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Perspectives from this year’s IBC Show by JW Player’s Co-founder and Head of Strategic Partnerships, Brian Rifkin
Every year broadcasters and media company executives from around the globe fly to Amsterdam for the IBC Show. Personally, I have been coming to the show for the past five years and am always interested in what folks are excited, and worried, about.
This year, some of the main headlines are surrounding what folks were not talking about, just as much as what was being discussed. From the lack of conversation around VR, 360 videos, and blockchain to a focus on live streaming and cloud editing, the vibe of this year’s IBC Show (and DMEXCO for that matter) was realism over futurism.
So, without delay here are my takeaways from this year’s IBC Show.
Let’s live in the moment
One of the more striking trends from this year’s show was the lack of discussion surrounding two emerging technologies – immersive experiences (virtual reality and 360-degree video) and blockchain. Over the last two years, there has been endless chatter about the future of media being tied in some form to these technologies.
The impression I got after chatting with a variety of industry executives was that while both will be important to both the delivery and monetization of video in the future, it was still too early. They were more focused on how to capitalize on the present opportunities, creating a better experience for audiences with cross-screen distribution, and addressable video advertising (more on that below).
My takeaway: Coming out of a few years of digital media exuberance where tons of capital was being put into startups, there is now an urgency to “live in the moment” and focus on growing audiences and generating enough revenue today, so that we can look to the future tomorrow. While there is still optimism, the lack of practical applications of both blockchain and immersive media puts a damper on those longer-term conversations.
Feeding off the need to capitalize on the opportunity in front of the media companies and broadcasters was the ability to reach audiences with more targeted ads, and provide better analysis to marketers. As TV dollars continue to shift to digital, executives around the show were looking for better ways to reach audiences across a variety of screens while also staying compliant with GDPR.
Personally, I feel this was one of the more exciting topics of discussion as it combined the realistic “deal-making” discussions with the more future-facing topics of what we can do as marketing technologies become more advanced.
My takeaway: Put simply, digital video advertising is about to get a whole lot better in the near future. Right now we see anecdotal complaints of the lack of targeting and the lack of inventory. More critical to the future of the media ecosystem is the fact that digital video advertising is about a quarter of the size of linear TV ad spend. This shift to digital can only accelerate if we create tools that show increased value to brands and marketers.
Please, no more OTT apps
It’s official – we have hit peak OTT. This may not come as a total surprise with the folding of go90 earlier this year, and multiple other players beginning to shutter their OTT operations. But you would never know that by looking at this year’s IBC Show.
Everywhere you turned, there was someone who was offering to build a custom OTT app for broadcasters and media companies. The growth of these custom developer shops is a result of a market on the brink of saturation.
My takeaway: This euphoria has very similar characteristics to the mobile app development craze we saw almost a decade ago – yeah there’s an app for that. Based on what I heard at IBC, I predict a similar consolidation within the OTT marketplace. The result will be a fallout that creates clear winners and losers over the next twelve to twenty-four months.
High Expectations for Cloud Editing
Finally, it’s not all about the business of broadcasting, it’s also very much about the creativity and production that goes into creating videos. The ability to edit footage in the cloud and upload it directly into a CMS has made life astronomically easier for broadcasters, and allow for more efficient workflow during the editing process.
My takeaway: While we continue to focus on how to support media companies and broadcasters, it is incredibly important not to forget that without the creators there would be nothing to stream. We are continuously looking for ways to make their lives easier from creating Content Scores (a way to understand how your video is performing), to AI driven workflows. By finding ways to take the legwork out of creating incredible video will only help to foster a thriving digital video ecosystem around the world.
Overall, it was a great year to be at IBC and am looking forward to next year’s!
Brian Rifkin is a co-founder of JW Player and head of strategic partnerships.
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3 things video publishers can learn from Group Nine Media at JW Insights
Home to content brands like Thrillist and NowThis, Group Nine Media has established itself as one of the world’s most successful video publishers. Each month, the digital media holding company receives about five billion views across its portfolio of premium brands, which also includes The Dodo and Seeker.
At JW Insights, Variety co-Editor-in-Chief Andrew Wallenstein joined Group Nine Media CEO Ben Lerer and Chief Insights Officer Ashish Patel for a discussion of the role data has played in the firm’s growth. Here are three things we learned.
1) Publishers can learn as much from failure as they can from success.
While many publishers typically look to replicate their most successful content, Group Nine Media spends more time analyzing why unsuccessful content didn’t work.
By looking at dropoffs during its most poorly viewed videos one month, Group Nine discovered that mobile viewers were being turned off by the way certain text was formatted on the page. When it tested videos with the text reformatted, it quickly saw better results.
“We simply believe that virality is too variable to be a replicable strategy, so a lot of the focus of our learnings is more so on the bottom of our [content] stack, on what didn’t work as opposed to what worked.” Patel said.
2) Group Nine is working to generate insights for videos before they’re even published.
Through its Group Nine Insights Analysts program, Group Nine Media is building technology designed to automate the data-based recommendations it gives content creators.
Already, the firm’s technology uses computer vision to automatically create metadata that shows what’s happening onscreen at any point in one of its videos. By comparing the creative elements of a video against the performance of past videos with similar elements, Group Nine is now able to predict its retention curve — a graph that shows where viewers stop watching a given video — within a 5-10 percent margin.
Ultimately, it hopes to use its technology to build an automated process that gives content creators recommendations for optimizing a video before it’s published. “We think that this is the way that we can start to scale our process and allow ourselves to continuously pace against the market,” Patel said.
3) In the era of big data, human creativity is still essential.
As sophisticated as its data operation is, Group Nine still relies a great deal on the instincts of its creators.
“We want to use the data to position the stories that content creators want to tell better, as opposed to telling them what to say,” Patel said.
Lerer added that publishers who allow data to hold too much sway over their creatives can very quickly find themselves turning into a “content farm,” noting that many publishers who tailored their content to the Facebook algorithm lost reach when the algorithm changed.
“They’re doing the data part, but the data part in absence of real serious context, real editorial credibility, and real great storytelling is just — there’s nothing there,” Lerer said. “Generally speaking these [algorithm changes] end up being positive moves for us, not negative ones, because they separate the wheat from the chaff and they allow the mixture that we have to win out ultimately.”
To watch the full session:
For more from the JW Insights blog series, click here.
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At JW Insights, experts discuss machine learning’s impact on the future of digital media
Rooted in the idea that machines can be as smart as humans, machine learning applies the concept of artificial intelligence to learn from data and autonomously improve performance based on that information. At JW Insights 2018, industry experts, including JW Player’s SVP of Technology, John Luther, shared their thoughts on what machine learning can—and can’t—do in our rapidly evolving digital age. Here are three takeaways.
Machine learning improves editorial processes and monetization opportunities.
Without a doubt, companies are increasingly seeing concrete benefits from machine learning. Through the power of data, publishers can understand the content and performance of videos, where content should be distributed, and why some content does better than others.
Workflows have become more efficient too. “We don’t waste our time on tagging. We can focus on what’s interesting in producing content,” said Jana Meron, SVP Programmatic & Data Strategy at Business Insider.
Hillary Henderson, Senior Director of Product Management and Strategy at IBM Watson Media, added that intelligence-powered recommendations engines aren’t just important for engagement but also for monetization. “If you can better match content to the next video and achieve a double or triple lift in views, that’s important for advertisers to see,” she said.
Machine learning is a work-in-progress.
The apparent benefits of machine learning have sparked an even greater opportunity for growth. Machine learning is consistently evolving. “Everybody’s talking about it,” said Hillary. “But machine learning is just a tool; it’s as good as the data you put into it.”
And these data points are far from static. “People’s interests change. In terms of recommendations engines, it’s not just, ‘you’ll like this’ or ‘you’ll always choose this.’ The learning that machines have to do is much more of a process,” said John.
Calm down, machines aren’t going to rule the world.
While machine learning has driven unprecedented innovation, panelists reached the consensus that it will never fully replace human ingenuity. “There’s this belief that data can solve anything. There still has to be a human element to it,” said John. Jana agreed, saying that, “People are very important. Machines are not taking over the world.”
For more posts from our JW Insights blog series, click here.
To learn about how JW Player can support your video business, schedule time to speak with a video expert.
