The Shot Heard Round the (Media) World
The news this week that Facebook is beginning to test mid-roll advertising in video content from publishers is potentially game-changing for people throughout the entire content creation ecosystem.
First and foremost, it shows a commitment on Facebook’s part to help publishers monetize the content that populates the social network and helps make it more sticky. Make no mistake about it—this is a big deal. As VidMob has helped more and more brands over the past year make content for the various channels available to them, the one consistent theme we’ve heard is that they have been stuck in a bind: Facebook is where they get views and engagement, but they could not monetize there. Instead, they publish it on their owned and operated properties, where they can control monetization but with the downside of comparatively little traffic. As such, most legacy brands adopted a wait-and-see stance, essentially dipping their toes in the Facebook content waters, publishing a few pieces here and there. But by and large, they focused their content on their O&O properties while waiting for Facebook to make a move.
This opened the doors for new companies who had faith that Facebook would eventually open up content monetization to jump in with both feet and build enormous bulkheads. NowThis, BuzzFeed, and many others have built enormous value over the past few years through this strategy.
In the meantime, the lack of monetization opportunities has arguably held back the quality of content throughout the platform. Through this dampening effect, it has also helped sow the seeds for the much-discussed fake news problem. On the internet, all holes always get filled. And where quality content isn’t, other content is sure to flow.
Facebook’s announcement will likely have two impacts here. First, I’d expect it to lead to a general “rising of the tide,” as all content on the platform will get better. As an indirect, and perhaps unintended benefit, this will make some of the cheap, fake news less discoverable among its increasingly better competition, and thus less successful. It will also likely become harder to monetize bad content on Facebook. After all, mid-roll only monetizes if the audience is engaged enough to (a) make it to the middle, and (b) wants to see the rest of the content badly enough that they are willing to sit through a disruptive advertisement.
So who wins as a result of this change?
The short answer is everyone. Publishers now have an enormous opportunity in front of them. The largest audience ever assembled in the history of the world just became open for business, complete with all of the tools to foster propagation of engaging content, and the most sophisticated ad targeting technology ever built. If it sticks, it will be easier to monetize content on Facebook than anywhere else.
Facebook users also win because monetization will lead to greater content investment from publishers, which will lead to more diverse and better content. Want proof? Just look what’s happened to the quality of scripted cable television in the past decade as monetization opportunities for that content have expanded. It wasn’t long ago that most cable channels ran a bleak mix of reality shows, syndicated sitcoms, and library movies. Today, we are living in a golden age of scripted TV with shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Mr. Robot, and many, many more. Certainly, the tide has risen there as it surely will on Facebook.
Advertisers and marketers win because they will have more engaged audiences and better content to integrate with as well as market their products and services—leading to higher return on investment. The data is incredibly clear that video advertising is simply much better than text and photos. Facebook offers incredibly powerful targeting tools that advertisers have used to great effect with static media and will now increasingly use with video.
And Facebook will clearly win, as better content leads to better experiences for its nearly two billion users—more engagement and, ultimately, expanded revenue opportunities.
But there is another audience that will benefit, too.
One that is closer to our hearts here at VidMob. Creators. Underlying all of this is the simple reality that making great content requires work. And as much as we like watching great content, the thing we like even more is watching good people get great jobs. So kudos to Facebook for beginning to experiment with publisher monetization. It’s a small change that we expect to ripple through the system with growing benefit to everyone involved.
Facebook is the most important media platform of our generation, and this move could be the key to becoming the largest video network ever assembled. Only time will tell.