Many established publishers are cautious about how much of their content they hand over to Facebook or Apple News’ control, with companies still preferring to bring users to their own sites where they can advertise and gather data themselves. However, with more and more video consumed on social media, new publishers are making social channels their primary ports of distribution.
Sitting on a panel discussion on distributing video alongside European video news publishers VG TV and Spiegel.TV, NowThis Media VP of social media Ashish Patel revealed that the service deliberately tells advertisers that no traffic comes to its site. Instead the company distributes its short news stories entirely through social media channels, with its webpage reading: “Homepage. Even the word sounds old. Today the news lives where you live.” This marks a big shift from the publishers still trying to drive traffic directly to their homepages.
“It’s hugely important for us to keep our position as a destination,” says Helje Solberg CEO and editor of Norwegian news publisher VG TV.
However, for NowThis Media it’s all about chasing its young, millennial audiences on the platforms where they spend their time. This means the company focuses on short, so called “snackable” content that users can consume quickly during the day with Patel claiming that the optimal video time is between 45 seconds and one minute. With Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat all pushing to increase the time users spend watching videos on their sites and apps there is more and more opportunity for publishers to turn these into primary sources of video views.
“We’re chasing scale and we’re chasing audience,” says Patel. “Our aim is to drive scale and to inundate the Facebook video engine with as much NowThis content as possible, so that we’re constantly in your feed when you’re suggested related videos.”
Different Content For Different Channels
The old mantra of “create once, publish everywhere” is becoming much less applicable to publishers as different social media channels become optimised for different types of content and adopt contrasting aesthetics. A video posted on Facebook serves a different role than on Snapchat where content is delivered vertically.
“What you see on our Facebook will look different from our Instagram, our Vine or our Snapchat, but beyond that it’s about contextual appropriateness,” says Patel. “So we look at these platforms as standalone products. People use Vine or Facebook or Instagram for different things so our editorial scope matches the use case.”
This is why New York-based NowThis Media, which has taken on USD15.6m in venture capital, invests heavily in back-end technology to allow it to quickly create content that is tailored for specific channels. The company believes this will allow it to compete with traditional publishers as they too shift to a distributed model built less and less around homepage visits.
“All the technology is to optimise for the speed of production. We really think that this is what is going to keep us defensible as traditional media companies with a lot more scale enter the distributed model,” says Patel. “Second to that, it’s a potential monetisation stream for us. If it all goes to shit we could sell this as SaaS product.”
Monetising On Social Media
However, the challenge is that content hosted on social media channels can limit the opportunities to monetise content for NowThis Media. If anything the company is aiming for revenue sharing with the host platform, rather than taking all the earnings for branded content as it would if it hosted content natively.
With scale still the number one priority for now Patel also down plays the potential revenue up for grabs in running pre-roll ads which can drive users to click away saying: “We could run pre-roll on our own properties, but we choose not to. Because we don’t think it’s a good experience for the user.”
With Facebook becoming such a prominent player in the online video space it’s hoped that its strategy to monetise video content on the platform will look beyond the pre-rolls and pop-ups of YouTube. Instead, some point to the recommended videos that Facebook already shows when users watch a video as a potential avenue for monetisation.
“The expectation is that Facebook has a broad monetisation plan for their video product. It’s likely not to involve pre-roll or post-roll or mid-roll ads,” says Patel. “I’d assume that it is going to be suggested videos or sponsored videos.”