There was a time when the NewFronts were considered a side show to the Upfronts, almost a joke. What’s the point of buying digital ads “ahead of time” when there is infinite inventory online and no real schedule?
But things have shifted considerably in the past few years. The NewFronts, now in their fourth year, were a serious blow-out party, with 33 presenters – up more than 50 percent since last year – threatening to outshine the Upfronts. And what has been the catalyst? Video, of course. Because now everyone from Yahoo to WSJ to Vox has their own video shows. So that makes the NewFronts much more like Upfronts, with seasons for shows – even if those shows can be binged instantly, in some cases.
And the numbers can back them up. Numbers always help. For instance, more than 68 percent of marketers and agency executives expect their digital video ad budgets to increase in the next year. And guess where that money is coming from? That’s right, from the Upfronts, with money moving away from traditional cable and broadcast television. But IAB honcho Randall Rothenberg argues that it’s our understanding of and relationship with television that’s changing — not “television” itself.
“The princeling that’s replacing television … is television,” he wrote in a piece for Adweek.
“Linear TV” and “Internet TV” may be two sides of the same coin, but a definite theme coming out of this year’s NewFronts is that digital is a “better ad buy” than ordinary television, especially among the coveted millennial audience. Research firm eMarketer expects digital video-ad spending to grow by 30 percent and hit $7.8 billion in 2015.
Original Shows and Tech
So just like at the Upfronts, many NewFronts presenters announced new series – a whole lot of them. Time Inc., for example, announced four new streaming-video series. And Yahoo announced 18 new series, in part to help attract interest to its digital magazines, which have lots of native advertising. Conde Nast also announced plans to release more than 2,500 new original videos in the coming year. Even Vox Media announced several new digital video series, as well as a few renewals for current popular ones.
It seems the key to monetizing digital video is to first have enough of it before you can really reap the benefits. But Vox went further, licensing its content management system — already well known in media circles — for outside use. That’s a huge incentive for an agency like DigitasLBi, which announced both a production partnership with Vice and a deal with Vox that will allow it first dibs on Vox’s native ad platform, Chorus for Advertisers.
Native Ad Ideas
But it’s not enough to just to sell shows. Many publishers also pushed their native ad tech solutions. Yahoo talked about its native-video ad program that can help it “integrate sponsored-video segments into its homepage, digital magazine and apps.” Yahoo also announced video-app install ads through which marketers and developers can promote apps — both on Yahoo and thousands of other apps.
Meanwhile, BuzzFeed announced its new technology, Pound, aimed at demystifying social sharing habits and how content goes viral. As BuzzFeed wrote in a blog post about Pound, “traditional web analytics are fundamentally unable to capture what actually happens on the social web today.” Not only would Pound help BuzzFeed better figure out stories you’d share with your friends and families, and the stories they’d be most likely to share, but it’s also a chance to see how the data collected from Pound could help produce more shareable sponsored content.
And maybe that’s the approach that will really set apart the NewFront digital folk from the Upfronts – offering not just some original web shows, but also the technology to help advertisers reach and engage those audiences. TV isn’t dead by any means, but the digital upstarts are making serious inroads.