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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

6 Big trends from the NewFronts (hint: may include video)

May 19, 2016 | By Mark Glaser, Founder and Publisher – MediaShift @mediatwit

The NewFronts started out as a sideshow (even a joke to some) compared to the TV Upfronts. But it’s no longer in the shadows, as everyone from the New York Times, Bloomberg, CNN and BuzzFeed stole the spotlight at this year’s NewFronts in New York. This series of events provides a forum for digital to court advertisers in an increasingly competitive market.

With two-thirds of U.S. agency and marketing professionals reporting increased investments toward desktop and mobile video, video — whether original series, virtual reality or live-streaming — naturally took center stage at this year’s event. Alongside new metrics for measuring advertising also came reflections about what exactly constitutes an advertisement now, as well as more of a natural acceptance, articulated some time ago, that the Internet indeed is becoming the new television.

Here’s a rundown of the most important trends from this year’s showcase, and some caveats:

1. Virtual Reality is Everywhere
Following the 360-degree viewing capabilities the name implies, virtual reality is seemingly all around us now as more media outlets jump into the fray. As Adage reported, publishers “are bringing virtual reality to almost every pitch.” Some indicators: National Geographic, AOL and Refinery29 are all launching VR studios. Conde Nast too is producing a VR series. The Economist revealed plans for a second year producing virtual reality documentaries. Time Inc. also announced a virtual reality app will be included around its Life brand, which will encompass publications such as Time, People, EW and Sports Illustrated. In addition, Hulu and Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, announced a partnership to curate virtual reality concert experiences to be available on Hulu’s VR app. The New York Times, meanwhile, announced its continued push toward VR on both the advertising and the editorial front.

Caveat: While virtual reality might be in the air, it might not have a big enough installed base or active user base yet.

2. Original Video Series Are Hot
Alongside publishers bringing VR to almost every pitch was their announcements of original video series. Playboy, the New York Times, and The Economist announced new original video programming. Yahoo announced it was “doubling down” on its video focus and constraining it to four verticals — news, sports, finance and lifestyle. WebMD also announced it was bulking up on its lifestyle programming, and Vice unveiled plans to create up to 20 TV channels around the world. Furthermore, among other video-based initiatives, Vox revealed it’s creating a standalone studio to create content for Snapchat, as Poynter’s Benjamin Mullin reported.

Caveat: There are so many original video series that no one has time to watch them all.

3. Technology & Metrics Matter
Major endeavors in the world of video also means that new metrics must emerge to keep up with industry demands. Mashable, for example, announced two additions to its Velocity technology suite. “Joining the Velocity Dashboard, which uses natural language processing to mine for topics about to go viral, is Velocity CMS, which is used to create competitive stories on those topics, and Velocity Kg, which will optimize content for multi-platform sharing,” as Troy Dreier of StreamingMedia wrote. Hulu is building interactive ads specifically for connected TVs, and is “working with Nielsen to enable the measurement of ads through over-the-top video delivery devices such as Roku, PlayStation, Xbox and Apple TV,”  AdAge’s Jeanine Poggi’s reported. Yahoo also announced expanded video metrics through a partnership with the advertising analytics platform Moat to measure viewability and and metrics beyond viewability. YouTube, meanwhile, announced “Breakout Videos” through its Google Preferred product, to help find the next viral hit. It’ll allow brands to automatically buy ads on these soon-to-be trending videos.

Caveat: Technology is cool, but often it’s the tech companies who can build better technology than publishers.

4. Live-streaming Becoming Routine
It goes without saying that live-streaming is becoming bigger than ever. Facebook, for example, revealed it will create a live-streamed morning show, and is partnering with Activision Blizzard, a videogame giant, to offer live e-Sports coverage on the platform. Among Time’s new video offerings is a streaming video network geared toward cord-cutters. YouTube and Hulu are also both launching live TV offerings.

Caveat: Same as VR: There might be more live-streaming show ideas than people who want to watch all those live streams.

5. Internet is the New TV
We’ve been hearing this for some time, but it seems that the Internet is truly becoming modern-day television. National Geographic, long a fixture on TV, is now putting its efforts toward Instagram and other digital platforms. While Vox is backing a new television show, tellingly, more hype surrounds its pivot toward content creation on Snapchat Discover. Ellen DeGeneres has long been known for her television talk show, and now she’s starting her own digital network. Telenovelas are now coming to the digital world — specifically targeting Millennials — thanks to a joint effort by Telemundo and BuzzFeed. The digital news company Newsy is also trying to attract Millennial eyes with online programming and advertising meant for a generation not interested in broadcast.

Caveat: While Millennials make up a large segment of cord-cutters and “cord-nevers,” pay TV continues to rebound, and Comcast even added subscribers in the last quarter.

6. Dizzying Numbers
None of the investment toward video and its related endeavors make sense unless companies have the data and metrics to back up their ambitions. BuzzFeed reported it now gets more than 7 billion content views a month (compared to 2.8 billion monthly views a year ago). And only a quarter of BuzzFeed content is consumed on its actual website, underscoring the importance of its social and other platform strategies. The entertainment and trend publisher PopSugar, meanwhile, reported that its video views on Facebook have jumped 452 percent since it first debuted its Facebook show, PopSugar Rush, a year ago. Hulu revealed that 70 percent of its viewing happens in a living room environment, reinforcing the trend of digital being the new TV. And Bloomberg Media also announced it has doubled its video streams since last year, as well as gained a 25 percent increase in mobile users. The company now attracts 20 million video views a month.

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, had its own impressive statistics: “The U.K.-based publisher is now posting 650 videos a day, which has resulted in a 516 percent jump in views in the past year. It’s getting 383 million monthly video views, 12 million video views per day, and claims an 80 percent completion and viewability rate,” Adweek’s Christopher Heine wrote.

Caveat: Some metrics are more valuable than others. Video views on Facebook have been maligned as too generous, counting after only 3 seconds. And huge numbers of eyeballs don’t always equate to huge income.

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