How Mobile Video is Helping Publishers Build Audiences and Create Revenue
[Ledger reporter Madison Fantozzi uses Snapchat from a Vietman War-era Huey helicopter as it comes in for a landing during the 42nd Annual SUN n FUN International Fly-In & Expo in Lakeland. (Photo by Michael Wilson/The Ledger)]
If it's not in your hand, it's likely by your side, and if it's not in your line of sight, you're probably looking for it. It's your smartphone, and over the last six years, the number of users has grown from more than 62 million users in 2010 to more than 207 million this year. That number is expected to rise to nearly 237 million by 2019, according to Statista. And Pew Research Center reported 10 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. rely solely on their mobile phones for Internet access.
While usage continues to grow, so does the importance for publishers to produce mobile video, which, according to Statista, racked up 46 percent of online video views last year.
From delivering breaking news stories to social media views, mobile video is moving full steam ahead. Before publishers miss the mobile video train, here are some strategies to help you jump on board.
As consumption on mobile increases, Derek Gebler, CEO and founder of Field59, Inc., an online video management system for live streaming and video-on-demand solutions, said in general, desktop video is in transition. "There are so many people consuming content on their phones now. The way the traffic is migrating, the way that audiences are shifting, that's just where people are watching it."
In order to create successful mobile videos, Gebler said there are two important strategies.
First, keep it short.
"The videos that do really well on Facebook mobile and Twitter, a lot of those videos are going to be in the one minute range to two minutes. Try to keep it short (and) to the point," Gebler said.
The UK's Independent reported video length was also cited in a BBC guidelines report for creating better mobile video (ow.ly/10k71D). The BBC guidelines stated that 60- to 90-second videos perform better on mobile devices. By creating shorter videos, audiences are more likely to engage and watch the video from beginning to end.
The second factor for success is to provide captions on videos for readers who might not turn up the volume. In February, Facebook said in a press release internal test results revealed view time on videos with closed captions increased by 12 percent.
One of the biggest challenges in mobile video, Gebler said, is quality control - making sure videos shot by reporters on their personal mobile phones are useable. To combat this, Gebler suggests hiring people who know the technology.
"Learning and getting someone in who's a specialist and knows that type of technology, especially if it's someone who knows something more than just a consumer piece of technology. You have to find someone there that can take on that job, or someone who was already in the business and had some background experience," he said.
Not only is mobile video becoming easier to shoot and publish immediately on social media and news sites, editing video on mobile devices is becoming simpler too, thanks to several apps journalists can use to quickly edit video on their mobile devices. The Reynolds Journalism Institute tested six different mobile video editing apps and found that while some only offer basic editing software, which allow reporters to quickly upload videos to the Web, others like Pinnacle Studio offer powerful in app editing suites. Check out the full report at ow.ly/10hnFP.
Sasha Koren, editor of The Guardian US mobile innovation lab (which conducts experiments as one-offs to learn how news is consumed on mobile), said they've seen an arrival of video optimized specifically for social media.
"The overlap between video and social is huge," Koren said. "We see a lot of organizations (taking) advantage of that overlap between mobile and social."
What that means is more publishers are starting to create video first and foremost for social media platforms. So much so, that nearly 80 percent of time spent on mobile devices is on social media platforms (whether it's on apps or Web on smartphones and tablets), according to a comScore report.
Live on the Platform
As part of parent company GateHouse Media's new digital initiative, James Quigg, chief photographer at the Victorville (Calif.) Daily Press, has been trying out video on social media platforms about twice a week with the live broadcasting app, Periscope. The Daily Press staff first started using Periscope at the beginning of this year, and since then, some of their live broadcasts have reached nearly 300 views.
Quigg said each week they put together a planned Periscope broadcast that they'll cross-promote on Facebook and they also try to capture a breaking news event without promoting it.
For the planned broadcasts, Quigg said they incorporate some of their other initiatives into Periscopes. The newspaper recently launched an entertainment magazine, and while Quigg photographs the magazine covers and interviews the subjects, a reporter will Periscope the interaction.
The Daily Press' most successful Periscope, however, wasn't planned. During the city's homeless count, a fire broke out at a homeless encampment. Quigg and another reporter reported live from the scene, shooting footage and interviewing people on Periscope. The broadcast garnered about 225 views.
Quigg said he's found that in addition to shooting interesting topics, "going long has been a successful strategy. "Number one is how interesting the topic is, number two is how long you can keep an interesting conversation going. It's pointless and it does drop off if you've got dead time - you can't have dead time."
While Periscope does present opportunities to connect with audiences, there are some draw backs. The Twitter-owned app does require users to have the Periscope app, something not everyone in a small town might be interested in.
As an alternative, Facebook Live, which opened to everyone in January, comes with a built-in audience. At the Times-Reporter in New Philadelphia, Ohio, this has been a big plus. Interactive editor Joe Wright said they first experimented with Facebook Live during a press conference after a stabbing took place in the area. The live feed saw almost 800 viewers, and 35,000 total views after the video was archived.
