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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.
Want to start making the most of your video data intelligence? JW Player’s video analytics puts real-time information at your fingertips, allowing you to optimize your advertising and content. Schedule time to speak with a video expert.
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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.
The future of digital video isn’t on a desktop; it’s on a device
In the late ’90s, my mother recorded TV shows on VHS tapes. Now 20 years later, she finds better gifs and online videos than I do and has taken it upon herself to text them to me on a regular basis. I am, against all my expectations, caught up on viral videos thanks to a woman who used to only swear by her trusty VCR. For her—and countless viewers around the world—mobile video experiences have steadily become a fact of life. Take a look at how far we’ve come with JW Player’s latest infographic—”The Rise of Mobile Video.”
To learn more about how JW Player can support your video strategy, schedule time to speak with a video expert.
At JW Insights 2018, our Cofounder & Chief Innovation Officer Jeroen Wijering shared how video intelligence benefits publishers—and everyone else—in the digital video ecosystem
Though it’s the biggest force in media right now, video has traditionally been a bit of a black box. It wasn’t always easy to access data about things like the video’s content, where it plays, whom it’s reaching, and how it monetizes. All that is changing thanks to video intelligence. As our Cofounder/CIO Jeroen Wijering showed at this year’s JW Insights, data innovations play a crucial role in unraveling video mysteries, simplifying workflows, and boosting engagement—among many other benefits.
Two Aspects of Video Intelligence
According Jeroen, video intelligence serves a dual purpose by revealing information about:
- The video itself – While many insights were previously locked behind the player, now it’s possible to extract data frame by frame. As a publisher, you could, for instance, identify parts that feature raised audio or cheering and hone in on segments that contain faces.
By uncovering this metadata, video intelligence saves time in the editorial workflow. You can group shots together, determine where the break points are in a storyline, enrich your video summarization, classify files for your library, and much more.
- The user – Once you understand the video’s content, take it to the next level with viewer insights. By tagging identifiers and tracking users across devices, video intelligence monitors how users interact with specific scenes. You can detect drop-offs and compare how certain scenes performed against other parts of the video. Essentially, you’re able to find out what users are interested in and develop viewer engagement best practices.
Who Benefits from Video Intelligence?
A better understanding of video content and audiences benefits everyone in the ecosystem:
- Editors – Beyond the workflow enhancements mentioned above, video intelligence provides additional ways to improve efficiency, such as the ability to chop up long interviews and construct highlight reels based on specific segments.
- Developers – Video intelligence is a foundation for creating a richer, adaptive, and personalized user experience. It also makes interactive video possible (see: searchable transcripts and clickable hotspots).
- Data scientists – Video intelligence allows better access to raw data and deepens the analysis of content.
- Advertiser – Video intelligence helps to better target audiences, predict buyer journeys and churn, and earn greater revenue.
Video Intelligence at JW Player
We’re heavily invested in video intelligence in 2018 and beyond. As Jeroen mentioned, “we have rich video timeline data combined with rich user timeline data, and we package them to make data-driven products.” Among the offerings? Our JW Recommendations engine and metadata extraction platform. Stay tuned for more to come.
To learn how to grow your video business with video intelligence, schedule time to talk with a video expert.
Our annual conference explored the latest data innovations, trends, and best practices in digital video
On Wednesday, June 6, 2018, JW Player proudly held our fifth annual JW Insights conference at NYC event venue Apella. We invited a who’s who lineup of digital video industry experts and leaders to share their wisdom about harnessing the power of data (and other best practices) to engage viewers and boost revenues.
More than 300 premium publishers, broadcasters, partners, and influencers joined us for enriching discussions on industry hot topics, including video intelligence, machine learning, video player bidding, and content syndication. Here are a few highlights and takeaways from our most successful conference to date.
For the first time in JW Insights history, we took our conference to Apella, a premier waterfront events space offering a quality guest experience, including multiple areas for breakout sessions and networking over food and beverages.
It also didn’t hurt that we had some sweeping views of the riverside skyline.
Keynotes – “Video Intelligence: The Next Frontier”
Our attendees enjoyed a diverse mix of keynotes, panels, fireside chats, and developer talks on the latest trends in the video industry. The theme this year was “Growth Powered by Video Intelligence,” and the event kicked off with keynotes from our COO, Bill Day, and our Cofounder / Chief Innovation Officer, Jeroen Wijering.
According to Bill, 1 in 10 video plays on the open Web are streamed via JW Player. That footprint is built on the backs of enormous trends, from the “explosion of brand spend to digital video” to a growing urgency for speed, which has led to our development of the world’s first Buffer-Free Player.
“Speed is the bedrock of video experience success” —Bill Day, COO, JW Player
Jeroen added that “we are in the midst of another transformation—that of video intelligence.” He outlined its dual purpose: First, intelligence helps unlock video’s “black box” by extracting data around audio/speech, face imagery, and other content, which can help publishers segment specific parts of their videos and streamline workflows. Second, video intelligence allows publishers to understand how and why users engage, such as pinpointing exact areas of dropoff and which parts of the video perform the best.
Panel: “How Can Consumer and Business Confidence in Digital Data Be Restored?”
