Anyone working with online video will know that 600 industry experts came together in Amsterdam in March for Vidcon Europe. The conference was in its second year, and some of the teething problems of the inaugural event had been ironed out to create a much more intimate affair, in which conversations and connections were much more wide spread.
Tubular Labs continued its sponsorship and it was great to be joined by new sponsors this year, including Crowd, Foreo and Ruptly. While Facebook and Instagram did a great job in sponsoring the Creative Lounge, there was a notable (and noted) absence from YouTube. For us, it’s a great event to part of because it offers a chance to meet with peers, and with valued clients. I also got the chance to present some insights on the main social video trends across Europe in 2018:
5 Main Takeaways from VidConEU 2018
#1 What ‘Pivot to Video’ Really Means
‘Pivot to Video’ was a phrase thrown around by a lot of publishers and broadcasters in 2017, so this year, more than ever, it was interesting to see how the dust has settled: what does that phrase actually mean in real terms – and to what extent has it really happened? Part of the reason that there was a move towards video was because of the success of companies like Buzzfeed. From this point of view, in the press, video is often synonymous with BuzzFeed, Vice and Mashable.
In actuality, these guys are now the incumbents and companies like Jungle Creations, Media Chain and Lad Bible are the new disruptors. For instance, each of the companies I’ve just mentioned have built larger workforces in the UK in the last two years than BuzzFeed UK. (I think this is a good indication of just how hard it can be for US media companies to scale-up internationally.) I think this graph says it better that I can: The graph measures the branded content share of voice of the leading UK companies for 2017 on Facebook.
So, I think what this means is that the companies who are leading are the ones that have adopted a ‘start with video’ stance, in which there is nothing else to ‘pivot’ from. This reminds me very much of the “mobile first” strategy that was such a cornerstone of companies’ policy a few years ago. At that time, that was part of the mad scramble to keep up with the explosion of smart phones, and it resulted in the incredible success stories of Snapshat, Uber, Instagram et al. Time will tell who the biggest winners will be of the “video-first” strategy.
#2 How MCNs are Changing
It was great to catch up with the CEOs of leading European MCNs and it is clear that they are still changing. Original content continues to grow as a key strategy. In addition to this, Instagram is becoming more important in influencer-branded content campaigns: some MCNs now operate a 60-70% YouTube focus and 30-40% Instagram focus. You might be surprised to hear that Facebook doesn’t really feature for any of them.
It’s very clear that none of them like to be called MCNs (sorry!) – nor MPNS (Multi-Platform Networks) – at this stage, they have turned into, or become a combination of, talent agencies, production companies, digital-first and social-video companies.
#3 Hacking the Algorithm
Once again, Hacking Algorithm talks remained a central component of the event. For me, their relevance is increasingly questionable given how much more AI based algorithms have become on Facebook and YouTube. I suspect it will be more and more difficult to hack algorithms, as AI gives each user a personalized experience. In summary I think it’s important to know how to distribute on a platform correctly (meta data, what content to create etc), but not hack an Algorithm!
#4 The Monetization Challenge
An ongoing challenge is monetization. We know the audiences are there in online video, but revenue has yet to follow. You can see this in slide 9 and 11 from my presentation here. This is an issue for everyone – not just media owners, but for platforms too. I think this is a reminder of just how young our industry is.
#5 Benchmarking Success
I think we can forget that one of the most unique things about online video – especially compared to traditional viewing – is how well we can understand consumption habits. As an industry, one of our USPs is our access to informative data, which can help us understand how companies can grow online video audiences. People say it’s hard to measure online video. They are wrong. At Tubular, the wealth of data we have proves that it is measurable – and powerful. If you don’t believe me, I recommend watching this video, launched last week by one of our clients!