Paul Bannister of CafeMedia shares tips on setting up data analytics for video success
When it comes to using data to grow your video business, the numbers don’t lie. Getting to the truth, though, requires an excellent grasp of video analytics. As Paul Bannister, EVP of digital media company CafeMedia, discussed at this year’s JW Insights, knowing which data points are important and how to use them strategically is an iterative process that takes both intuition and practice. Here’s some advice he shared with us.
Be clear about what you’re measuring
As you set up your analytics, make sure to communicate why you’re making the choices you make with other stakeholders. “You have to connect the dots,” said Paul. “Why this number and not that number in measuring engagement?” By being clear about what you’re measuring, you can funnel down from macro metrics to specific KPIs.
Focus on the metrics that matter to your business
Dig deep into those metrics that actually impact or drive your business. CafeMedia, for example, prioritizes play rate over the more conventional choice of completion rate as it develops an intent-to-watch experience for its viewers. “Completion rate is tracked, but it’s not the main measure. For us, play rate is more important,” said Paul. Once you’ve drilled into a particular metric, repeat the process again until you find the one(s) that tell the most relevant story.
Sit in the viewer’s seat
If your data is revealing something unexpected or askew about your video performance, get back to basics and assess everything from the viewer’s perspective. “Go look at the video. Is the page working? User experience is everything. What the user is seeing—that will answer your question 90% of the time,” said Paul.
Understand the differences in measuring autoplay vs. click-to-play videos
By definition, autoplay videos don’t have a play rate. You will get more views, but the user experience tends to be more passive and engagement can be lower.
Click-to-play videos tend to produce a better user experience. But because viewers intended to watch a specific video, when they’re done, they may not continue onto another video, making it potentially harder to measure sustained engagement.
Extending interest means using a combination of tactics, including implementing a recommendations engine or building intriguing hooks within editorial content. (For example, a “How to Make Jambalaya” video features “roux” in the recipe. The next video in a playlist is “What Is Roux?”)
Click here to read more posts from our JW Insights blog series.
To learn more about using data analytics to grow your video business, schedule time to speak with a video expert.
What we learned about digital video at JW Player’s 5th annual conference
At JW Insights 2018, we explored everything from video intelligence and machine learning to monetization strategies and actionable analytics. It was a very full day of discussions with 300+ industry registrants, and we’ve put together 12 key takeaways from some of the best panels, keynotes, and fireside chats. Take a look below.
Takeaways from JW Insights
1. Test everything and test outside the normal boundaries, so your video business is flexible and ready for inevitable change.
2. One of the major issues in the video ad industry is VAST/VPAID errors, but until VAST 4.0 is widely adopted, we’re stuck with them.
3. Every media brand and video provider should be invested in OTT.
4. Speed is the bedrock of video experience success
5. In the age of GDPR, informed explicit consent is critical.
6. Brand safety and trust in the ad ecosystem are a two-way street for buyers and sellers.
7. Blockchain holds promise but needs to evolve much more for true impact.
8. Data can help content creators optimize distribution, diagnose anomalies, and integrate feedback.
9. Don’t solely rely on YouTube and Facebook to gain viewers — take control of your owned and operated site.
10. Study your video’s performance via metrics, funnel down to what really matters to your business, and incrementally improve.
11. Machine learning will never fully replace human ingenuity but can expedite workflows.
12. Shorter ads might lower CPMs but also grow revenue with additional views.
Overheard at JW Player
- “Killer presentation by Rob Gill. The @Jwplayer 8.4 beta looks like a game changer for load times. great job. #jwinsights #contentlogistics”
- “If you look at our platform, 65% of the deals being transacted are direct and curated.”
- “Killer session learning about applying data signals within digital video at #jwinsights”
- “A great day at JW Insights 2018! An excellent line-up of speakers and moderators. As the media industry continues to transcend into the world of OTT & TVE, we will all benefit from these insights. Already looking forward to next year!”
- “80% of the internet in 2020 will be video and 10% of all online videos are through JW.”
- “Video is the future. It was great to hear from content creators, brands, and ad tech folks alike about the importance of video intel and analytics.”
Check out our JW Insights 2018 blog series here, including:
To learn more about how JW Player can support your video business, schedule time to speak with one of our video experts.