Until somewhat recently, most consumers associated online video with clips of dogs on skateboards and episodes of TV shows they forgot to DVR. Today, however, viewers are accessing everything from high-quality first-run series to live coverage of news events. And they’re doing it not just from laptops and desktops, but via their smartphones, tablets and connected TVs. The latest comScore numbers are evidence of just how massive this growth has been: 38.7 billion video views from 182 million Internet users in December 2012.
It’s hard to say which came first – the widespread increase in consumer adoption or the massive surge in the quality and type of video content available. Whatever the cause and effect, the end result is lots of content being viewed in new and different ways. Below are three categories of emerging content that I find most exciting, along with insights for brands seeking to leverage video for marketing purposes, and content producers trying to create an audience by experimenting with these forms.
Branded video content falls within the wider category of content marketing and is akin to “product placement 2.0.” When done well, it’s more about the content than the brand itself. The videos can take a range of forms – from the instructional to the entertaining. For a strong example of the latter, look no further than BMW’s recentweb series “Alter Egos,” which features a bevy of celebrities but zero cars. With this series, BMW targets a niche, upscale audience: in other words, exactly the kind of people who are in the market for a luxury vehicle.
Advertisers who want to create branded content should be aware that this medium requires an inherent balancing act between their needs and the needs of the viewer. Videos featuring heavy-handed branding or overt company plugs will quickly turn off consumers, while videos that are overly focused on driving sharing or viral buzz can have their brand message eclipsed by the video’s entertainment value. Above all else, when it comes to this kind of content, quality is everything. The production value has to be top-notch, and proper placement is critical.
Original programming is a new but quickly growing segment of online video that includes entertainment content created specifically for an online audience. Many of the medium’s early successes have been driven by content that’s tied to traditional TV programming. The TV show The Walking Dead, for example, boasts 16 million weekly viewers – a massive audience that is likely to engage online when meaningful content is available. AMC seized on this opportunity by producing a series of short-form bonus videos, like cast interviews and behind-the-scenes stories, and making them available online.
For content without a built-in audience, content creators need to think strategically in order to attract viewers. Some of the most established names in traditional media have struck distribution partnerships with new media outlets for this purpose. Take for example, YouTube’s much-discussed premium channels, which feature content from the likes of print publishers like Hearst, Rodale, The Wall Street Journal, Motor Trend and Vice. Even more recently, traditional production houses have turned to Netflix as a distribution platform for shows like House of Cards and Arrested Development.
The success of these two shows will have major implications for the future of original Web programming, not to mention the cable industry. Aggregating an audience around online-only content is challenging, and it requires a behavior shift on the part of consumers. Once this model gains traction, and a major player like Nielsen begins tracking viewership stats for this type of content, I think we’ll start to see advertisers invest some significant dollars. For now, brand sponsorship of a series seems to be the safest bet for both parties.
Live Streaming Content
Once the sole domain of the TV industry, live programming is becoming more commonplace online thanks to technology players like Livestream. Political events, concerts, church sermons and academic lectures are just some of the kinds of content that have popped up as streaming events in recent months.
With live and streaming content, consumers are the real winners – they gain access to a wide range of programming as well as the convenience of being able to watch while on the go. Advertisers, meanwhile, gain access to very niche and often geographically well-defined audiences, making this kind of content an attractive option for those seeking to target particular demographics or interest groups.
Live video’s potential to drive social engagement has significant implications for both brands and content creators. Savvy content producers like HuffPost Live are already using social media to help drive their strategy by using social buzz and real-time viewer feedback to determine which topics to cover. On the advertising front, live content also lends itself to multi-channel marketing campaigns that allow for social sharing and commentary, thereby driving increased exposure for the brand.
Conclusion: Don’t Get Left Behind
As these and other types of content continue to emerge, consumers’ expectations will continue to shift and heighten. The onus will continue to be on the industry to do two things: 1) experiment with different types of content and 2) pay close attention to consumer habits and feedback. The opportunities for innovation from all parties – brands, content creators, marketers – are plentiful, and I expect to see more exciting changes in the years to come.
Read this article by Forbes.