‘Facebook views are a vanity metric’: Overheard at the Digiday Video Anywhere Summit

Nestled alongside the cliffs of Laguna Niguel, California, at the Digiday Video Anywhere Summit, both digital and traditional media companies had a lot of things to gripe about. They also shared a lot of insights into what works and doesn’t work on social and streaming video platforms, as well as finding the right video talent. Here are some of the best things we overheard at the event.

Facebook issues:
“Facebook views are a vanity metric. But it’s hard to walk away from that, even though they are valueless.”

“Facebook is the worst search engine in the world. I can put something up and not find it anywhere. I don’t know how that’s going to convince people to choose to watch videos there.”

“There’s going to be an earthquake. The era of aggregating a bunch of views in a news feed is over. I don’t care how many billions of views you got last month.”

“Facebook doesn’t care if someone shoots a video of a dog — as long as people watch and spend more time there, they don’t care.”

“They’re always quick to pivot. I think they’re going to try [Watch] for a while, but if they gave up on it next year, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Facebook is still an unbelievably powerful traffic driver for us. Facebook monetization isn’t working, so we stopped doing that. It’s more valuable as lead gen for our apps and subscription program.”

“We’re investing on our site to protect ourselves when the next algorithm change hits us.”

Streaming/OTT issues:
“No one is watching Go90. And it’s because they don’t promote it well. And that’s made it hard for us to sell talent on doing anything because if they’re not going to promote it, no one is going to see it, and then it’s wasting the talent’s time.”

“[Go90] has to succeed — for us.”

“Go90 markets one show every quarter. They’ll have 50 shows, but they’ll market one show and do a good job with it, and people will see it. What I think you’re likely to see is that they pull back on the volume of shows they do and put more marketing behind the stuff that they do.”

“Verizon’s going to be a player in the video space, whether that’s through Go90 or something else. Verizon is here to stay. Go90 might not be.”

“I don’t think Go90 is going anywhere. But what you tend to see is that regimes change. New people come in trying to make something work. It doesn’t work out. So then they hire TV people to make it work, and they have a different strategy and don’t typically understand digital. It’s a lot of running around with no clear long-term strategy in place.”

“We saw a 600 percent increase in video viewers per month by just instituting autoplay inside our TV app.”

“We got rid of pre-roll on our OTT apps and we saw viewership go up by 20 percent.”

“Skinny bundles are such an interesting bet. Comcast and others are going to try and bring some of these digital publishers as a linear channel on a skinny bundle.”

“Apple TV is very erratic. Ever since they opened it up to everyone, it’s hard to find things, and you can go from a lot of viewers one day to next to nothing the next.”

“The new Apple TV [operating system] has been great. Now, if we can get someone to download our mobile app, our TV app automatically shows up on their Apple TV. We’re driving a lot of subscriptions that are initiated on the TV screen, but it’s the result of a mobile download.”

“The No. 1 keyword on Roku is ‘free.’ We’ve programmed an extensive video library so we can get discovered.”

“I won’t say their name, but it begins with an R and ends with a U, and they’re not a good partner to work with. If you start to see any kind of success on their platform, they’re going to charge you more for promotion or ask for a bigger cut of the ad revenue you can generate on their platform.”

“Audience measurement is our biggest problem because it doesn’t exist on most of these TV platforms. Do we just try to bully our way out of Nielsen and find something new that can drive those dollars away from traditional TV?”

“Most agencies and TV money want to live and die by Nielsen, so these other measurement vendors don’t really matter. We’re going up against a lot of entrenched thinking that’s been there for 50 years.”

“Digital has always been a value-add. Everyone knows this is a problem, but it’s based on a smoke-and-mirrors model, which is Nielsen.”

“You have to separate ratings from monetization. More people at agencies are buying premium video — they’re really sophisticated about that. That practice has merged with their TV buying practices. Social is more problematic, and that’s different from premium video.”

Funding/content issues:
“I don’t look at any content-funding platform as a long-term, viable solution until they are. We already have platforms for video, and that’s TV and it’s YouTube. I’m glad there’s a big group of companies out there now trying to buy our stuff, but I don’t know how that dust settles.”

“YouTube trolls are good engagement, if you think about it.”

Talent issues:
“Writers are surprisingly not good at scripting. They’re great for ideas and we go to them regularly for ideas on videos, but they need help when it comes to actually writing the script.”

“It’s good to keep the writers involved. If you take their idea and run off and make a video or web series and come back to them afterward, you’re going to get a lot of pushback. But if you involve them from the beginning, there’s less of an issue with that.”

“We’ve been trying to bring our video producers closer to the marketing and social teams. Otherwise, they’ll come to you and say, ‘Here’s my beautiful video,’ and then no one will watch it because the title sucks and the thumbnail sucks.”

“We are so heavily indebted to data that sometimes we have videos that don’t play like a story but just an algorithm hack.”

TV issues:
“There’s no fraud issues on TV — so that’s nice.”

“TV networks don’t get digital, and it’s pissing me off. They look at comScore to figure out which digital partner to work with. ComScore is about web traffic; they can’t tell you shit about what you’re doing on Facebook, YouTube. We’re trying to do marketing deals with TV and movie studios, and they always ask for your comScore data. If anything, look at our raw Facebook data.”


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