Q&A with Kai Henniges, CEO of VI

Q: Explain the problem vi solves

It’s no secret that publishing is going through some difficult times, as print moves online, and digital publications struggle to make enough revenue. At the same time, internet users are increasingly turning to video content, which is expensive to produce.

So we developed a product that automatically delivers publishers video content, relevant to their pages. This meant that they provide users with the video content they want, and also creates a premium monetization opportunity.

It’s called ‘vi stories’. It’s free for publishers and easy to get up-and-running.

So publishers with vi stories running find that users stay longer on the page, because they’re watching video.

Q: What’s unique about vi stories?

We’ve focused on getting our contextual matching engine right. We’ve built a sophisticated system that analyses a page content, and then goes to our library and finds a video that matches the topic of the page very closely. For the user, it’s instantaneous and feels natural.

No-one else has our engine, or library of content, which means no-one else can deliver contextually matched video content to this extent.

There are other touches too. Because we value user experience, publishers can customize the video player itself, so it feels just like any other part of the site. We have a self-service dashboard where publishers can see reports, and we have our own advertising demand available too.

Q: What is the importance of context?

We believe context is everything. The web is stuffed with information and distractions, but usually, a user wants to discover something, find information, or solve a problem. If we can aide that mission, we are helping them. We do that by contextually delivering good information – in the form of videos.

Our studies have shown that having contextually matched video on your site can increase dwell time by 33%. Furthermore, it increases the user’s recall of the publisher, and they have a better opinion of the site. This then extends to advertising, which has a better recall and sentiment when it’s served on contextual video, as opposed to irrelevant video.

We even interviewed a series of scientists about how context affects the brain, this is a great series of short films to watch:

Q: How do you deal with brand safety?

We have our own brand safety check –called ‘vi protect’–, which was approved by JICWEBS. It runs twelve separate checks across things like bot traffic, inappropriate content and phishing. Anyone can try this for themselves on our site.

Essentially advertisers want to appear on safe sites, and publishers want safe content delivered. In this sense, brand safety is really all about context; no-one wants their brand or site to be tainted by bad associations. So this is a top priority for us.

Q: What type of publishers use this service?

Naturally, the success of this system relies on us delivering timely, relevant content. For example, we’ve found news publications really love it, with some of the largest national sites in Germany using it, and regional titles in the USA. Due to the nature of their business, time is of the essence, and because we can deliver fresh news from suppliers like Bloomberg and Euronews, they immediately see the benefit.

But niche publishers also love that we can cater to their needs. When we on-board a publisher we ensure we have videos that will work for their audience. So whether it’s a gaming, entertainment, automotive, or cooking site, we have timely, quality content ready for them.

Q: How does having video help pay the bills?

So alongside the content, publishers can host advertising. Video advertising is more expensive than standard display. So it’s attractive for publishers to have video to run advertising on.

Some companies offer out-stream advertising, which is essentially forcing video ads onto a page, usually interrupting the user. Our video is classed as in-stream, as the advertising appears as a pre-roll on video content the user wants to watch. This is again more valuable.

If publishers already have demand partners, they can use those, or they can access our demand.

Q: Where is this sector of the industry heading?

Video is in the ascendency. Mobile data plans and ubiquitous smartphone use mean that anyone can access video anywhere. The big social platforms have realized this and created products that are extremely sticky for users, and traditional web publishers must compete. Offering users content in the format they want it is the way they’ll do this.

Not all of the social channels will survive, and advertisers at the moment are overwhelmed by the choice of how to plan campaigns. Standardisation will have to come into play at some point, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, and so we can compare effectiveness.

What’s clear is that publishers urgently need to find ways to keep visitors, and earn revenue. vi stories do just that.


About Kai Henniges

Kai Henniges is co-founder and CEO of video intelligence [vi]. Having founded content platform Viewster together, Kai and Joerg Boksberger co-founded vi in 2016. Based in Zürich, Switzerland, vi has offices in 9 countries and employs over 60 people.


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