A Call For Quality

In his upcoming book “The New Digital Age,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt predicts that the “massive swell of low-grade reporting and information” in journalism will cause elite publishers to rely on “more established news organizations” where they can trust the validity and value of the content. According to Schmidt, this influx will also cause major media outlets to “report less and validate more.” 

 I believe this trend will also affect the digital video industry. The number of video news publishers has exploded, and more emerge in the market every day. These publishers not only include those solely focused on video, but also newspapers, magazines, radio stations, bloggers, and news boards that have incorporated video into their content. Unfortunately, rights holders with quality and professional video content seem to syndicate more often to the established publishers where they can expect to get better compensation, reach larger audiences, and have their videos published with content of similar caliber.

Syndicating to large publishers offers plenty of rewards for rights holders, but only syndicating to them can leave a glut of long-tail sites and outlets publishing bad content. My understanding of Schmidt’s statement is that the future of the news industry requires higher-end companies to either syndicate credible content they have produced or long-tail content they have aggregated and validated. Doing so will lead to higher-grade content being available everywhere. We’re just not there yet.

Being less greedy can actually earn you more money

Professional content owners and the “more established news organizations” Eric Schmidt referenced can do more to remedy this problem. “Don’t be greedy” is a good mantra for all professional video producers to keep in mind when planning their syndication. With audience fragmentation and a swell of “low-grade” videos increasing across publishers every day, quality content owners need to be everywhere. Of course they should syndicate to publishers that have large, existing audiences, multiple channels, and the ability to pay top dollar. But small and mid-sized publishers also add value.

For example, E! (NBCUniversal) should be syndicating to every celebrity website where its entertainment content can be enjoyed. Reaching audiences everywhere they are requires syndicating to as many types of publishers as possible. Yes, content owners might have to use alternate monetization methods like revenue sharing when dealing with smaller publishers, but that could lead to greater impressions available for selling to brand advertisers, making everyone more money. Quality content has the potential to bring more audiences to a publisher’s channels, earn more advertising dollars, and in turn, pave the way for the publisher to invest in sourcing even more quality content. 

Greediness is a publisher problem, too.

However, it isn’t entirely fair to say that rights holders not sharing is the sole reason for the proliferation of bad videos. Too often, publishers will add low-rent videos to their channels to afford more opportunities to serve ads without higher content costs.

But earning advertising revenue is only part of the reason publishers should use video. Publishers’ main goal should be offering quality video to provide their audience with interesting but credible content. Publishing videos that have no entertainment or editorial merit lowers the value of your content offering as a whole. Yes, you can earn a little scratch from the preroll initially, but if the viewer jumps out of the video and off your channel never to return, this is not a lasting reward.

You may have to pay more for quality videos in the beginning (whether this means you produce them in-house, license them outright, or share more of the revenue with the producer), but it will prove worthwhile.

Bottom line, content quality is going to become increasingly important in the ever-growing long-tail of the Internet Eric Schmidt talks about, where audiences are meaningful everywhere. Producers and publishers share an equal responsibility in making sure video remains valid and valuable. When you’re respected for your content, your audience will grow, and the advertising dollars will follow.

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