Is 2016 The Year of Online Video?

Nic Newman has published his annual predictions for the year ahead in the 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report. Looking back at 2015, he describes an ‘explosion of native video’ fueled in part by Google and Twitter’s introduction of auto play functionality, and also by the use of live streaming apps as they captured some of the key eyewitness footage of the global events of last year.

Newman expands further on the theme of online video in his post for The Media Briefing this week, asking; ‘will online video be the salvation of journalism?’

‘From Paris to Syria and beyond, 2015 saw the video enabled internet rivalling television news as the most compelling and authentic destination for live news. Couple these consumption trends with a significant commercial upside around online video, it is hardly surprising that publishers are gearing up for significant moves in this area. More than two thirds of digital leaders (79%) polled for our Reuters Institute look-ahead survey said they would be investing more in online video in 2016. Key reasons cited include more consumer interest in visual content, higher advertising premiums and more native distribution opportunities within platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat’.

Whilst Newman can point to significant new investment by publishers in online video news, he still has some worries about its viability. For starters, he says ‘the numbers don’t always stack up’. With the advent of the auto playing video, how can you measure true engagement? Reuters reports suggest that most consumers still see video as an add on to text based reporting rather than a replacement, and until a workable solution to monetization through advertising is devised pre-roll adverts will remain a big turn off.

Flying in the face of all Newman’s cautioning however, comes the Reuters TV app.

The app allows users to tailor their own news report by setting the overall length of time they want to watch a compilation of news video. Using a sliding scale of between 5 and 30 minutes the app then delivers a package of headline video news reports. Having started with a monthly charge for the app they subsequently dropped the paywall. The app is now given away for free, although users can choose to pay $1.99 per month to loose the advertising. In addition, Reuters allows other publishers to integrate the Reuters TV stream into their own sites for free, the payoff being that a sign up for Reuters is included at the end of the news stream. The model appears to be working. Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen reports that Reuters have been honing their strategy over the last year and are now onto a winning formula.;

So far, Reuters’ new strategy appears to be paying off. Active users tripled between the third and fourth quarters of 2015, though Reuters wouldn’t give me an actual user number.

The Guardian’s Tara Conlan is also predicting exciting prospects for online video this year, as media organisations strive to take a share of the profits to be made in the online world. She anticipates a big push for video journalism as BBC 3 moves online and takes both its audience and its talent with it. With bigger audiences watching entertainment online, revenue increases and the amount of money available to invest in online journalism increases. As much of the new news video will be consumed on mobile platforms she predicts the change in consumption habits will necessitate a change in style and method of production;

Pippa Glucklich, co-CEO of Starcom Mediavest Group, says: “At the beginning of November, BBC journalists were briefed to emulate the likes of BuzzFeed and Vice by making more informal and friendly short videos. So snackable, fun and informative content is certainly one area where the battle lines for eyeballs will continue to be drawn in the year ahead.” How content makers, whether in broadcasting or advertising, work with the new media groups or social media apps such as Snapchat is also an area of focus for 2016. “Short-form content, and specifically short-form video, is one area that many more brands will have to move into, as it is more popular with viewers watching on mobile platforms,” reckons Glucklich. “You just have to look at the rise in popularity of short video ads on Snapchat as a place advertisers are now successfully engaging with audiences.”