If we don’t do much video, will we be OK?

Well, no. You’ll be in big trouble, and before long, you’ll be irrelevant, unprofitable, and, quite likely, out of business.

This column is part of just one chapter in INNOVATION MEDIA CONSULTING’s annual “Innovation in Magazine Media World Report” researched, written and produced by INNOVATION for The World Association of Magazines (FIPP). Order the complete book here.

OK, here’s the deal: You can go ahead and keep creating text content and get an average of US$2.50 CPMs and a shrinking share of consumer traffic.

Or, you can start creating more video content and get an average US$24.50 CPMs and a growing share of consumer traffic.

And — by the way — pages with video get:

  • Twice as much reach on Facebook than photo posts (Socialbakers)
  • 800 per cent more conversions than text-only pages (Funnel Science)
  • 64 per cent more actual sales (comScore)
  • 88 per cent longer visits (MistMedia)
  • 1,200 per cent more shares than posts with links and text combined (Simply Measured)
  • Attract three times as many inbound links (Moz)

Do you really need to create a committee to make a decision?

Hello! It’s a no-brainer!

From every possible perspective, video is the dominant format for both content and advertising today and in the foreseeable future.

“Video has fast become the new photo and is the biggest trend we’re seeing in social right now,” analytics company Socialbakers CEO Jan Rezab told Business Insider.

Video will make up 79 per cent of global consumer internet traffic in 2018, up from 66 per cent in 2013, according to Cisco.

At the end of 2014, global mobile video traffic amounted to 1.3 terabytes per month and is expected to more than double to 4.1 TB per month in 2016, according to internet statistics company Statista. In December 2014, more than 62 billion videos were viewed online, according to data measurement company comScore.


Everyone watches video online, even seniors

While television viewing is down two to three per cent among US consumers ages 18-64 and flat with seniors, Americans aged 18 to 64 more than doubled their online digital viewing from 13 minutes a day in 2012 to almost half an hour in 2014. And senior citizens’ video viewing grew a surprising 55 per cent in 2014 alone.

Digital video advertising is also growing like a weed, reaching US$5.96 billion in the US alone in 2014, a 56 per cent growth rate, according to eMarketer. That growth rate is faster than any other medium other than mobile, dwarfing online display (growing at only a 3 per cent annual rate) and television (shrinking 3 per cent), according to BI Intelligence.

Video ad views exploded in 2013, garnering 35 billion views that December and averaging more than 100 per cent year-on-year monthly growth throughout the year, according to BI Intelligence. Video ads have an average click-through rate (CTR) of 1.84 per cent, the highest click-through rate of all digital ad formats.

While desktop computers still account for the majority of digital video views, mobile video viewing grew 20 per cent in 2014 to a 30 per cent share of video views worldwide, according to online video tech company Ooyala.


Advertisers have taken notice

Fully 75 per cent of brand marketers and ad agencies say digital video will become as essential to their business as TV advertising in the next three to five years, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Almost half of those marketers and agencies have revised their budgets accordingly to accommodate more digital video advertising, with the bulk of the increase coming at the expense of television budgets, according to the IAB.

Online video gorilla YouTube has proven the digital video ad market to be a lucrative one indeed, collecting US$1.1 billion in 2014 video ad revenues or 19 per cent of the total US digital video ad market, according to eMarketer.


Speaking of money, check out those CPMs

Digital advertising revenue growth has not made up for print revenue declines, but the more lucrative digital video CPMs can help close the gap more quickly.

Video advertising CPMs dwarf those of both mobile and digital display — US$24.60 for video ads compared to US$3.00 for mobile and US$1.90 for desktop display, according to ZenithOptimedia.

Video ads work.

Online video ads have a higher impact than TV ads on all effectiveness metrics, according to an IAB/Nielsen Online Video Study.

And native ads with video really work.

“A lot of our best-performing [native ad] stories have had video as part of them,” New York Times advertising executive vice president Meredith Levien told BeetTV. “The ones with video are absolutely out-performing everything else.”


Facebook loves video, too

If securing higher CPMs and a greater share of consumer traffic weren’t enough to move you to create more video inventory, then Facebook’s 2014 initiative to reward publishers for posting videos should push you over the edge.

Why should publishers care about Facebook?

