To grab part of $500B video market, advertisers and creators must up their game, panelists say

The IBC 2016 panel featured, from left to right, Eric Black, NBCU; Michael Shagoury, AJ+; Steve Shannon, Roku; and Dean Johnson, Brandwidth.

AMSTERDAM -- What does it take to grab younger audiences in the new video economy? According to four industry players, it’s a combination of compelling technology, destination viewing, the correct type of engagement across platforms, and better monetization strategies that take those changes into account.

Those were some of the observations made at a Rising Stars panel here at IBC that discussed how to grab and keep audiences, with speakers from Roku, NBCUniversal, AJ+ and Brandwidth addressing young broadcast professionals and video entrepreneurs.

Roku’s Steve Shannon, SVP and general manager of content and services, said that the video industry is worth half a trillion dollars, spread between pay-TV, ad-supported and transactional video. “All of that is getting fundamentally retooled,” he said, and shifting to an all-streamed environment.

However, advertisers are still stuck in old media buying patterns, said Dean Johnson, head of innovation at Brandwidth, an ad agency that develops campaigns for next-gen technologies like virtual reality. Advertisers' business model is still based on fixed time slots, shows, and day times, the traditional television method of placing ads, he noted. They’re not taking advantage of wider opportunities afforded by not just online video but streaming-capable tech such as mobile devices, VR devices, wearables and even what Johnson dubbed “hearables,” or an upcoming class of ear pieces that, like Apple’s new AirPods earbuds, marry form to function and could even replace other wearables like smart watches.

“It’s what is happening behind this tech that’s important,” Johnson said. Audio alerts through wireless earbuds, for example, can be accomplished through a smartphone app, so a person no longer has to lift their wrist to look at the time on their smart watch. Live translation is another practical application for hearables, he noted.

Figuring out how to advertise to and through advancing technology is a growing challenge for the industry.

Likewise, OTT content has to be right for the platform it’s on and meet the expectations of each platform’s audience, in order to grab viewers’ attention.

Michael Shagoury, executive producer and acting editorial lead at AJ+, the first non-linear Al Jazeera news channel, said his organization tailors its news stories to the three platforms they are featured on – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and their audience demographic.

“Early on, AJ+ made the same mistakes a lot of publishers make,” Shagoury said. “You produce one piece of content and put it on all different platforms. The idea was that if the content is good, it’s going to work on all platforms. And we realized early on that that was a misconception. Each user has a different set of behaviors on the platforms that they’re on. The people on Facebook consume content a different way than they do when they are on Twitter.”

For example, AJ+ video news stories on Facebook are native to the website, rather than embedded from YouTube; they include a compelling headline to catch their audience’s attention; and they’re subtitled, recognizing Facebook users’ preference for the muted autoplay feature. Conversely, a Twitter version of the story may be as simple as an interesting quote from the story, placed on an eye-catching title card and tweeted with a link to a longer video on YouTube.

Content published on YouTube, meanwhile, benefits from specific methods such as posting regularly – at the same time every day or week, for example. “Initially we made the same mistake that a lot of other content creators and publishers make, which is just saying that YouTube is the place we should put all of our content, and we think volume is the way to go. [But] actually we saw stagnant growth among our YouTube subscribers. The new approach we decided to take is, if we’re going to grow on YouTube we have to go and make separate verticals. … Let’s be more targeted,” Shagoury said. The service is launching a new channel, Newsbroke, on YouTube as part of this approach.

“When you are trying to win eyeballs, you have to think about individual audiences on these individual platforms,” Shagoury said. “The stories can stay the same, but you have to consider that a lot of people that know AJ+ news on YouTube don’t know about us on Twitter.”

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