"On TV And Video" is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.
Today’s column is written by Field Garthwaite, CEO and co-founder at IRIS TV.
In addition to Facebook’s latest changes to the news feed, the important changes taking place in Google Chrome, the world’s most popular browser, are forcing many publishers to reconsider their online advertising strategies.
The browser changes will block irritating ad units, including video banner ads that feature sound already playing, often with no controls for playback or volume. There is a lot of confusion in the industry about how Google’s proposed “media engagement index” will affect publishers’ primary video players, which have been a critical revenue stream for premium publishers.
The battle between an autoplay vs. click-to-play has been debated for some time. Many publishers have adopted autoplay as a standard experience, which has invited scrutiny on what is the right experience for users and advertisers. While the user experience is critical for any publisher, this debate is about how advertising dollars will be affected.
If publishers are now forced to implement more click-to-play experiences or muted autoplay players, will they see their audience consumption and advertising revenue decrease? Another important question some are pondering: Given the dominance of Google in online publishing, will YouTube play by the same rules?
The solution to the ad problem lies in building a better video strategy. Publishers are more equipped to deal with this because, over the past few years, they have built audiences, invested in content and developed products to drive engagement. But success will come only to those who continue to leverage data insights from their content and audience. It comes down to four pivotal strategies.
1. (The right) audience data
Most publishers have access to data in a variety of forms, but how much direct audience data do they have and how are they using it? Success metrics should capture audience retention and answer these questions:
- What are the publisher’s audience behavioral segments over the past year? Do they know what and how their new, returning and loyal audiences are consuming content?
- What content have audiences been watching and why?
- What content hasn’t resonated with audiences? For example, when do viewers drop off?
- Are publishers able to forecast viewing behaviors for each segment of their audience?
The root of understanding audiences is knowing as much as possible about their viewing behavior across all platforms and devices. Publishers must focus their resources on what will drive success. If they curate video playlists or use recommendations to encourage engagement, it is ever more important to be able to program to these audiences with precision.
2. Content (is still the king) strategy
The reason top publishers have been able to build and maintain audiences is due to their superior content. In preparation for possible changes to the browsers, publishers should examine where on their domain video is performing the best. It’s not always the video page, but often is the article pages.
Publishers should examine which videos drove some of their best-performing days, in terms of video views and the pages on which they were published. If publishers use audience development tools, this is where they should be pointing audiences. The incremental pre-roll revenue alone can fund these activities. The virtuous cycle of smart recirculation will be a revenue multiplier.
Publishers should remember that their original content is their most valuable asset and a differentiator. To leverage their best video assets to maximize profits, they must tag videos with categories that are part of a taxonomy so they can better understand their video supply and demand and know what percentage of their asset library drives the most views. From here they can optimize what to create, acquire and move away from.
3. User experience
Remember that engaged audience I spoke about? Well, with more click-to-play video, the bar is higher for how users are introduced to content.
Publishers must focus on enhancing their thumbnails and asset titles. The thumbnail is the user’s first impression, so publishers must ensure that they capture an engaging moment in the video. Even with interview videos, avoid the talking-head thumbnails, since thumbnails with topic-related images perform better.
4. Monetization: Put pressure on advertising sales teams
Although a change to autoplay may impact the amount of initial video starts, click-to-play videos tend to generate higher CPMs than autoplay. This trend will continue, so now is a great time for publishers to evaluate their overall monetization strategy, including understanding core programmatic sources and weeding out those that are causing problems from ad serving and not bringing home the bacon.
Pre-roll will continue to be a large source of digital ad revenue, but publishers shouldn’t neglect to explore other lucrative sources, such as branded content. More marketers are investing in branded content video and targeting premium publisher audiences to share like-minded content. The changes to Facebook’s algorithm and brand safety concerns with YouTube will continue to drive marketers to premium publishers where brand-safety guarantees are more likely.
With premium publishers, you can program branded video right into contextually relevant streams adjacent to editorial video. This will overcome the loss with autoplay pre-roll and, better yet, lead to higher profits since branded video commands higher CPVs.
Publishers should be concerned about changes to browser behavior, but also understand that their video business was not built primarily on autoplay video, so it will not fail as a result of one component. By focusing on their data, audience, content and monetization strategy, they can capitalize on what they have learned to drive an even more engaged audience and a profitable video business.