Nearly 200 publishers attended the Digiday Video Summit Europe in Amsterdam this week to find answers to some of the burning questions affecting publishers’ video businesses. Among the issues that frequently arose: the balance between scale and engagement; monetizing audiences on and off platforms; and, of course, the ripple effects of the General Data Protection Regulation.

During working groups and publisher-only town hall sessions, which operated under the Chatham House Rule, delegates debated their core concerns. Here are some of the takeaways.

The price of growing audiences on platforms
“You have no control over your own destiny. You need a balanced portfolio. If you rely on a distributed platform strategy, you need a variety of platforms to make it work.”

“On social, you gain the audience, but lose the engagement.”

“Do you prioritize creating content for where the money will come from? It becomes easy to create something specifically for Facebook.”

“It depends on what type of publisher you are, but Facebook’s video initiatives are not working.”

“For traditional publishers, YouTube is a different model. It gives you the flexibility to embed and maintain audiences in your own environment. Facebook and Snapchat, you have to play in that environment.”

“Most video content is still largely built for TV and then repurposed to digital platforms.”

“It’s difficult for traditional companies steeped in ways of working to diversify and hone in on how consumption is on a platform. That takes focus. If you do it from the beginning, that’s all you do. You have the change the mindset.”

“We are putting more videos on our site that are social-friendly that can be repurposed for Facebook. Instead of making six Facebook-only producers, we’ve shifted focus to our site, but it’s still Facebook-friendly video.”

“The key is to pivot to where the platforms want to go. It becomes a cost-benefit situation. It’s a balance, aligning and supporting what’s important to then put you in favor and helps.”

Issues with scale
“We don’t have enough scale to bring in [advertiser] demand, which is why we have to work with demand platforms to show advertisers that we can produce a certain amount of video and demonstrate the kind of scale that they want.”

“Is it possible to scale without social platforms? I’m not sure there really is.”

“Scale is a problem, at least being in a smaller market like we are. It’s more work than value. Syndication is an answer, but it’s not a great answer.”

“We have tried syndication with a few companies, and it’s never really worked. We would supply them our feed, and the conversation would just drop off. Then, we’ll come back two months later and realize we’ve made $14 — that’s an exaggeration, but you get what I mean. So, we turned [the syndication partnerships] off.”

“The problem for a lot of publishers is it’s a vicious circle: Brands want scale; you generate 3 billion views a month; the algorithm change means that drops by 30 percent, but brands don’t want to hear that, so then you start buying the views; then, you’re paying rent to the platforms.

“How much scale do you need to convince brands to still work with you while monetizing in other ways?”

“Everyone wants to branded content, but is it scalable? Are you going to get the money back from branded content that you spend on making it? I hope the answer is we can. You have to have multiple revenue streams.”

GDPR ripple effects
“Our rates dropped by about 20 percent. That’s demand drying up. We’re hoping that will bounce back once we start gathering consent, but Google is late to the party, so there’s nothing we can do there.”

“Rates went down by between 30 and 40 percent. We’re looking into the data now, but it’s still so early to understand why.”

“We dropped by 100 percent. Our legal team are very concerned about child-friendly advertising, so we turned off all ads. We’re trying to find a better solution.”

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