“The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.
Today's column is written by James Curran, co-founder and chief product officer at STAQ.
Facebook recently announced a change in its video-sharing metrics that favors the original creator over distributors or “reshare” pages.
Facebook is finally working to help media companies understand their own content better, but its woes with video are hardly over. Facebook's list of metrics, especially for media companies, includes a "retention graph" and detailed breakdowns of autoplay, click-to-play and engagement by time interval. Any publisher that wants to go down a rabbit hole of Facebook video metrics should be able to, even though no other partner, including Google or Snapchat, offers the same metrics.
What’s more, publishers are hamstrung when they try to compare the value of their video distribution partners with the revenue on their own site, let alone get a full picture of their viewers.
Unlike display advertising, video inventory is scarce and often commands much higher attention from viewers. While publishers often end up on the receiving end of metrics and performance standards in display, with video, publishers with quality content have a bit more leverage. They must rally behind a few common practices to move the market in the right direction.
Sold Out Means Hold Out
Many premium media companies face a monthly scenario that sounds like a dream come true: Their video inventory is completely sold out. But in fact, the sell-out situation leads to a completely new series of delivery issues.
Rather than the display situation where impressions are nearly disposable, video impressions are precious, with a much higher CPM. If publishers over- or underdeliver a campaign, money is thrown down the drain. Today, many publishers agonize over video delivery to maximize revenue, but some of this heartache could be alleviated with new negotiations.
Rather than only negotiate on price, publishers would also do well to negotiate on standard reporting practices and IAB delivery terms and discrepancy rates, which have historically favored buyers to the tune of 10% or more.
Publishers also should require buyers and agencies to provide access to data for free and pressure middlemen and partners to do the same. Publishers should not have to pay a tax just to access their own campaign delivery data and should have the same tools as everyone else in the chain, including free access to reporting APIs.
Quality Metrics Should Mean Quality Inventory
For publishers with precious video inventory, there are several common quality metrics in the market that undermine their own value. Peter Naylor put it best at a recent event when he said that the value of Hulu is that it is always 100% viewable based on the nature of its video player, but before it allowed a viewability vendor to monitor it, buyers were skeptical. When Hulu agreed to start using viewability measurements, it actually saw a huge increase in buyer interest simply because it was more obvious that it could clear the viewability hurdle.
Unfortunately, there is demand for high-volume, low-cost video inventory. Agencies that win new clients by promising to deliver the same reach at a lower cost often pay premium TV rates and then make up the difference with cheap video. Many other publishers are stuck on the wrong end of the viewability argument: Rather than pushing 100% viewability, they are embracing minimum viewability standards, such as two seconds of play time with 50% of pixels in view, just to increase scale.
Publishers should avoid this siren song of bigger budgets attached to lower rates, which undermines their CPMs and distracts them from creating long-term value in the market. Publishers that sell inventory at a higher viewabilty standard, for example, by embracing the six-month-old Moat quality score not only enjoy higher prices to offset the smaller scale, but they will also avoid a lot of the make-good and discrepancy agony that comes with the lower margins of acceptability.
Publisher’s Content, Publisher’s Audience
Advertisers and agencies aren’t the only partners giving publishers too little data to run their business.
Facebook’s decision to give more content delivery metrics to video publishers is good, but its announcement shows how complicated it can be for publishers to understand how much they are earning from distributing content across the web. While Facebook is a huge distribution channel for many publishers, it is still not equal to Google for video, and those are just two of the many partners publishers work with.
Each one of these partners offers their own content programs and ad models with homegrown reports and metrics to accompany them. Publishers try to get to a lifetime value metric of the viewers on their own pages, but are nowhere near able to calculate that with content distributed through partners.
If Google, Facebook, Snapchat and Amazon are to become dominant video distribution channels, then publishers need a standard metric that they can compare across partners. In television, common reach and frequency metrics provide a general foundation that is the same across all partners. Digital video publishers either need more comparable metrics through their partners or a third-party standard.
With the TV sector increasingly entering digital video over the next few years, this might be the key to preserving the value of premium video content.