"That felt good," Wright said about the Facebook Live results. "That felt like that was worth it because a lot of people got on there and we got numbers that we thought were pretty good, better than expected actually."
At The Guardian US, the mobile innovation lab tested the differences between Facebook Live and Periscope while covering a story about the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City. The team found that while both live broadcasts had smaller audiences (Koren said they didn't promote the broadcasts before) Facebook Live yielded more views in total, almost 600 viewers, because the video remained on the social media feed after the broadcast was over. But Periscope had more engagement in terms of likes and comments, said Koren. A complete post about the experiment can be found at ow.ly/10hPPO.
Facebook recently released new functions for its live broadcasting including priority placement in a new search option, making it even more accessible to audiences.
Snapchat is another social app gaining momentum with publishers for video. Laura Davis, social media and online editor at TheLedger in Lakeland, Fla., said they started using Snapchat in July 2015. Since then, their snaps typically receive more than 120 viewers. Davis said they didn't want to put many rules or restrictions around their Snapchat strategy, other than trying to reach a younger, millennial audience.
To reach them, Davis said they're experimenting with behind-the-scenes Snapchats to show the more human side of the newsroom. These snaps include following reporters to press conferences with the sheriff and peeking inside budget meetings, which have brought in comments and likes on the platform.
"I think being human to these people is really important because we're not just a newspaper. We're not robots shoved up in an office writing stories, which I think may be the perception especially with us since we're the only newspaper in our county," said Davis. "And I think reaching out to these young people is so important because these are the people that are going to be reading the paper in the future. We have to find a way to connect with them, it's so important."
Like Periscope, Davis admitted the biggest challenge for Snapchat is getting people to visit the app. To let readers know they're active on Snapchat, Davis said they do cross-platform promotion on their Facebook and Twitter.
Having mobile video options for readers is important, but Field59's Gebler said it's also imperative to have an advertising strategy to back it up, especially since mobile video advertising spending is predicted to grow from $4.08 billion in 2016 to $6.82 billion by 2019, according to a report from eMarketer.
Gebler said what they're doing for mobile video in advertising is similar to how they handle desktop video advertising. "Both are trafficked from the same ad systems. The video assets themselves tend to be shorter and need to be formatted correctly for mobile playback. In some mobile devices like iOS for iPhone, the playback takes over the full screen. On tablets and other devices it can play back in line."
At Calkins Media, which owns newspapers and digital sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida, they employ a similar strategy for selling mobile video. Deanna Fox, director of advertising, said they avoid using a cost per minute (CPM) model all together for video and instead sell video ads as a package. This has resulted in about 75 percent of all video content being consumed by audiences.
"We really look at it as one video audience. So we don't treat mobile as a separate audience. We treat it as part of the audience that we can deliver to a client as part of that campaign," Fox said. "And I think as the audience is transitioning to mostly mobile on our site it makes sense versus getting in to a position where we have to deal with CPMs that are one size on a desktop versus one size on a mobile environment. We really value the entire audience."
At Calkins, they use two strategies for selling video advertisements. The first is video produced specific to a news story, including a standalone video piece about a news event or a video piece that's attached to a written news story, which feature pre-roll ads.
"Our target is to get a least 4,000 to 5,000 plays a month for the advertiser that owns that slot," Fox said. "In the last six to eight months, we have doubled the amount of slots available on some of the site because the plays on some of those videos continue to grow."
The second strategy is a sponsorship-based model for the media company's unique, topical shows, in which advertisers are the standalone sponsor and are sometimes branded within the show, said Fox.
"I think you take that premium experience with the content that has developed locally that has worked and you can price it in a way that reflects that versus playing a CPM game where there's a lot of pressure on that price for different kinds of inventory," Fox said. "Staying away from that has worked well for us and we've been able to retain advertisers and grow advertisers."
To stay ahead in the world of mobile video, Gebler suggested paying attention to vertical video trends. About a third of video viewing is now being watched on a vertical screen, compared to five percent a few years ago and that's likely to grow, eMarketer reported.
"I've been hearing more about vertical video for mobile as a means for utilizing the mobile native playback for content," Gebler said. "This will impact the formats of advertising that is sold against this type of video format. Since most people use their phones vertically, the format does not require users to rotate their phone horizontally."
Meanwhile, Koren believes video on social, particularly on Facebook, is one of the biggest drivers of engagement, but she said it's too early to tell "if live video (will give) publishers the kind of results that pre-made video for social will."
"It's just come out, people are experimenting and the format is really new. Organizations are still figuring out what the best way to do it is and what it brings them," she said.
While mobile video is still on the first leg of its journey, it's moving down the track. For now, publishers should continue to incorporate it into their offerings for readers and advertisers through packages as well as integrate mobile into news and feature stories for readers in creative, smart ways.