Moderator: Chris Ariens (TV/Media Editor & Director of Video at ADWEEK)
Panelists: Felix Zeng (Head of Programmatic at IBM Watson Advertising), Bill Wheaton (EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Akamai), Jason DeMarco (VP, Programmatic & Audience Solutions at A+E Networks), Kelly Anderson (VP Data Protection & Privacy at Ericsson)
In light of GDPR, panelists discussed the increased need for informed explicit consent and why reducing ambiguity in data collection is critical not only in Europe but also of imminent importance for the rest of the world. Brand safety is a two-way street for both the demand and sell sides, and rather than “hypertargeting” audiences, advertisers might do better by making ads more relevant. Blockchain holds promise but needs to evolve much more for true impact.
Fireside Chat: “Deepening Audience Engagement with Video Intelligence”
Moderator: Liz Sargent (Senior Director, Product Strategy | Customer Solutions at JW Player)
Panelist: Jan Renner (CEO, Roaring Earth)
With millions of views, nature-video website Roaring Earth shared how it was able to scale its business rapidly through smart A/B testing, curated playlists, careful analytics tracking, and a flexible approach to monetization. “We’ve found that with shorter ads, you get lower CPMs. But you also get an extended user experience. For us, we’re almost making the revenue back in additional views,” said Jan.
Fireside Chat: “Insights that Add Value: Driving Business Growth with Video Analytics”
Moderator: Dan Breyre (Senior Product Manager at JW Player)
Panelists: Paul Bannister (EVP Strategy at Cafe Media)
Cafe Media, a digital content company that provides ad support (among other services) for lifestyle blogs/websites, funnels down its data analytics from macro metrics to particular KPIs. The key, according to Paul, is to “focus on what really matters to the business.” The company, for example, prioritizes play rate over the more conventional choice of completion rate. He also discussed the different ways consumers behave at the end of a video when it is click-to-play vs. autoplay.
“User experience is everything. What the user is seeing—that will answer your questions 90% of the time” —Paul Bannister, EVP Strategy, Cafe Media
Panel: “How Can Machine Learning Save Video Publishing?”
Moderator: Kerry Flynn (Marketing Reporter, DigiDay)
Panelists: Hillary Henderson (Senior Director, Product Strategy & Management at IBM Watson), John Luther (SVP of Technology at JW Player), Jana Meron (SVP Programmatic and Data Strategy at Business Insider)
Applying the concept of artificial intelligence, machine learning is increasingly offering concrete benefits for publishers such as the ability to understand the content of their videos. At the same time, limitations—like not being able to control the size of ad creatives or how players talk with ad servers—continue to exist. Panelists agreed that machine learning will never fully replace human ingenuity but discussed how it can be used to complement and expedite human workflows.
“People are very important. Machines are not taking over the world” —Jana Meron, SVP Programmatic & Data Strategy, Business Insider
JW Player Product Roadmap
Our VP of Product, Rob Gill, discussed three pillars in JW Player’s product roadmap in 2018:
- Actionable Analytics
We believe quality is more important than quantity. Our Labs help publishers continuously innovate and experiment with what makes quality videos successful. In particular, the Content Score allows publishers to compare a video’s performance with other videos and provides insight into future improvements.
- Intelligent Workflows
Within the JW Player network, 37% of videos have no thumbnails, 76% have no description, and 98% have no captions. To help publishers better showcase and extend the life of their video content, we created our metadata extraction platform.
- Adaptive Experiences
Sixty-five percent of all JW8 plays start under 100ms. We’ve made significant developments in background loading, startup quality, and ad preloading, resulting in our announcement of JW8.4 as the world’s first Buffer-Free Player.
Panel: “Data in the Driver’s Seat at Group Nine”
Moderator: Andrew Wallenstein (Co-Editor in Chief at Variety)
Panelists: Ben Lerer (CEO at Group Nine) and Ashish Patel (Chief Insights Officer at Group Nine)
The company behind popular sites Thrillist and The Dodo shared their experience using data to help content creators optimize distribution, diagnose anomalies, and integrate feedback. Group Nine’s advice is to test everything and test out of bounds so that your video business has the structural flexibility to handle inevitable changes in platforms or consumption patterns.
JW Insights also featured discussions on building loyal audiences, engaging viewers across screens, demystifying video advertising, using Facebook to build a profitable video business, livestreaming, and growing your content library—plus an overflowing session on JW Player’s unique Video Player Bidding solution in partnership with SpotX (pictured below: Brian Rifkin, Cofounder and SVP Strategic Partnerships at JW Player, and Sean Buckley, CRO at SpotX).
The Developer Lounge
Developers heard a series of lightning tech talks in the Developer Lounge. Topics included metadata extraction, tracking transcoding quality and speed, and prototyping for player experiences.
We hope the conversations at JW Insights have sparked new ideas, learnings, and initiatives. As publishers, you have a moment to seize: Videos are getting smarter. Monetization opportunities are growing richer. A new era in video intelligence is dawning, and we invite all of you to join the movement.
Stay tuned for our JW Insights blog series, which will dive deeper into session takeaways.
Special thanks to Adam Hajnos and Ivan Klisch for the photography.
To learn more about how JW Player can support your video business, schedule time to speak with a video expert.
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