Well, you really only need to know two things:

Facebook alone drove a quarter of all web traffic referrals in October 2014. For some publishers, Facebook already drives 45 to 80 per cent of their traffic, including BuzzFeed (80 per cent), Harper’s Bazaar (59 per cent), Cosmopolitan (44 per cent).
Video creators are publishing more native Facebook videos than YouTube videos for the first time ever, according to analytics company SocialBakers. And, as of October 2014, more videos are being viewed on Facebook than YouTube.

In June, 2014, Facebook changed its newsfeed algorithm to serve more relevant videos to users and began seriously courting video creators to actually post videos on Facebook instead of linking off Facebook to YouTube or Vimeo. To make it more attractive, Facebook made its native video player larger than the player for videos hosted elsewhere.

Soon, both video postings and video views began to tilt in Facebook’s favour.

By October, comScore found Facebook to be generating more desktop video views than YouTube (Facebook’s new autoplay feature may have had an impact — see details further on in the story).

And then the number of videos posted directly on Facebook began to exceed the number posted to YouTube for the first time ever in November, albeit by a slim margin of 5,000, according to SocialBakers; by December, the margin was 20,000.

Facebook averages more than 3 billion video views every day, the company reported in January.

facebook vs. youtube

Facebook can make your day

Take Cosmopolitan for example. Editors there noticed a rapid increase in their video engagements rates on Facebook and decided to launch a Facebook-only native video series called “Hacksmopolitan”, a comedic take on the classic staple: the lifestyle-tips video.

After just three months, the Hacksmopolitan episodes were getting 53 per cent more shares than other Cosmo posts. One of the first videos, an episode about smoky eye makeup, got 6 million “likes” and 500 per cent more shares than the average Cosmo post. In just one month, Cosmo experienced a 200 per cent year-on-year increase in engagements to 2.5 million likes, comments, and shares.

Over at BuzzFeed, where they publish content on many sites, Facebook traffic was especially impressive in 2014. BuzzFeed video shares on Facebook shot up 160 per cent from June to July, and 200 percent from July to August, according to BuzzFeed Motion Pictures president Ze Frank speaking with Digiday. “A significant percentage of our views come from YouTube, but we’ve seen an incredible amount of growth and viewership through the Facebook player,” he said.

Facebook itself is fixated on video: “In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted at a late 2014 Facebook town hall meeting.

Facebook is pushing to make that prediction a reality. In 2014, Facebook launched an aggressive campaign using traffic and financial incentives to entice publishers and video creators to post directly and exclusively on Facebook’s proprietary video player.

Facebook wants a piece of the video advertising pie. They look with envy at YouTube’s billion-dollar video ad revenues and the success magazine publishers are having with digital video advertising (e.g., Time Inc has sold 99 per cent of its video inventory).

While Facebook currently has no ad slots on its proprietary video player, publishers who have spoken with Facebook anticipate the social media giant will soon begin serving ads against publishers’ videos and splitting the revenue the way YouTube does (publishers get a 55 per cent cut).


Why isn’t everyone gathering the manna?

Despite all the signs pointing to a lucrative business in digital video and digital video advertising, a surprisingly small number of publishers are diving into video in a significant way.

Only 115 magazines out of 1,547 had a “meaningful audience” of 10 million or more YouTube views, and 52 per cent had fewer than 100,000 views in their entire history, according to a study by video services firm Touchstorm.

Of that small fraction of magazines with a substantial YouTube presence, 92 had more views than subscribers, according to Touchstorm. Some are attracting viewers in serious numbers:

  • National Geographic has 13 channels, 4.4 million subscribers, 81,607 videos, and has garnered 1.5 billion views
  • Cosmopolitan has four channels, 209,515 subscribers, and 41 million views
  • Game Informer: 128,000 subscribers, 5,000 videos, and 36 million views
  • Time: 89,000 subscribers, 1,066 videos, and 50 million views
  • People: 73,000 subscribers, 1,696 videos, and 69 million views

Why, given those gaudy numbers, aren’t more publishers producing lucrative videos?


Video is not at the heart of most publishing companies’ cultures

“Some organisations are still saddled with a non-digital mentality. Folks in the [editorial department] will say that they don’t want the video to compete with the text,” former CNN Digital senior vice president and general manager KC Estenson told The American Press Institute.

Those kinds of questions don’t even get asked in organisations with video at the core of their culture. An advocate for video must be installed in the highest levels of every publishing company: “Organisational structures reflect priorities,” Estenson said.

“For every organisation, you’ve got to get really pure and clear on what you’re trying to do,” Estenson told The American Press Institute. “Who’s your audience? What are your goals? What are you trying to achieve?”

