Why video is still the best investment for digital publishers

Today, video is recognized as the most important medium for viewer engagement and retainment. And, according to Vizrt’s 2018 Digital Publishing Insight, over 20 of the world’s leading digital publishers say it’s not going anywhere.

Originally published in Digiday.

Despite a competitive environment with an ever-evolving digital economy — which now includes an added layer of brand safety and transparency issues — publishers still aren’t doubting the importance of engaging audiences via video. From building trust in the content to gaining internal confidence in a video strategy, here are a few challenges to be aware of.

Quality versus speed: the trade-off

Human resources. Redundancies. The ever-decreasing budgets of publishers, both big and small. Let’s be honest: being a journalist today means having four pairs of hands, two bodies and an infinite capacity for learning new skills and understanding niche topics. And publishers are increasingly aware of this demand to produce as much content as possible to drive engagement.

Above all else, however, journalists need to be able to make their content distinctive. There is this huge requirement for publishers to be fast, be beautiful and to be everywhere. This leaves content creators begging for solutions that expand creative capabilities while making the whole process easier, especially when the demand for producing video content can fall on people who lack video production skills.

With all these tensions buzzing around, it’s unsurprising when content creation boils down to a direct trade-off between quality and time.

The future requires a business plan

Publishers know that they must digitize their products, but the majority are unsure about how to do it profitably. For smaller publishers, this is slightly easier, as they are flexible and usually have a defined brand — adapting to change is a smoother ride.

The online publishers attached to more traditional print businesses are struggling. Many are trying to build their digital and video content model with inflexible, siloed editorial teams and while maintaining their brand heritage and relationship with their audience — factors which can result in a bumpier ride.

The uncertainties around digital, including the need for a solid business model for building and retaining new audiences, affect the confidence in the direction and investment in video. This is creating a bit of a whirlpool in the industry leaving publishers swirling around in uncertainty about taking the plunge.

However, the more traditional publishers should look to their newer, smaller counterparts for inspiration. The businesses with the clearest video and monetization strategies are the ones that are most confident and thriving.

Risk plays a part in any business plan, however this is overpowered by the increasing need to stay relevant to audiences.

Strong branding breeds trust in video

When it comes to video, strong brand identity is central to an authentic voice and content. First and foremost, people notice branding, even on a subconscious level, before anything else. If a piece of content doesn’t have some kind of identifying mark embedded within it, audiences will probably still watch it, but they won’t trust it, engage with it, or share it.

It’s also important for online videos to have an authentic tone: they need to feel more real, raw and less glossy than their TV counterparts. Online videos need to look good; not like you have buffed any resemblance of reality out of them. Any additional graphics need to add value to your audience as well. If a story is complicated, use graphics to help tell it. Graphics should be used to bring a story to life; not weigh it down.

Authentic branding needs to strike a balance between credibility and adequate branding — no one wants to watch a video that feels like an ad. Finding the right mix of these elements builds audience trust in the brand and their content.

So, what should publishers do?

Here are the key takeaways:

–  The future is definitely digital, which means that if you see your publication existing in 10 years’ time, you’ll have to embrace this reality.

–  Invest to accumulate: if your team is small and is not going to grow, invest in technology that will see you through the next five years and help you be creative without compromising speed and efficiency.

–  Find your revenue and engage with your sales team to create a monetization strategy especially for digital.

–  Engage and empower your staff; technology can only be as good as those motivated and capable of using it.

Change is difficult within organisations, but video isn’t going anywhere. Galvanising people, processes and partners when creating your video strategy is worth the groundwork.

Originally published in Digiday.

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