‘A big resurgence’: Publishers get a boost from Twitter video

The cyclical nature of media means that Twitter is enjoying some time in the sun with publishers. According to multiple publishers, Twitter has delivered more video views than usual over the last two months, for some making up for the reach lost on Facebook since it made changes to the news feed.

Across its top brands, magazine publisher Bauer found that Twitter video views increased fivefold from October to December 2017. CNBC International said it has had “notable growth” in its video views in February, but the company couldn’t share specific numbers at time of writing. During the same month, lifestyle publisher Stylist saw a 500 percent increase in its Twitter video views as a result of dedicating more resources to Twitter. Men’s interest site Joe Media saw a 20 percent increase in video views over the last four months to 6.2 million. A source familiar with the matter said that over the last year, Twitter has had a “significant” increase in the number of video views on the platform compared to the previous year.

Last year, Twitter announced feature updates to improve content relevance, including mobile push notifications and “while you were away” tweets to surface highly engaging content, driving up discoverability for publisher videos. Twitter has also introduced view counts for video. Buoyed by higher views, the number of publishers and the amount they post to the platform have naturally increased.

Bauer started to focus more on Twitter halfway through last year across a number of its entertainment and lifestyle titles, including fashion title Grazia, urban radio station Kiss FM and film brand Empire. Since then, Bauer has tweaked metadata and video length in order to figure out what works, which is typically video clips between 40 and 60 seconds in length. For Empire, three-minute video clips perform just as well, according to the publisher.

“We’ve seen a big resurgence in Twitter,” said Niall McGarry, founder of Joe Media, adding that the growth in views “is significant.” In the last six months, Joe Media has doubled the size of its editorial and production team and increased the amount of content it posts to Twitter, particularly before, during and after football matches. In December, Neville Southall, former Everton goalkeeper, delivered a Christmas message urging people to be more compassionate, which the publisher posted to Twitter. The combination of a football personality and a political message worked well, with the video amassing 7,000 retweets, 12,000 likes and nearly a million views, while the same content on Facebook got comparably little traction, with 1,000 shares.

“Whether content does well on Facebook is in the lap of the gods. The algorithm is much more complex,” said McGarry. “Twitter has a consistency that Facebook doesn’t.”

Twitter’s payouts to publishers as part of its Amplify program have grown 60 percent since last year, according to the platform, although Twitter wouldn’t share how many publishers are part of the program. Amplify launched five years ago as a way to help publishers make money from selling pre-roll ads around their Twitter content. Bauer tends not to monetize its events-coverage videos on Twitter to avoid hampering their reach. However, having a variety of ways for publishers to monetize their content on Twitter, like sponsorships and Periscope Super Hearts, is a bonus.

“One of the advantages [with Amplify] is that publishers are often getting an extra paycheck with minimal extra effort,” said Garrett Goodman, vp of business development at social video platform Wochit. “They’re just posting the same videos they’re already making for Facebook, but this time actually monetizing the views, so there’s virtually no downside here.”

But Twitter won’t ever match Facebook as a referral source. Parsely data shows Twitter makes up less than 3 percent of publisher referral traffic.

Twitter also has its own issues. The platform can be a toxic environment for hate speech and trolling. But moves like removing verification from accounts with ties to far-right political groups show it is trying to address these problems.

The fact that publishers are exploring wider distribution on platforms beyond Facebook is hardly surprising, given Facebook’s news-feed changes and the way U.K. publishers found out about them. Other platforms like LinkedIn and Snapchat are seizing the opportunity. Publishers say Twitter’s U.K. team, particularly Lee LeBorgne, Amplify partnerships lead, and Julia White, head of entertainment and lifestyle content partnerships, are making advances to work more collaboratively, too.

For example, within 24 hours of Grazia posting an explainer video on Twitter with facts about Meghan Markle, shortly after the announcement that she was engaged to Prince Harry, the Twitter team flagged Bauer that the video was performing better than expected. This spurred the publisher to create additional content for the platform.

“We have an open dialogue on almost a daily basis,” said Greg Adams, head of video at Bauer Xcel Media. “That makes it easy to quickly adapt strategy and key learnings.”

For more on all things video, subscribe to Digiday’s new weekly video briefing, written by Sahil Patel.


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