The “New Rules” of Video Stories and Advertising: Q&A with Connatix’s Anthony Gonsalves

The “Year of Video” has been the mantra for many years, but today, with video ad spend garnering top priority for marketers, perhaps the year is now. Isn’t it time that all publishers embark on their strategic video journeys? 

Videos and video advertising are more than just a combination of sound, sight, and motion. They’re strategic tools for building an audience, regaining trust among the most cynical audiences who have soured on news, and expanding the storytelling capabilities of journalists. That’s all on top of the outstanding CPMs that video units, particularly in-stream ones deliver. In fact, publishers can help their programmatic and sales channels grow their RFPs by offering video.

Don’t think that only the largest and most sophisticated publishers can do video well. According to Anthony Gonsalves, SVP and Head of Global Business Development at Connatix, all publishers can — and should — embark on their video journeys. What’s more, they’re likely to succeed, as long as they follow the new rules of the road. Gonsalves met with AdMonsters to talk about the videos opportunities for publishers of all sizes.

AdMonsters: At the beginning of the year, short-form videos were all the rage. How are they driving things now?

Anthony Gonslaves: It’s been the “year of video” for a great many years, and the only thing that changes is the ideal length for engaging audiences. Here’s my best advice: When it comes to video length, publishers should focus on the platform on which it will sit. They can focus on producing short-form content, or they can do what a lot of mid- and long-form publishers do, which is find the appropriate sections of longer-form content that can be repurposed for short-form video.  Not all publishers have the resources to juggle every type of video, so they should focus on how they create content best and then repurpose it. 

I will say this about short-term video — there is certainly a strong place for the format in mobile and social platforms.

AdMonsters: There’s been a growing trend of news avoidance; a topic we’ve reported on this here at Admonsters. How can publishers use social media to build an audience for their content, and lure the people who avoid the news to their sites?

AG: At the end of the day, video provides the most sensory-filled experience for an audience. In turn, this can obviously drive higher affinity and engagement, which publishers can use to their advantage. I saw a LinkedIn post this week that broke down the role short-form video plays on each platform. For instance, YouTube is for building community, Instagram is for driving commerce, and TikTok is all about awareness; though we are seeing an ever-increasing relationship between TikTok and Amazon lately.

We’ve all discovered and followed content creators on social media, and eventually went directly to their properties to get more substantive information. This is why it’s so important for news organizations to be on those social platforms and leveraging short-form videos to drive engagement and affinity with audiences that are more discerning and frankly, more judgmental about news outlets. Building that connection will allow publishers to convert those social media audiences to their longer-form content, whether it’s written or video. 

AdMonsters: You’re suggesting that publishers can combat news mistrust by using video to engage people in social media?

AG: Yes, publishers can leverage video to build trusting relationships with people. My generation saw this with The Daily Show and Jon Stewart. He took a different approach to delivering news which made him the de facto trusted voice for news for an entire generation.

There are certainly ways in which I think news outlets can leverage in-house talent to create content that connects with a younger audience, then work them through the funnel just as a brand would. With the publisher it starts with short-form video, which then leads to more engagement time on their sites with the written word.

I’m not suggesting that publishers should have a call to actions on those videos. Rather, publishers need to recognize the affinity people have with a journalist or content creator will be a motivation to seek them out. Take sports. Every sports fan has a favorite beat writer that they follow, even from publication to publication. The key is to build a relationship on one platform to make it easier to translate that affinity to another.

AdMonsters: What are the best opportunities for publishers to leverage video today?

AG: In addition to building engagement and audiences as we just talked about, there are a lot of high monetization opportunities for publishers within video. They do need to understand the new rules developed by the IAB Tech Lab around video, such as what qualifies as in-stream. 

Before this year, there were two forms of content: in-stream and out-stream. In-stream is with content and out-stream is without it.

AdMonsters: What are those new rules for in-stream and out-stream?

AG: They’re really about meeting the expectations of the user who opted in to consume the content of a page. In-stream ads are ads that are attached to videos that a viewer requested to watch and play, showing clear user intent. The latest guidelines clarify that sound-on video can be an accurate indicator of consumer intent, but it should not be the only qualifier. The videos can also sound off but are explicitly about the content of the page. In-stream is where the highest CPMs will be.

The new guidelines provided more clarity in the criteria and made way for a new video type; accompanying content. This helps differentiate the relevance between premium, in-stream video, and standalone video ads. In other words, users didn’t come to the page specifically to watch this video; it’s more of an additional or supplementary element. Think of mid-article video placements, many showing contextually relevant content to maintain a good user experience, but is no longer in-stream.

Out-stream rules pertain to advertising that runs standalone or alongside non-video content. 

AdMonsters: Should publishers strive to create in-stream videos for as many articles as possible?

AG: I don’t think video teams should focus on manually creating in-stream video on the top of every page. So I recommend that they first leverage the existing analytics tools they have to understand which articles drive the most traffic, and put videos on the top of those pages that match the intent of focus of the content.

They should also focus on creating original content that has a decent shelf life. These videos require time and expense to create, which means they want them around generating revenue for as long as possible so they can recoup those expenses.

That’s not to say that publishers should disregard videos with an inherently short shelf life, such as those covering breaking or financial news. Rather than starting with a blank canvas and creating a video from scratch, they may want to consider adopting a tool that automates a lot of the work.

AdMonsters: What makes for a good user experience in video?

AG: I think it is a combination of the quality of content, the monetization experience and ensuring that the video is relevant to the page so that it feels native to users. There needs to be an overall sense of purpose of the video so that it enhances the user experience and makes sense for the advertiser.

It’s worth spending time to get this context right because context will grow in importance as the cookie continues to deprecate.

AdMonsters: What do publishers need in order to succeed with video? Do they need to hire a lot of talking heads and videographers with MFAs in film?

AG: It’s interesting you bring up talking heads, which is a format that will work well for publishers that have journalists who are good in front of cameras. We’ve seen it work well in podcasts and in social media. 

It needs to be done respectfully, though. Publishers need to ask their writers if they’re comfortable moving from behind the keyboard and in front of a camera. Many are not, and that’s okay. But for those who are, the editorial team can provide access to tools so that journalists can quickly create videos in their voice without blowing up the budget. After all, writers are great storytellers, and video allows them to expand on that skill. 

AdMonsters: Can all publishers build a video library, even the small and niche ones?

AG: I think video is attainable for publishers of all sizes, especially when we consider the extensive automation that’s come to market. Success is about understanding where automation and custom work combine, and figuring out which social media platforms resonate for the publisher. 

Going back to what I said early, publishers should ask: Is our goal to build an audience? To create a mid-form video that will live on YouTube as well as our site? Do we have enough content to support people who want to engage with us more? Regarding the last question, I do think that between the editorial staff, automation and advances in AI, publishers of all sizes will find it’s possible to create high-quality content regardless of budget.

AdMonsters: So we can look forward to next year being another year of video?

AG: I think we can.

Anthony is Head of Publisher Development, leading a team dedicated to helping premium publishers learn about and get started with the Connatix platform.

His time at Connatix has punctuated the company’s publisher-first philosophy, taking the time to learn about potential publishing partners and finding the right fit for each. His professional experience spans the tech industry and advertising tech, having spent more than 5 years with Outbrain before joining Connatix.