For many publishers, these overestimates expedited the growing popularity of video content and in-channel advertisements.
2. Increased Reliance on Distribution Channels: In most cases, major distribution channels — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube — are, in fact, publishers rivals when it comes to advertising. In fact, recent estimates indicate that Facebook and Google accounted for 99 percent of revenue growth from digital advertising in 2016. Even the most minor adjustments to advertising rates or algorithms can have a dramatic impact on publishers’ video content.
3. Poor Production Quality: Effective videos require an expert understanding of production and editing techniques. “Many publishers’ pivots to video are ill-considered, and thus they have deployed minimal investments in resources, studio space, equipment, or salaries,” says Moore. Publishers were simply not equipped to produce a high-quality, engaging, and shareable video.
4. Poor Customer Experience: Beyond production quality, publishers must also be leery of loading times, pre-roll advertisements, and more. For many months, Facebook popularized mid-roll advertisements, encouraging readers to complete an action before viewing the rest of the video. These factors had a dramatic impact on consumer’s desire to interact and watch videos.
What Publishers Can Learn and the Future of Video
Most publishers would agree — the “pivot to video” movement was a failure. However, there is much to be learned regarding digital audiences, video production, content distribution channels, and advertising.
Additionally, with some minor adjustments, there are a number of broad usage areas where video will continue to have a positive impact including live streaming. Many publishers will continue to leverage the power of live streaming capabilities to distribute up-to-the-minute news and information. Moreover, customers rely on this content distribution technique to access more profound insights, breaking news, and more authentic reporting.
When done right, videos can deliver more content in less time, therefore making content accessible to a wider audience. Of course, publishers must develop a masterful command of video production best practices and techniques. With the right production strategies in place, publishers can build more meaningful customer experiences, which, in turn, goes a long way towards generating high-impact advertisements.
Finally, publishers should not underestimate the power of written content. In many instances, video is most useful as a complementary feature of traditional editorial content. For example, publishers might produce a 2-minute feature to summarize a piece of long-form content.
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