‘Vertical video is the future of mobile video’: A Digiday+ town hall with Forbes’ Salah Zalatimo

Salah Zalatimo, head of product and tech at Forbes, joined members of Digiday+ on Thursday for a Slack town hall. We discussed the hype around publishers pivoting to video, the tactics web developers use to increase page speed and the challenges of modernizing product at a legacy media company.

We hold Slack town halls every two weeks, and in between, we’ll have editorial chats and group discussions on industry topics. Become a member of Digiday+ and join us.

Here’s what you missed from our chat with Zalatimo.

The publisher pivot to video
“The reason there is a buzz around video is because there is a pool of money in the advertising world that has to be spent. If one area goes cold, something else has to go hot. It just so happens that Facebook turned on the video spigot a couple years ago, and that’s where all social growth came from. So video is hot now. I do see it as a bubble.”

Vertical video
“I see vertical video as the future of mobile video. We have seen 15 to 25 percent higher click-to-play on vertical video. We are currently reformatting some of our videos into vertical videos. But until we get to a place where content creators think mobile first, it will continue to be suboptimal. There will need to be video made for vertical only, and that is an entirely uncomfortable approach for today’s video producers.”

The need for speed
“We are focused on speed. On desktop, we rebuilt our page using Angular JavaScript with a lot of server-side rendering and a minimalist approach to the code. It saved us four seconds on start render time. For mobile, we built our article pages as a Progressive Web App.”

Balancing user experience
“Our solution to the user experience versus more monetization is data and positive communication. The challenge is that product and sales have different incentives. So there will always be disconnects that arise. The key is to find a way to recognize their concerns and agree on a framework for discussion. I say positive communication because often times conflicting goals begin to feel personal. So I always tell my team members to stay positive and address the person, not just the problem.”

Modernizing product at a legacy media organization
“Getting people to change habits and mindsets is really, really difficult. I like to take it one baby step at a time. And generally, add something new that’s positive before you take away something old that is negative. So in our move to continuous deployment, one of our challenges is getting our stakeholders comfortable with doing more signoffs more frequently. The first step we took was to reduce the time needed for signoffs to one hour. So 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. became 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Now, asking them to add another signoff on Tuesday becomes a smaller ask.”


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