How Insider is selling its newfound Facebook video expertise to brands

That didn’t take long. Since Facebook in April opened up a path for publishers to post videos with brand sponsors, Business Insider spinoff Insider has posted about 25 social video ads for brands including Diet Coke and Johnston and Murphy.

Insider, which started as a Facebook-based media property, is capitalizing on what it’s learned about social video and its dominance on the platform. Insider generates more than 1.3 billion video views a month across all platforms, per the publisher, finding viral fame with fast-paced videos about rainbow-colored bagels and humane spider catchers, and is eager to profit from that.

“The real goal is almost like creating a haiku rather than a free-verse poem, creating a tight story in a short amount of time. It sounds easy, but it’s exceptionally difficult,” said Peter Spande, chief revenue officer at Business Insider.

Insider’s approach to paid social videos is similar to its editorial team’s. It leans on creative assets that are already filmed, quickly editing and posting them, which cuts down on production costs. With Diet Coke, for instance, Insider took footage from the soda maker’s bottling plant to create a quick-hit piece.

Insider relies on Business Insider’s 20-person content studio to produce the video clips. Insider’s 15-person video team on the editorial side does not work on sponsored content. Insider wouldn’t say how much it charges for videos or its revenue goals this year. The cost of a campaign depends on factors such as how much production Insider has to do. Advertisers can get a better rate when they come with assets of their own, for instance.

“We take assets made for other use cases and, through the edit process, make those more attractive for social environments. This means we’re not putting huge production budgets behind it, and it can be a relatively short turnaround time,” Spande said. “And the videos see much higher shares and engagement with social optimization.”

Many publishers see branded content as the answer to advertising online, where ad blockers are tuning out other forms of marketing, but publishers are still trying to figure out how to monetize Facebook videos. Facebook has a formal branded-content program, Anthology, where publishers work with brands to create sponsored videos to run on the social network. Many publishers said that production budgets for the videos were so high that it was tough to make it work economically.

Facebook tweaked Anthology so it would demand less of an investment from partners, and opened the platform to the sorts of social video that Insider is promoting. In April, Facebook updated its branded-content policies.

“There are brands who understand that people are sick and tired of interruptive advertising that doesn’t bring any value, and ad blocking is a manifestation of that,” said Erick Brownstein, chief strategy officer at Shareability, a video content agency.

Publishers think their understanding of how to target audiences and their large followings on Facebook make them valuable to brands.

Facebook video plays automatically and is muted by default, though, which advertisers consider inferior. Also, Facebook’s rule that a view counts at three seconds can be unconvincing.

Insider is testing having advertisers pay for longer view times, Spande said, recognizing advertisers want people to get halfway through and ideally complete the videos. One approach is to charge for guaranteed views and engagement. If the videos don’t reach the benchmarks, then Insider will apply it to discounts on the next video or make other amends.

“We have targets we’re trying to hit for guaranteed views and engagement, and we’re still working on that, trying a bunch of formulas. And guaranteed means we want to give advertisers making an investment in these kinds of programs assurances,” Spande said.

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