The pivot to video is not on everyone’s agenda. News publishers Trinity Mirror, The Telegraph and Axel Springer are refraining from making any drastic changes in strategy that would prioritize video over other formats.
“Video is part of the business, but two-thirds of our revenue is print,” said Swen Büttner, head of video marketing at Axel Springer’s sales house Media Impact. “Text is important, even in the digital industry, and video is only part of the news. It’s not going to take over anything.”
Piers North, group digital director at Trinity Mirror, echoed that sentiment at the New Video Frontiers event in London on Oct. 4. North said that while video is important, pre-roll video is less than 10 percent of the publisher’s digital revenues, it’s growing and not to the detriment of other areas. In a testing financial climate, many publishers that might be focused on short-term performance will see enticing high-yield, pre-roll video growth in the double digits.
“We have to be realistic about it,” North said. “We’re not going to be video-first in five years time. Video is part of the armory.” Dora Michail, managing director of digital at The Telegraph, agreed that video expands the way the publisher tells stories and helps cater to younger audiences, rather than replacing text articles.
Displaying ads around hard news has become increasingly unappealing to advertisers, a trend exacerbated by YouTube’s brand-safety crisis earlier this year. Growing lifestyle and entertainment video content is a more easily monetizable route for news publishers.
In the U.S., publishers like Mic, Fox Sports and Vocativ have recently laid off editorial staffers in their shifts to video to the detriment of their traffic, according to some measurement firms. And for some publishers that have recently pivoted to video, most of their video views occur off their own platforms, instead happening on others where it’s relatively easy to gain scale but harder to monetize.
The Telegraph had 30 million video views in August on Facebook and YouTube, while the Daily Mirror, Trinity Mirror’s national tabloid, had 35 million video views on Facebook, according to Tubular Labs. Although the U.K. reach of these publishers is nothing to sniff at, they shrink next to Facebook and Google on a global scale.
“Advertisers believe reach is the most important thing, and Facebook and Google offer massive global reach easily; that is the challenge,” said North. “We need to persuade advertisers that scale isn’t the same as a crafted piece of video.”