Video Everywhere, But Who’s Watching?

How publishers draw users to video content

Video is everywhere, and everyone wants it. Whether from desktops or smartphones, 183 million people in the U.S. watched over 37 billion online videos in October 2012 alone, according to comScore. With daily unique views jumping 30% in the past year, video growth shows no sign of slowing, especially as connections get faster and phone screens get larger.

Video content is booming, and advertisers are already shifting their budgets to make sure it’s well-monetized. eMarketer predicts that by 2016, banner ads’ share of total advertising spend will drop to 20.4% compared to 23.3% this year. Meanwhile, digital video’s share of total advertising spend is projected to nearly double – from 7.9% in 2012 to 14.5% in 2016.

Clearly, consumers have jumped on the digital video bandwagon, drawn to on-demand TV shows and movies, sports replays, music videos and every other flavor of video content now readily available on the web. As marketers and publishers alike consider their thriving, expansive online audience, the amount of quality video content produced specifically for the web is also growing rapidly – but it can be difficult to make sure this content actually gets viewed.

Publisher Privileges

Publishers enjoy benefits from digital video. It’s a different way to tell the stories they’ve previously shared in text and – as anyone who’s spent a few… minutes on YouTube watching video after video of laughing babies or funny cats can tell you – video content can be highly addictive.

The emergence of multiple screens and devices has made consumers expect video to be available anywhere, anytime. According to Lori Lebas, SVP of Business Operations, Sales and Marketing at ESPN, “while viewing may be fragmented across multiple screens, consumption of our video content and audience engagement has significantly increased in the aggregate.”

Users’ demand for video content fuels their willingness to sit through a 30-second pre-roll ad for a mere two minutes of snoring puppies. Although it does take more time and a bigger budget to produce high-quality video content than it takes to produce text, digital video advertising has made big strides, generating higher CPMs than any other medium.

With new strategies emerging beyond simple pre-roll, digital ad views reached nearly 11 billion in just one month – October 2012. According to Forrester, views per month of long-form video supported by ads see a 32% increase each year.

“As a video-centric digital publisher, video is everything to our business and is the main driver of ad revenue,” says James Gaffar, Manager of Emerging Media at NBCUniversal. “In addition to ad monetization, our video content serves as both a marketing vehicle for our shows and as a hub for building additional engagement with our fans.“ 

Marketers enjoy digital video because videos can be more evocative and more creative than traditional display content. Consumers can interact with video in different ways, and new technologies like Shazam provide consumers different opportunities to connect with content.

Although 90% of digital video content today is linear and non-interactive, Peter Minnium, Head of Brand Initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), predicts that in two years, half of digital video ad inventory will have moved beyond its TV predecessor to be interactive. 

Video ≠ TV

The internet isn’t TV all over again on new and smaller screens – for better or worse. Traditional TV has a few main channels, and it’s easy for the consumer to turn on her set and flip through to find a show. There’s even a consolidated TV guide based on your cable provider. Even with the multitude of channels available, it’s still relatively simple to find content to watch on a flatscreen – it’s a closed environment.

Conversely, “the web is wide open,” says Adam Singolda, CEO of Taboola, and users can easily be lost amid the sea of different video hosting websites, from YouTube to Vimeo and everything in between – especially content that a publisher might host on an obscure page on his own website.

The ‘net is still largely text oriented, and a traditional website usually hasn’t been designed as a video channel. While YouTube and newcomers like Upworthy have worked to make video content more discoverable and more easily sharable via social networks, most websites are still largely text-oriented, and video is still admittedly hard to search. Despite this, according to a study by TubeMogul in 2011, 81.9% of video views stem from direct traffic and search within a publisher’s own website.

Google is doing a great job of making media more searchable, from images to video. However, this technology still hasn’t made video search as easy or as effective as text-based searches. According to Andy Plesser, CEO of Beet.TV, video simply doesn’t have the metadata that other mediums like text or photo have. Following an FCC regulation, most commercial video is required to have captions, and companies like zeebox ingest the captions embedded in video to make it more searchable. However, because so much digital video content is produced by basically anyone with an iPhone, this technology has a long way to go.

Because of the bump in the road from search and the overwhelming sea of video content available online, It can be hard to deliver relevant video content to users, even if they are actively seeking it. So, how can publishers help consumers discover their often very-expensive-to-produce video content? What models of distribution and syndication exist, and which are the ones that work best? 

Modes of Delivery

YouTube, of course, is the largest provider of digital video content. It behooves publishers to design their own YouTube channel for their digital video content. Such a channel creates a hub for users to easily find your digital video content all in one place, it allows your videos to be indexed and found as related content on YouTube, and it can also increase your content’s marketing value.

In an interview with AdAge earlier this year, YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar discussed the importance to brands and publishers of building a YouTube channel. He explained that while a normal video of a dog on a skateboard can draw $2 CPMs, if the video is listed on an original content channel packaged alongside premium video content, “that same video can command a $20 CPM.”

Syndication can also be a great option for publishers to increase video discovery among a broader audience. Syndication allows a publisher to partner with another publisher (ideally one with a different, bigger, or broader audience) who will host the content on its site and promote it to its audience.  Howard Kantor, Director of Sales at, has found great success partnering with The Huffington Post, Hulu and other companies for syndication of their videos.

Another tactic publishers can use is paid distribution/content marketing. This strategy, usually employed through a company like Taboola, involves surfacing a publisher’s selected video content on other websites that show similar video content or that are otherwise related. This method draws users back to the publisher’s own website and builds video traffic on his site by exposing his video content to a broader, but still interested, audience who can be reeled in.

But when it comes down to it, the best way to make sure that your users see the video content you’ve spent so much time and money producing is to make sure that it is well-integrated into the properties and content that you already have so that it reaches the audience you’ve already cultivated.

One method of accomplishing this can be to partner with companies that already offer content that’s been well-mapped and structured. For instance, AOL – which recently acquired 5min Media, the web’s largest content syndication platform –has curated a huge library of over 5,000 high-quality videos already sorted by category, said Tal Simantov, AOL VP of Video (and co-founder of 5min Media). Publisher can partner with AOL to use this video library at no cost – a cut of the ad revenue goes to AOL. 

Listen to the Data

If a you produce, host and curate your own original video content, it’s imperative that you manage metadata properly, as it allows for the construction of various channels that can be packaged for content specific sponsorships or simply to push users to more related video content.

“Publishers, especially video-centric ones, should leverage their content metadata and build experiences with auto play, play listing, related content and customized player option that keep users coming back,” Gaffar advised. “These features equip the ad sales team with options for their clients.”

Companies such as Taboola can integrate with publishers’ websites to increase CTR by automating this process and by offering relevant “related content” videos in an easy to navigate format.

Ask Yourself This

With these video discoverability solutions in mind, we leave you with the following questions every digital video publisher should ask herself, direct from Gaffar:

  • Is all of my content accessible across mobile, tablet and web?
  • Is my content searchable across mobile, tablet and web?
  • Do I have universal URL redirects to the proper pages/video content? Since social sharing and usage is predominantly on mobile platforms, ensure that all URLs/links drive to the correct piece of content.
  • What devices and platforms make up the majority of consumption?
  • Does my video and ad technology solution support the platforms that my audience is on?
  • Can my content within my apps be search enabled and deep link to the appropriate page or content?

At the end of the day, every publisher should ensure that discovery and delivery of content is as ubiquitous as possible in order to bolster efforts to driving audience and revenue. Digital video is today’s TV, and we’ve got to capitalize now.