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Did 2017 Suck for Online Video? A VidCon 2018 Panel Says Yes
Brand safety concerns, walled gardens, and general lack of direction: 2017 was a difficult time for many creators and companies.

YouTube started in 2005 and this is VidCon's 9th year, yet the online video industry is still very much a work in progress. One VidCon 2018 panel with the provocative title of "Why 2017 Sucked for Online Video" said that, yes, 2017 was terrible, but thing will get better.

One reason why 2017 was a hard year was that companies haven't figured out what works. Mickey Meyer, president of network for Group Nine Media, pointed out that TV has a rhythm for creating and presenting shows. That industry knows what works and how to present it. "Digital media just hasn't gotten to that point yet." He said. 

Without that certainty, digital video companies can spend large amounts of time and money developing new projects only to learn a year later that they didn't pan out. Creating hits is one hurdle, and getting paid is another, as viewers are reluctant to open their wallets for content. Meyer sees good results with Patreon, which allows creators to earn a steady income and insulates them from the whims of YouTube.

The rise of algorithmically surfaced content created a lot of difficulty in 2017, the panel agreed, as sites and creators chased views without regard to artistry or content, and unsavory material often bubbled to the top. Meyer sees some regulation as inevitable. 

For Adam Boorstin, executive vice president of global distribution and business development at Studio 71, algorithms are a race to the bottom. Some element of human curation needs to be present, he thinks, to avoid the brand safety flare-ups that happened in 2017.

While getting viewers to pay for content is a challenge, Boorstin sees it happening for live experiences and in-person tours. Differentiation is critical: "People do pay for content. I just don't think they want to pay for something they can see for free," he said. 

Measurement was a huge problem in 2017, and Jennifer Wiener, vice president of strategic brand partnerships at Fullscreen, listed the three sticking points that caused it: Walled gardens don't provide data, there's a lack of transparency about where views occur, and there's no consistency across partners about what gets measured and how. 

Wiener also saw a lot of negativity in the landscape in 2017, so it excites her that so many creators embrace positive messages and find an audience. Offering positive messages is part of their DNA, she said. Maybe that—and a little transparency in advertising—will lead to a less sucky 2018.

Adam Boorstin of Studio 71 and Jennifer Wiener of Fullscreen

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