On one hand, online video ad spend is expected to top $4bn this year (growing at a greater than 40% clip year-over-year). On the other, even with that level of growth, the dollars spent online are dwarfed by traditional television spend, which was well over $60bn in 2012.¹
In this context it’s easy to understand the attitude of some media execs who, to adapt the old joke about the sport of soccer in America, feel online video is the future of media – and always will be.
The outlook need not be so bleak, however. The reason large brand campaigns have stayed on the sidelines has more to do with the structure of the online video landscape in its current form, and less to do with an inherent flaw in the medium.
Specifically, there is a need in the market for a premium online video outlet that supplies three critical factors: editorial control, transparency and scale. For network directors, this is more possible today than ever, through the “gated community” model of online video.
1. Editorial control
As the name would imply, a gated online video community is exclusive. This means the avoidance of the oft-cited pitfalls of UGC-based networks. It is brand safe – i.e. free of hate speech, violent or sexually explicit content, etc. — and there is a minimum standard for production value.
The key is a “default to no” approach. In other words, the onus is on the producer to demonstrate their content is high enough quality to be allowed in, rather than the common open door policy, which relies upon reactive policy enforcement wherein the user base serve as identifiers of the bad apples.
Advertisers are (rightly) demanding greater visibility into both position — publisher URLs, above-the-fold vs. below, player size, etc. — and context their video placements, even more so than in the largely commoditized display space. This is ultimately bad news for networks built on syndication and blind network buys, but will unlock value of true premium producers and the gated community publishers who license and distribute their content.
Quality and transparency are vital, but meaningless without the reach to make the whole effort interesting to marketers. Fortunately, the landscape has evolved toward near real-time content discovery. This removes the barriers to entry for new, high-quality content producers and their publishers who can build audiences at a much faster pace than years past when Google search was the only show in town.
Media-to-media marketing platforms like Taboola and Outbrain provide near-immediate access to massive audiences for any publisher with a budget. Social media channels — both paid and owned — similarly offer massive exposure for quality content without the crippling time and expense of building large search-engine optimized web properties. Upstart video networks emphasizing quality can build audiences with reach and speed like never before.
Network directors who follow the gated model solve the fundamental issues on each side of the coin in the current online video landscape:
- Large brands / advertisers need not worry about the risk inherent in UGC-based networks.
- Quality content producers can attain premium CPMs rather than sinking to the “lowest common denominator” of open networks.
Easy? No. Possible? Definitely.
After all, with Major League Soccer setting attendance records year after year, perhaps the future has finally arrived.
¹ eMarketer “Key Digital Trends for 2013”.