How ESPN and Mediaite use curation to increase video traffic
Online video sounds like such a lucrative honeypot when you look at the trends: high CPM's, large increases in video advertising spend and 4G speeds that make increased mobile traffic on video plausible and probable. The devil is in the details, however, and many web video efforts fall short in the most important area, viewership.
ESPN and Mediaite are two very different examples of how to generate cost-effective video traffic because they both leverage the same tactics to generate video views. Both sites embed video in most of their articles and blog posts rather than creating yet another bucket of content on the homepage that someone may or may not look at.
ESPN.com: curation of its own video
ESPN averages 216 million minutes viewed per month, which represents 38% of all sports videos on the web, according to the ESPN.com media kit. ESPN creates an enormous amount of video, but it’s not the amount of video content that creates its dominant traffic levels. If that were the case, you’d expect CNN to have similar numbers, but CNN clocks in at a considerably lower (but still respectable) number: 3 million video views per month.
Why the difference?
While both sites include video content in the same homepage "bucket" as their text content, ESPN includes the video player whenever possible in their articles pages themselves, allowing for videos to piggyback on the SEO of their articles. Because they have such a robust TV presence, it’s easy for them to curate their video coverage and embed them in the appropriate articles. They place videos at the very top of the article template and give visitors the option to turn autoplay on or off. ESPN seems to favor 15 second ads over 30 second ads, and there also appears to be a bit of frequency capping to avoid ads loading each time a visitor encounters video content, further encouraging content exploration. Finally, the video player itself contains Facebook and Twitter buttons. So, the content is easily shared. This content curation seems to be working, as ESPN ranked 7th in February and March 2012 video ad views, according to comScore. (I double-checked February in case March Madness inflated their numbers.)
CNN, on the other hand, has a separate area with a customized user interface for its video content. It takes the visitor away from the normal CNN.com experience and forces them to learn a new way of interacting with content. This viewer does not have article text surrounding it, making it difficult for their videos to rank well in search. The sharing capabilities are all buried under the share button in the player, using a symbol that many aren't nearly as familiar with as Facebook or Twitter. CNN also uses 30-second ad spots, which seems a lot to ask of visitors on the Web. All of these factors stand in the way of ad impressions.
Mediaite: curation of others' videos
Dan Abrams' Mediaite is a great example of leveraging the ESPN-approach to video, using blog posts to generate video views. The best part? They don't actually create or host the video content. They curate video from TV news coverage using Magnify.net's platform. This gives them a great deal of scale while saving the site a tremendous amount of money.
The videos are embedded in a Mediaite player so that they can serve their own ads and run their own intro. What's really interesting about their implementation is that when you want to embed that video in your blog or on your site, the video isn't just embeeded, the Mediaite player is as well, complete with a link back to their blog post. This type of approach makes it possible for any site to get into the video advertising business, though it does raise a ton of fair use questions. Talk to your corporate counsel to figure out the best way to stay free of copyright infringement issues when curating others' content. With the right practices and safeguards, curation can help you get a lot of value from relevant video content on the Web.
Magnify.net's CEO Steve Rosenbaum spoke last year about the opportunities and challenges of video curation and creation at TEDxGrandRapids last year. During his session, he spoke not just about the business opportunity of curation, but the value to an audience, saying, "Listening is more powerful than speaking... I read or glance at over 400 tweets per day. I only retweet five of those. That filter is valuable to the people that follow me." What Rosenbaum is getting at is that curation improves your ear to audience interest, and video curation provides the right blend of audience enagement with advertiser demand.
Here's the full TEDx session from the maestro of video curation himself: