Are Publishers Doomed to Fail in Age of Video Content?

Why did Blockbuster fail against Netflix?

Why did Barnes & Noble stumble while Amazon thrived?

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen's focus on innovation in commercial enterprises led to his first book, "The Innovator's Dilemma," which articulated his theory of disruptive technology.  In the book, he argues that existing franchises are fundamentally frozen to adapt to new disruptive or emerging technologies because they're getting rich from existing systems.

Whereas Christensen's theories have been applied and analyzed in the context of technology firms, it's clear that media -- and specifically content -- companies are also faced with this phenomenon.  Take, for example newspapers: many failed to react and adapt to the onset of the Internet and World Wide Web in the late 1990s.  By the time some were forced to adjust, it was too late.  Mind you, even those who dove in to the revolution head-on suffered. 

Analogously, today you are seeing online media companies that have a text-centric DNA fail to adjust and adapt to online video, even though video clearly remains the fastest growing segment in the fastest growing medium that is online media.

Most publishers of text content (articles) are reaping the immediate benefits of search engine traffic, booming contextual search and display advertising revenue, so they fail to re-engineer their content producers or condition their users (readers, in this case) even though plenty of marketers are starting to demand video opportunities and inventory, and around the Web users are increasingly watching content.

To these publishers, video is seemingly as foreign as online publishing was to the newspapers.  It's not necessarily their fault. If a publisher has commanded a large audience of 5, 10 or 50 million unique readers per month, the reality is that many of these readers are less interested today in videos than they are in articles.  Indeed, adding videos to their sites fail to generate the kind of audiences that articles command.  For this reason, some are introducing videos contextually, playing videos automatically (with sound off) alongside their articles, hoping to introduce and condition their readers to become viewers.

By contrast, new video producers are popping up at a torrid rate, distributing content cheaply via YouTube and company and commanding viewers that far outstrip the number of video viewers on the article-centric publishers.

Over time, there is no guarantee that the video producers will generate more revenue than their article-based brethren, and lacking an in-house sales  team, the reality is that many never will.  But the new media producers of video content who can create an evergreen base of videos and build audiences over time and engage marketers should find themselves in the disruptor's seat. A few may potentially even command more valuable enterprises than those who stick to the tried-and-tested formula of articles, images, and little else.

But the fact remains: publishers are in the driver's seat. Those who can learn from history and avoid becoming the latest victim of the innovator's dilemma will find themselves in the lead when the checkered flag  is waved.

10 comments about "Are Publishers Doomed to Fail in Age of Video Content?".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., August 23, 2010 at 2:24 p.m.

    So the key to success in revolutionizing your static article / picture inventory is to partner with a premium video content provider, correct?

  2. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan from, August 23, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.

    Actually Jonathan, it's to post cynical comments on every article you read and adding your company's name in it ;) - jokes aside, the real answer is it depends (just having some fun, as you are, don't be offended!)

    Frankly: publishers can partner, build from within or outright acquire, the point of the article is: "it might not matter in the end" because no matter what the effort, a publisher that has built a fantastic franchise might be frozen into sticking to what it does best and that is focusing on articles.

  3. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, August 23, 2010 at 2:33 p.m.

    "... a fantastic franchise might be frozen into sticking to what it does best and that is focusing on articles."

    Which we are reading as I type.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 23, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.

    In part, you are right. I have seen it. However, there are many more reasons.

  5. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan from, August 23, 2010 at 3:31 p.m.

    Paula, let's hear them... clearly sometimes we over-simplify thing in articles (word count anyone?) or limit the argument to one main thing... would love to hear your thoughts...

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 23, 2010 at 5:43 p.m.

    Ashkan, how about an email address ? I do not twit.

  7. Bruce May from Bizperity, August 24, 2010 at 4:12 p.m.

    The jury is still out on video solutions until we have a viable interstitial video ad solution. Hulu and friends have their solution. The rest of us are still waiting. Video programming for niche markets will struggle until then. The competition that this can create will pressure all existing video plays and fracture the media market even more. The total capital invested in film/TV/radio/and print, far exceeds that spent on online content. I believe we will see content continue to move online and interstitial video ads will be a game changer as will the increasing transparency in distribution technologies

  8. Lisa Wasiak from Grand Slam Music, August 24, 2010 at 5:21 p.m.

    Ashkan.. I'd like to talk to you about supplying production music for your video content.
    What is your email address?

  9. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan from, August 25, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.

    Bruce you make an excellent point but I am not sure if we will see a silver bullet solution. Indeed, there's been a lot of money invested in ad tech and platforms, which means no one will throw in the towel... in search, we basically had one ad format and one company own the market, that led to a uniformity that allowed the market to grow rapidly.

    In video, I don't see that happening. It's hard for content owners large, medium and small but definitely the smallest, niche ones will have a hard time staying in business,

  10. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., August 26, 2010 at 1:03 p.m.

    Ah, I live in a cynical world - what can I tell you. We have actually had some recent success in long form live content creation and selling that into the publishing space as an extension of extant brand. ie: magazine, website, "interactive" online magazine (with video clips) and now weekly "TV-like" webshow complete with sets, hosts, skype-in callers etc. The real trick for publishers is to use not only their own wesite / platform for promotion - but to hook into the myriad of services that wish to rebroadcast their materials - in other words: you have to cut niche in terms of subject matter but wide in terms of distribution.

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