‘It’s strictly a CPM play’: Confessions of a publisher video exec

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

It’s been a few years since publishers big and small took an earnest dive into video, and, now, more than a few of them are struggling to keep their heads above water.

For the latest installment of our Confessions series, we spoke with the head of video at a mid-tier digital publisher about his struggles with ad formats, distributing to platforms, and the struggle to balance quantity and quality.

The conversation has been condensed and formatted for clarity.

Why is everyone doing this?
It’s strictly a CPM play. It’s become a delivery vehicle for a pre-roll ad, without much consideration for what that content is. I’ve even seen some [English-language] publishers get Spanish-language ads going, just because they had pennies-higher CPMs, which is insane. [My employer] made a big deal about wanting to bring someone in that was highly experienced to do something big with their video, but they were really late to the party.

And so everyone’s just putting video all over their sites.
Having video run on every page is just dumb. It’s crazy. What are they doing to build the brand? Nothing. They’re hurting it. It’s impossible to have video match every article. No one can have enough staff to do that. You’re chasing your tail when you’re trying to put video on something that there just isn’t video for.

So where should publishers put their video?
Publishers have to be really leery of giving away their best stuff. Too many publishers are so concentrated on feeding that Facebook beast. Facebook is great for marketing and audience development, but what’s key is getting the eyeballs on your [owned and operated properties]. There are too many publishers putting it all on Facebook and giving it away for free.

How about ad quality?
Far too many publishers know how to sell print but aren’t savvy on the digital side. A lot of these sites are going whole hog on programmatic advertising that bombards the user. You get an ad on a video, a pop-up on your screen. You’re turning people away. If you’re going to do a pre-roll, don’t make it any longer than 10 seconds. If you’ve got good content, I’m willing to put up with 10, maybe 15 seconds. You put a 30-second spot up, with no opportunity to opt out, I’m gone.

There’s a tension, though, isn’t there, between resource-intensive video and quick hits you know will get views?
Everyone on the team has to do some of the crap and also be able to go out and do original content shoots. What’s important is to spread around the fun stuff and the more routine stuff. It became important to keep people motivated and not burnt out. If you need to attract eyeballs, you need to do some of that bread-and-butter stuff to afford the longer-term, more in-depth things. But “Beyoncé having twins!” as a 30-second text-over-video — you know that’s going to do really well and you gotta do it. But it’s tough to do both.

Where is the long-term, reliable money, really?
Syndicate. AOL, Yahoo, MSN. I don’t really feel that’s necessarily cannibalizing your core audience. You’re picking up new audience, and you’re getting more bang for your production buck. It’s not an insignificant amount of revenue. Depending on what kind of deal you can get, you can get 50-70 percent of the revenue that comes to your content in another platform.


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