Grant Crowell, of ReelSEO and GC Interactive, published a whitepaper this week discussing the newspaper industry’s opportunity to tap into the increasing popularity of video consumption as a means to drive incremental site engagement and revenue streams. Full disclosure – my company, EveryZing, funded the research, however the findings, recommendations, and editorial content are all Grant’s.
Not a day goes by where we don’t read about evaporating print and classified advertising dollars, learn about significant lay-offs, or struggle to comprehend the magnitude of financial stress that the newspaper industry is under. But for all of its gloom-and-doom, the online aspect of newspaper publishing has a few things going for it:
Strong demand for consumption of the online product. While print readership continues to decline at alarming rates (30% per year, according to Piper Jaffray), online audience, pageviews, engagement, and visits are all up by more than 8% – 10% in 2008.
Forecasted local ad dollars. Online ad spending is still expected to grow in 2009. According to Borrell Associates, local online ad spending totaled $12.9B in 2008 and will grow at 8% in 2009. While this may seem like paltry growth, online local ad spending looks strong when compared to Barclay’s 2009 forecast for total US newspaper ad dollars to decline by 17% this year.
Online competitive advantage. Newspapers have been running online operations for over a decade, giving them valuable operating experience, strategic insight and “Online DNA” when it comes to competing for local advertising dollars.
I can’t overemphasize this last point enough. In my interactions with Boston.com (publisher of the Boston Globe and a New York Times company), I am always impressed with their technology and web publishing infrastructure, their trained online sales team, their understanding of audience development programs, and their grasp of customer needs, such as providing a compelling local search application. This level of web infrastructure and savvy-ness is not common with all mainstream media.
Targeting the audience for local media, and the associated ad dollars, is going to be led by three main constituents in the media sector: local newspaper publishers, local television, and local radio. Clearly a multi-platform content approach, combining local, national, and global news across text, audio, and video is required in order to maximize audience penetration and engagement metrics. Newspapers clearly have a lead in audience metrics, as they have been online for many years. However, the increasing popularity of video consumption, especially news content, could challenge the lead the newspaper publishers currently enjoy by driving visitors to site that are in the business of producing and publishing multimedia. According to eMarketer, online video consumption reaches 80% of the US online audience and 55% of active video viewers watch news clips regularly.
For newspaper sites to succeed in the online video race, they need to do two things well:
Produce and/or acquire content. Producing high quality, information rich video is not cheap. In addition to the production process, stories need to be researched, scripts need to be prepared, and journalists need to rehearse. It’s not uncommon for even the largest newspaper publishers to produce only 5 – 10, 3 minute clips per week due to the high costs associated with content creation. In order to round-out the video content offering, publishers need to pursue syndication strategies. Boston.com is an excellent example of a newspaper site that jump-started its online video efforts primarily by becoming an aggregator of local video content. This can be acquired cheaply, by subscribing to relevant YouTube channels and embedding the YouTube player on a site, albeit at the cost of advertising control. A more costly approach in the short term is to pay for syndication rights for video, an avenue which provides more advertising upside to the site. I’ve seen customers pursue both avenues to great success.
Develop a video SEO strategy. As everyone is aware, multimedia provides particular SEO challenges due to lack of metadata and flash-based media players. No one knows the ins-and-outs of SEO more than newspapers, most of which have been managing effective programs for their text content for several years. Applying the same SEO fundamentals to video content is the best way to jump-start audience development for a new media offering and newspaper publishers are in a great position to leverage internal SEO know-how that competitors are not likely to have.<
Of course, video SEO is not as simple as it sounds. Beyond embedding a media player in crawler friendly HTML, assigning well-formed URL’s, and writing descriptive titles and summaries, there are a host of other issues that need to be addressed, such as video analytics, transcript creation, topic page development, video CMS, etc.
With a well thought-out content strategy and video SEO program, It is not uncommon to see 75% – 100% year-over-year increases in stream starts for a newspaper. This is of the toe-hold that a newspaper needs in order to create to build a meaningful video offering that can be directly monetized through in-stream ads. However, the “how” of video SEO is often the missing piece of the strategy, leading a potentially valuable content offering to the online equivalent of solitary confinement.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.