Music and entertainment duo Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter are on an ambitious mission to reach 300 million video views each month.
The sister publications have collectively crossed the 210 million monthly mark, thanks to a growth initiative dubbed “Project 300,” which centers on video of all varieties, said John Amato, president of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group.
“We want to be in all the places as our audience, so 60% of our video is distributed and 40% is owned and operated,” Amato said. “We like to think of ourselves as a mobile content network because so much of what we do off our owned-and-operated [properties] now is viewed in-feed on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or YouTube.”
Like many publishers, Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter are knees deep in distributing the right ratio of branded to editorial video.
To do so, it uses Iris.tv and other tools to determine which digital video assets work best alongside organic versus paid content or which video creative is catching on, which helps Billboard create better original content.
Amato and Michael Palmer, GM of video for Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter, spoke with AdExchanger about the publishers’ video pursuits in a platform world.
AdExchanger: What’s your top priority in video right now?
JOHN AMATO: We’re trying to get really good at building content specifically for different distribution partners. The way we make content for Snapchat is very different than content we make for Instagram or Facebook, which is very different than what we make for our owned-and-operated properties.
That said, we don’t want to get overly reliant on any third party because it is difficult when you get as big as Billboard in music to find people who haven’t already heard of you. But generally, the more we can go broad with distribution and start to win the hearts and minds of folks who don’t know exactly what we offer, I think the better off we serve ourselves.
How does your audience strategy impact your monetization?
Our first goal is ensuring we’re engaging the right audiences. Monetization is our second goal. And we obviously are subject to the same inventory [challenges] as the rest of the market. We are selling a large portion, if not all of our pre-roll, directly and at good rates, but in a situation where it’s tough for us to keep up with the demand, we need to ensure we create engaging, in-view video in the right places in a way that isn’t turning our audiences off.
You have to understand your own product. If you look at our site, we try not to make the mistakes we see around the web where you see landing pages that immediately convert into interstitial video.
Are you emphasizing short or long-form video?
We set our sights on four types of video: a news video series, which are daily concepts where we produce 30-second to two-minute news segments, two-to-five times a day for the music and entertainment industry. We have dozens of folks who work on this initiative with two studios in New York and two studios in LA.
Our branded content studio, Adapt Studios, works on [the second type of video] – branded content [created] in our voice and distributed to platforms like social.
The third video type are series, where it’s more episodic and themed. Then the fourth type is tentpole production. We might go to Lollapalooza and do a video lounge where we interview [an artist], push that to Billboard.com or if it’s Sundance, to TheHollywoodReporter.com. It could be sponsored, and if it’s not sponsored, it’s very topical and tries to capture the zeitgeist of the event.
How do you know which type of video to serve?
MIKE PALMER: We try to deliver the most contextually relevant video, which might mean hand selecting video that fits a certain article. Curation is important, but it’s also hard to do it all homegrown, so it’s something you definitely want to partner up on.
If we already capture a viewer that came from search or through social video to our article, how do we … [take] advantage of the second view? Iris.tv has helped us a ton here. Once you turn it on, you start to see what affects view-through and what gets readers to that second or third view [without abandoning], which gives us a lot of insight into what kind of content people like to watch and what content we should be making.
What kinds of video KPIs are advertisers asking for?
AMATO: Engagement, video completion, number of seconds per view, as well as amount of time in-view, are all KPIs we track very closely. We don’t believe there are good industry standards set in place yet to define all that yet, so we sort of track everything.
What’s the future for publishers in a platform environment, and did the Google/YouTube brand safety snafu throw a wrench in it?
If you look at history as a predictor, you’ve got to liken it to premium publishing for banner media. As it turned out, you need premium publishers, and you need proximity to premium content for any advertiser to feel comfortable. And that doesn’t mean there aren’t places for some of that really low-dollar CPM stuff to go. There’ll be a market for that and on television, that was called direct response.
The media world has gotten really good at eating the entire cow. The higher CPMs will always gravitate toward proximities to premium publishers. It’s something that’s very hard to add tech around, and it’s something publishers have held tight, too. Fake news … brand safety – these are problems that can’t be solved by machines, and it’s why the humans in the ad buying stacks exist in the first place.
Interview edited for clarity and length.