Commentary

Time To Leverage Current News Stories -- AND Create Evergreen Videos

One of the leading storylines of 2011 will no doubt be the radical shift across the Arab and Muslim world: Tunisia’s dictatorship fell, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was toppled, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi was killed by those he oppressed -- and last but not least, President Barack Obama got the man behind the 9/11 attacks: Osama bin Laden.  In all of those stories, the mainstream media was amplified by social media, and the proliferation of wireless and recording technology added more imagery and context than ever before.  Similarly, when Steve Jobs resigned and then passed away, there was an outpouring of emotion in the online and offline world never seen before for the CEO of a company.

Times have changed, and online video is driving that shift considerably.  In the political examples, the videos were largely of current events and images that previous generations rarely witnessed.  In the case of Jobs, it was an interest in older videos, be it of his commencement speech at Stanford, or interviews he granted the press or at conferences.  The commencement speech alone was seen 8 million times in the 24 hours after his death. When you consider that on YouTube, 53% of videos are seen less than 500 times in their lifetime, you can’t help but acknowledge both the unique stature of Jobs -- as well as, dare we say it, the amazing power of video online.

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With those storylines, advertising takes a back seat.  But news doesn’t need to be gory, gruesome or tragic to break in real time, be shared through social media, and ripple throughout the media ecosystem.  In other words, often enough, publishers will turn to breaking news stories to drive incremental page and video views, and it will be perfectly fine to do so.

When our distribution partners ask us whether we can produce videos around some of these more somber items, I tell my team that once you decide to work in media, you have to accept that it’s your duty to cover some items which may displease you personally, though you can choose the TMZ angle or a less distasteful one (not knocking TMZ here, there’s a demand for that editorial voice and TMZ does a great job of filling it).

In any case, with the latest comScore numbers showing that YouTube is now accounting for a mind-numbing 47% of video views in the U.S., it’s normal that other publishers look for any way possible to increase their share of views.  There’s an opportunity with news to create new video inventory, so it comes as no surprise to see AOL/5Min launch Editors Room.

What makes this launch even more interesting -- and suggests that video is maturing (though still very young) –--is the fact that no one was more bullish on evergreen videos than 5Min CEO Ran Harnevo. 

Even though AOL/5Min are WatchMojo’s distribution partners, I don’t pretend to have any particular insight into the matter. But judging from the news coverage of the launch, it’s evident that Harnevo now “wants to be the AP for video,” suggesting that search queries, social media trends, traffic trends and thus advertising revenue is creating a considerable opportunity in this area.  

I’ve always said that aggregation for aggregation’s sake is futile, for online video is akin to the Pareto Principle (aka, the 80/20 rule) on steroids, where 1% of videos may generate 99% of views.  As such, even though a company like 5Min may have secured the rights to thousands of content owners, it’s not the sheer volume of videos or rights that matter but having access to the right video at the right time and in the right context, or literally speaking: distribution outlet. 

That's why I argue that “Context is King” -- in other words, content plus distribution plus timing.  Content and distribution are in the supporting cast, and timing provides the backdrop that makes them both valuable.

There is another dimension to context, mind you, and that is the ability to take existing material and give it the narrative to put one video into the right context for the event.  This is why I’ve argued, that eventually the “content farm” approach that may have worked with creating articles will prove futile with videos. When I wrote about the rise of the so-called anti-farmers, it was a look into the future. That future is actually here right now, when content and the ability to produce it in an efficient and effective manner is proving to be the one-two punch that will reclaim content’s lost luster.

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