“Once we set video as a priority, it drove how we programmed the homepage. It drove how we programmed mobile platforms,” Estenson said.

For example, Time, Inc. created the post of senior vice president of video and lured Meredith’s chief video officer, J.R. McCabe. McCabe immediately assigned executive producers from his unit to the individual magazine brands and told them to attend the daily editorial meetings to make sure they were familiar with the content.

Similarly, over at Condé Nast, to assure collaboration and partnership on the video advertising side, Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE) created the position of head of brand activation and stole BuzzFeed’s senior vice president of marketing, Nancy Newman, to act as a liaison between CNE and the brands’ sales teams.

Once video is made a priority with an advocate in upper management, an organisation’s entire DNA changes. Goals, KPIs, job descriptions, work flow, organisational structure, etc., all must change to reflect the new priorities.

Organisational transformation is hard enough, but to move into video in a big way is also difficult in and of itself.


It’s harder and more expensive than it looks

“If people jump into video thinking this is a way to quickly grab a lot of ad dollars, they’re going to be disabused of that notion very, very quickly — It’s hard to do and it’s expensive to do and there’s a lot of competition,” New York Times managing editor Bruce Headlam told the American Press Institute.

After establishing video as a corporate goal, the next critical steps are:

  • Hiring digital video natives
  • Establishing cost controls
  • Repurposing each video clip multiple times, and then
  • Promoting and distributing those clips across multiple platforms


Vine and Instagram still grappling

The video darlings of 2013 — short-form platforms Vine (six-second videos) and Instagram (15-second videos) — continued their growth and their battle in 2014.

Twitter’s mini-video app Vine passed the one billion daily “loops” or plays mark in October 2014 and hit the 1.5 billion daily plays in January 2015. That translates into half a trillion loops a year. That is a very substantial number.

But that number needs an asterisk. Vine videos automatically loop, or repeat themselves, so the 1.5 billion number does not necessarily reflect the number of unique human views. Consumers who leave their Vine feed open could end up “watching” one hundred Vine loops in just ten minutes.

Nonetheless, that growth is still impressive, and there’s been no diminution in the excitement around the creativity of a six-second video.

“Part of the beauty of Vine is that it’s so quick and easy to create fun, exciting, interesting content in all sorts of different places,” former Twitter creative technologist and Viner Richard Barley told journalism.uk.

Vine also saw a 639 per cent increase in usage last year among their youngest (and arguably most attractive) users: 16-19 year-olds from across the globe.

Over at Instagram, the Facebook-owned company announced in December 2014 that it hit the 300 million uniques a month mark. That achievement came barely nine months after Instagram hit 200 million users. The new monthly number put Instagram ahead of Vine owner Twitter in the social media pecking order. Vine has not announced unique monthly users since August 2013 when it had 40 million users; Twitter, its parent, has 288 million unique monthly users.

Both companies continue to add tools and functionalities to increase their attractiveness to users.

In mid-2014, Vine introduced “loop counts” which let publishers see their Vine play count in real time. “That will give you an instant view as to how well your Vine is performing and also allows you to compare your Vine against a previous Vine or against somebody else’s Vine,” Barley said.

Then, in October 2014, Vine made it easier to share Vines and introduced a collection of editing tools that give users many more options to get creative with their videos.

Over at Instagram, the company finally matched Vine’s “looping” feature in February 2015, enabling users to automatically watch Instagram videos over and over without having to click on anything.

Earlier, in late 2014, Instagram introduced its first new video filters in two years as well as adding image previews, updated slo-mo video, and real-time commenting.

Both platforms, while wildly popular with younger internet users, still remain something of a mystery to traditional publishers.

That is partly because the super-short video is such a new format, there hasn’t been time for experts to develop.

The only Vine or Instagram experts you can trust are the ones making good mini-videos today, Richard Beer, creative director at the UK-based agency Don’t Panic, told attendees at the FIPP Innovation Forum in London in June, 2014.

Based on his experience, Beer has come up with five commandments for creating great Vine videos:

Stop, collaborate, and listen:

· Be funny
· Be spontaneous
· Aim low
· Stay open minded


This column is part of just one chapter in INNOVATION MEDIA CONSULTING’s annual “Innovation in Magazine Media World Report” researched, written and produced by INNOVATION for The World Association of Magazines (FIPP). Order the complete book here.