As I write this, NewFront week 2018 has come to a close. The web’s biggest pub- lishers have concluded their yearly presentations for the advertising community. It’s
a week of hyperbole, where the dividing line
between business presentation and pep rally is
I’ve been covering these events for years, and
I remember the early events fondly. Back then,
publishers trotted out the biggest Hollywood
stars who would work with them, as if A-list magic alone would shake money out of advertisers.
A lot of those projects never got made, and
others never found an audience. That’s why the
strategy shifted to using online celebrities and
focusing on useful content rather than entertainment. That’s pretty much where we still are.
Advertisers love the shift, since they want their
name on useful videos.
While publishers have gotten a better handle
on content, they still fail on distribution. Even
the biggest publishers have to admit they can’t
get a big enough audience on their own to satisfy national advertisers who want targeted advertising at scale (i.e., reaching extremely specific shoppers, and reaching a lot of them).
That’s why the big winner this newfront season was Twitter. Twitter doesn’t create video,
and you’ve probably never watched more than
a few video clips on it. But Twitter has a monthly
active user base of over 260 million (according
to Statista). This year, publishers decided they
need to be there.
At its newfront, Twitter announced it signed
more than 30 agreements with premium publishers. The biggest was with NBCUniversal, which
will bring live video and clips from NBC, NBC
News, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, Today, and
E! News to the platform. Twitter also announced
deals with Ellen Digital, Hearst, Live Nation, and
Viacom. ESPN is bringing a SportsCenter spin-off—SportsCenter Live—to the platform.
Even the biggest names in broadcast and cable need Twitter to pull in viewers. I wouldn’t
make a habit of returning to a site to check for
a new episode of a show, but if that show regularly appeared in my Twitter feed, I would see
it more often.
There’s another reason publishers are turn-
ing to Twitter, and that’s discoverability. Hunt-
er Holbrook, a media planner for ad agency
Mekanism, says the move is all about attract-
ing new viewers who wouldn’t normally visit
“I think it’s true some publishers need social
platforms in order to scale, but I think both big
and niche publishers are realizing people want
to consume content from influencers and the
scale of social allows for more opportunities for
people to discover their content,” Holbrook says.
“The earned media potential is much higher for
niche publishers who extend to social channels,
as a few shares can mean they reach people
who might not otherwise navigate to their sites
at a really efficient cost.”
This year, publishers know consumers have
a lot of viewing options open to them, Hol-
brook says, so providing a positive experience
is key. “People will continue to use a platform
that’s authentic, non-invasive, and caters to
how and when they want to consume content.
With so many streaming platforms and chan-
nels to choose from, publishers understand they
have to adapt to what people want, and find a
balance between providing both content and a
lighter ad experience in order to solidify that
As a video destination, Twitter has bugs to
work out. For one thing, there’s no way to sign
up for a video series in your feed. I can follow
ESPN, but what if I only want SportsCenter Live?
There’s no way to get notified when it’s stream-
ing. And the platform lacks a landing page that
tells you what shows are on and when. Finding
out when a favorite team is playing is more work
than it should be. A Twitter spokesperson tells
me a live-event landing page is coming soon.
Twitter is making a video push, and a lot of
big names are relying on it, but the only way to
know if it’s successful is to wait until next year’s
newfronts and see where the announcements
land. If these moves don’t work, publishers will
have to pivot their thinking and try something
else. They’ve done it many times before.
Troy Dreier ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior associate
editor of Streaming Media and editor of Onlinevideo.net.
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Content + Scale = Impossible