Publishers’ candid thoughts on video: ‘Facebook is taking a cut of what used to be ours’

Publishers are facing a raft of issues when it comes to video, from figuring out how to make money off Facebook, to finding the right way to integrate advertising, to teaching clients that not everything fits neatly into a spreadsheet.

For the past two days, over 100 top publishers have gathered in New Orleans at the Digiday Video Anywhere Summit. They participated in town halls and working groups, which we held under the Chatham House rule: on the record, but without attribution. Here’s some choice sound bites from those discussions.

Platform issues
“We’re developing a Facebook audience, but we’re not monetizing it in any meaningful way. We’re not where we want to be. I’m wondering what works.”

“Facebook is not made for third parties to monetize. You can do some of that, but an open source video platform with ads is always going to monetize better than a platform that exists to monetize itself first.”

“Facebook is taking what a cut of what used to be ours. Zuckerberg is saying thanks for the content and here are the likes. But that is where the audience is, and if we don’t get in front of that and embrace it, we’re going to be left behind. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it’s going to happen.”

“The monetization on Facebook is terrible for us. The question for us is how far do we play. Do we just treat it as a marketing vehicle?”

“I want to scare [ad clients]. If you only run ads through platforms, there are always going to be things that get through that your ads will sit next to. So I’m going to bring that up as much as I can.”

“I would not spend a ton of money on Snapchat. Facebook and Instagram are where the business is. It doesn’t mean I’m ignoring Snapchat. But there are only so many resources I can use for all these platforms. And Snapchat doesn’t care about anyone but themselves. They’re at the extreme end of the spectrum, while YouTube, on the other end, cares about publishers.”

“It’s really hard to tell what the sweet spot is. What is it to keep the experience going so you don’t alienate the audience. What I’m hearing is the audience bails when the mid-roll hits.”

Monetization issues
“Me and a few colleagues have a running joke: You can’t make money in online video. If you think you are, you’re fooling yourself because you’ve diluted your operational costs, your tech costs by using third-party platforms. You’re helping them before you’re doing anything for yourself.”

“We struggle with syndication. The problem is people can get our content for free on YouTube and Facebook, so why would they want to pay?”

“The clients want a lot of control. It starts becoming like a commercial. It’s tough. You need to be able to tell the story in a way that’s genuine to your brand and audience, but you have to satisfy the person who writes the check.”

“As I look at my company and how we can scale revenue, there has to be some sort of paid content play. We have to find something that [our audience] is willing to pay for. But it is a challenge. Do we get our own ? How do we experiment with windowing? How do we monetize that? We’re still a little at a loss.”

“We don’t want churn, so you gotta strike value with the customer. Two years ago, everyone was talking about [subscription video on demand] products. Some of the lessons we learned when we jumped in is that if you’re a media company, don’t try to be a tech company. We learned that the hard way with our SVOD product.”

“How do we translate a U.S. format into a foreign market that we are not going to produce original content for? How do we package that aesthetic? Vice does a great job of selling the Vice aesthetic wherever they go. We are trying to figure out how we can do that.”

“[When it comes to licensing], what we haven’t figured out is how to nail the pricing. Do we do a percentage of revenue? A fixed cost? Or do we waive it because it’s a huge partner for us?”

Measurement issues
“For as much progress as we have made, we still have to ask fundamental questions like: ‘What is a view? And how do you value it?’ It can take me 10 million views on Facebook to make the same amount of money as I do on YouTube.”

“They live in this world where they want your audience, but they want brand lift and research and it to show conversion and ROI — and by the way, pricing has to live within their media plan. The expectations are tough.”

“You have to live and die by metrics. The biggest problem is they don’t know their KPI.”

“Platforms are being chained into using Moat. Facebook has an arbitrary view metric. YouTube has an arbitrary view metric. Where is the IAB in this conversation? Who is going to stand up and represent publishers in this conversation?”

“It’s hard for us to talk about anything in measurement because everything is viewability, viewability, viewability. Advertisers want viewability because they decided that’s the KPI. But viewability is a bad proxy for what you’re trying to get to, which is attention.”

“The buy side is looking for simple absolutes. The more you target toward viewability, you end up with terrible products. Remember when a 300-pixel-wide video player was a no-go for buyers? But now because of viewability, no one gives a shit.”

“Everyone is using Moat. But I’m not sure Moat is a third party anymore after the Oracle acquisition. So now, we’re going to let Oracle decide who’s going to be the independent auditor?”

Contributing: Brian Morrissey, Sahil Patel

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