One of the key takeaways so far from this year's NewFronts is that traditional print publishers are doubling down on online video. Last week, four big print publishers - the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Inc and Conde Nast each shared ambitious plans (here, here, here and here) to expand upon existing video initiatives.
While the specific plans vary from company to company, the common underlying thread is that online video is a once-in-a-generation game-changer, that could ultimately redefine every aspect of these businesses, including how they will engage their audiences, what their competitive advantages will be and how they will make their money.
Importantly, the initiatives appear to prudently balance opportunities to build on existing skill sets and franchises while also exploring new creative expression. Great examples include the NY Times' original programming around columns like Modern Love, Vows, Verbatim, etc, and the WSJ's programs "Startup of the Year" and "The Short Answer." As compared with say, expensive new hit-or-miss TV shows from Microsoft and Yahoo that are chasing Netflix's originals success, these efforts follow demonstrated audience interests and storytelling techniques.
As well, these print publishers are not just focused on originals, but also on user experience, distribution, partnerships and of course, monetization. For example, Time's Daily Cut and Conde Nast's THE SCENE will help provide users an integrated experience and advertisers a consolidated source of inventory.
In addition, the NY Times unveiled a new partnership with Vimeo to tap into branded video, while Time showed off 120 Sports a new short-form initiative with partners MLB, NHL, Silver Chalice and Campus Insiders plus new distribution deals with Net2TV, Roku and others.
Ultimately, these print publishers recognize that they have powerful brands, storytelling expertise and well-respected talent - all of which are transferable to video that should lead to substantial new revenues long-term. On the latter point, print publishers also have two important tailwinds. First, the ascendance of online video's importance to ad buyers (note IAB's new research showing parity with TV) and second, rising concerns around video ad viewability and inventory quality issues (note Vindico's research and this great summary article).
Both give print publishers an outstanding opportunity to differentiate themselves as trusted partners with ethical business practices and premium inventory.
A generation ago, Sports Illustrated missed out on a colossal expansion opportunity when it was usurped by a then-unknown cable TV network called ESPN. Print publishers seem to have learned a lesson and are determined not to have this situation repeat. And while it is still very early days, and there will no doubt be fits and starts, print publishers seem like they fully "get it."
(Note: Conde Nast's EVP and Chief Digital Officer Fred Santarpia will be speaking at the VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit on June 25th in NYC. Save now with discounted registration!)