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Yahoo Keynote Highlights Opportunities for Digital Storytellers

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“Today, I’m here to talk about opportunity,” began Adam Besserman, head of West Coast development for Yahoo, giving the second-day keynote address at the sun-drenched Streaming Media West conference in Huntington Beach, California.

This is an exciting time to be in the storytelling business, Besserman said, during a keynote that covered the changing online video landscape, original video programming at Yahoo, and best practices that he’s learned.

“The whole medium of storytelling is reliant on the technology at your disposal,” Besserman said, noting that spreading stories has always depended on the technical tools available. To highlight the tools available now, he showed charts demonstrating that mobile video use has exploded in 2013 and that mobile video growth coincided with the release of the Apple iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Mobile devices have let people consume video in new ways, he noted.

Just as cable channels began creating premium original programming that defined their networks, internet networks are now making the same leap. Netflix and Hulu started with reruns, Besserman said, and are now creating originals, just as are Yahoo, Crackle, and many other destinations.

“I believe we’re standing on the precipice of a creative renaissance,” Besserman said. Filmmakers have gotten better at adding more spectacle for less money, but the basics of video storytelling haven’t changed much since the medium began. He thinks the internet will revolutionize how we tell stories. Creators are no longer tied to existing formats, but can let their work dictate the format. They’re liberated from distribution schedules and can take advantage of interactivity in as-yet untried ways. “Nobody’s really figured it out yet,” Besserman said.

The time spent engaging with online content now eclipses the time spent watching TV, and Besserman said the studios are taking notice and are looking for the next great opportunity. We don’t know where the next thing will come from, Besserman said, but it will be massively disruptive.

Yahoo is the number one publisher of content on the web, Besserman asserted. His company delivered 80 original programs this year, over 20 of which were branded. It posts over 400 new episodes each month.

Yahoo sees an opportunity to grow its viewing audience. Consumption of video has grown 140 percent year-over-year for the past three years, Besserman said, and the U.S. audience will grow to 200 million in the next few years. Last year, over 1 million cable subscribers cancelled their subscriptions and fewer movie tickets were sold. People are staying in and streaming their entertainment. Top talent is taking note, and is jumping into online video.

For anyone hoping to make a content sale to Yahoo or any other online network, Besserman offered a little advice. “Really understand the audience behavior of the network you’re meeting with,” he said. Understand its business and put a lot of energy into developing the concept being pitched. Shooting a promo video is a great way to show the idea, he said.

“The video landscape is shifting. It’s creating really exciting opportunities for storytellers,” Besserman said, urging attendees to embrace the changes taking place. “I personally believe there’s never been a more exciting time to be in the storytelling business.”

Scroll down to watch the full keynote address:


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