NDA publishing roundtable: part two, the role of video

The roundtable, chaired by New Digital Age Editor and Bluestripe Partner Justin Pearse, included contributions from Jason Creane, Commercial Director, Permutive; Chetan Damani, MD, TVGuide.co.uk; Jane Wolfson, Hearst UK, Chief Commercial Officer; Emily Brewer, Head of Publishing, Teads; Piers North, Group Digital Director, Reach PLC, Louise Crosby, Digital Sales Director, News UK; Chloe Grutchfield, Co-Founder, Redbud Media.

What if your USP as a publisher was to get readers in and out of your content as fast as possible? It’s a novel approach, but one that seems to be working for TVGuide.co.uk.

The niche publisher has seen its audience base grow by concentrating on offering readers a speedy service but admits that advertisers are less convinced that less is more.

MD Chetan Damani explains: “The better we are, the quicker we are, the more likely readers will return.” He told the roundtable that some of the TV listing site’s readers come back some six or seven thousand times a month. Streamlining the experience has led to usage going up.

Damani said: “A lot of people come to our sites and our goal is to get them out as quickly as possible.” Previously a typical visit was around two minutes in durations; the aim is to get that down to under a minute.

He also explained the importance of video as a commercial and editorial tool for the site but bemoaned the desire of advertisers for longer-form content instead of the one or two-second sponsored placements that its users prefer. “It’s hard to convince advertisers that a two second view is good enough,” he added.

Video overall is becoming more integral to publishers today as News UK demonstrates. It set up an in-house production team “several years ago”, says digital sales director Louise Crosby, and is now seeing the dividends.  “Bespoke content has been really successful for us,” she added, citing The Sunday Times’ Style Play as an example, a video-only channel playing outside of the paywall. At The Sun, much commercial growth in video has been around brand content, such as its Dream Team property.

Hearst has also invested in both its editorial and commercial editorial teams with a view to increase its video views.  Already this year views are up around 40% on 2018, and Jane Wolfson, Hearst UK Chief Commercial Officer, said: “It’s hugely important – but then you have to monetise it.”

Piers North, Group Digital director of Reach, warns against hyperbole. “Video is a really complex part of what we do. It’s super expensive for publishers to make but doesn’t bring huge revenues,” he said. “It is a huge challenge but there is clearly an advertiser demand for audio-visual content.”

Both North and Wolfson underline the importance of partners such as Teads, which reaches 1.1bn people every month. North admitted that without Teads’ Outstream model, an ad unit that autoplays in a large format player, “the world would be more complicated”. 

Read part one here.

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